While politicians are not generally known for telling the truth, this year’s election has been especially devoid of fact. While the electorate might normally get some mix of half-truths and bent facts, 2016 has seen a deluge of misleading rhetoric and flat-out lies.
Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checkers out of the Tampa Bay Times, found only 15 percent of Trump’s comments to be true or mostly true. Conversely, 71 percent was found to be mostly false, false or “pants on fire.” Clinton, by comparison, was found to speak truthfully or mostly truthfully 50 percent of the time.
And it’s not just Politifact. Fact-checkers across the spectrum have had a heyday this year attempting to correct the deluge of misleading statements or outright lies that have come from both candidates (though mostly Trump).
A bigger problem, though, is the fact that these lies or half-truths often sound true or true enough. When Trump says Ford is moving all its small car production to Mexico, that’s true. And when he adds Americans lost jobs because of it, that makes sense. Except for the fact that it’s false, and no Ford worker at that plant lost their job.
Among stronger lies like his assertion that he never told people to “check out” former Miss Universe contestant Alicia Machado’s sex tape, Trump’s greatest campaign tool is this twisting of the “probably true.” It makes it hard for the media professionals and casual voters who just want to know the truth.
And as the tug of war between Trump’s lies and the media’s fact-checking grows more intense, it only serves to fatigue the voters and foster a now deep-rooted cynicism and distrust of all parties involved.
But as voters, all of us with a civic duty to uphold, we must look past the rhetoric from both candidates. As much as we focus on the character of our president, we must focus on their proposed policies. And while Clinton might have more fleshed-out policy proposals than her Republican rival, Trump’s platform is not all rhetoric.
Building a wall is a real platform goal. So is his plan for taxes and “reforming” immigration policy (essentially his ban on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, but we’re counting that as reform here). And sometimes, Trump presents less concrete policy goals like his proposed maybe-maybe-not punishment of women who get abortions. With these kinds of things we have to take the candidate’s latest word for what he wants, and we’ll admit that it makes it tough to nail down exactly what he stands for.
But it’s what we’ve got. So if you don’t like it, express it in your vote. And if you do like it, express it in your vote.
More than that, there’s the issue of a “rigged election.” Trump has used his podium routinely this past month to say the media and a cabal of international bankers are conspiring to rig the polls against him.
All the evidence points to the contrary. It is exceedingly difficult to rig an American election (especially considering there are 50 different states you would need to rig separately), and there is little to no evidence to back up Trump’s claims.
And it’s true some behavior on the side of the Democrats doesn’t help the perception. Donna Brazile exited CNN just yesterday over giving Clinton questions before a debate. That’s shady business, and it certainly shouldn’t be tolerated. But evidence of a global conspiracy it is not.
At the end of the day, you must vote. And when you vote, make sure that it’s not words you vote for, but actions. The next four years will ride on the decision.
The Editorial Board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.