The sin of political lying

Published June 27, 2024

By D. G. Martin

Is it our religion that is leading us down a pathway of lying about political matters?

What is lying?

Is it simply not telling the truth?

And then, what is truth?

Is truth based on facts? Or is it something that is revealed by a higher power?

What then if facts contradict the “truth” revealed by the higher power?

Those of us who are religious may accept as true some things that cannot be proven as fact. We accept these “truths” and proclaim them
because we believe in and trust the higher power.

It is a religious thing. Some things we believe but cannot prove.

And sometimes we know such things are not really factual, but we hold on to these beliefs because of our confidence in a higher power and
because a rejection of these beliefs would throw us out of balance.

We accept as truths the assertions we make when we repeat the creeds of our faiths, even when we know that we cannot prove such “truths.”

Similarly, we sometimes accept as truth the false claims of political leaders.

For example, many Americans accept Donald Trump’s assertion that the 2020 election was rigged and that he was the actual winner, not Joe

Robert Reich, the liberal economist and commentator who served as labor secretary in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet, wrote in the June
21 edition of The Courier (an online news source at about the problems these false claims cause.

“How can we conduct a presidential election when one candidate and his party continue to lie about the outcome of the previous election and
sow doubts about the electoral system?

“Our system depends on trust. But if voters are repeatedly told they can’t and shouldn’t trust it because it is rigged, and a significant number come to agree, then no outcome will ever stick. We will be forever fighting over elections.

“If voters come to believe that the people who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, were ‘true patriots’ who have been unfairly prosecuted, how can anyone maintain faith in our system of justice?”

Reich continues, “Trump has poisoned the well. His big lie about the 2020 election has led to more lies about unfair prosecutions,
including his own.

“And Trump is forcing every other Republican to add more poison.”

He requires those who want to be on his team to accept his version as truth.

Reich explains, “The litmus test for being Trump’s vice president – lying that the 2020 election was stolen, that the rioters were patriots, and that Biden and the Democrats are unfairly prosecuting them and Trump--is also becoming the litmus tests for being a Republican lawmaker. Any Republican who doesn’t spout these lies is politically endangered.

“These are not small lies. They are not political hyperbole. They are lies that cut to the core of our entire system of self-government.
They undermine belief in our democracy and system of justice.”

The assertion that Trump won the 2020 presidential election has become doctrine for his supporters.

This “false fact” becomes a corrupting truth that compromises everyone who accepts it.

Reich argues that “for an entire political party to wittingly repeat these lies amounts to organized treason.

“How can lawmakers who presumably know how dangerous these lies are nonetheless seek to convince the public they’re true? Is their love of
power so great that they would sell out our democracy for it? If so, what do they get from unprincipled power?”

Political lying is a sin for sure, but maybe forgivable.

Unforgivable is the establishment of a political culture that accepts, encourages, and is dependent on lying.

D.G. Martin, a retired lawyer, served as UNC-System’s vice president for public affairs and hosted PBS-NC’s North Carolina Bookwatch.