“‘Lies,’” writes Steve M. in his No More Mr. Nice Guy Blog, is “too weak a word for some of the things Ryan said [in his speech at the Republican National Convention]. We need a stronger word to describe the ability to look you in the eye -- look America in the eye -- and argue the exact opposite of your most deeply held beliefs, and do so in such a sincere-seeming way that it's not even clear you actually grasp your own dishonesty.”
What makes the word “lies” weak, I believe, is that it only names the nature of what Paul Ryan and, for that matter, other speakers have been offering as fact from the pulpit of the Republican National Convention. Yes, Ryan lied. Egregiously (and how he reconciles lying with his religious professions is beyond my comprehension).
But it’s not the fact that he lied that is most problematic. It’s the fact that lying is clearly the Republican’s election strategy, the means by which the party seeks to recapture power. And let’s just be candid: it is a strategy not terribly different from what Adolf Hitler espoused in Mein Kampf. “I use emotion for the many and reason for the few,” Hitler wrote. “By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell – and hell, heaven….The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.”
By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, the Republicans hope to make people believe:
1. Voting fraud is rampant.
2. The economic meltdown started on Obama’s watch.
3. Millions of dollars were cut from Medicare to fund “Obama” care.
4. Romney Care and Obama Care are nothing alike.
5. President Obama has gutted work requirements in welfare programs.
6. Giving further tax breaks to the rich will spur the economy.
7. Our individual rights and economic interests are protected when we prioritize corporate prerogatives and expand corporate power.
8. The interests of the local restaurant owner or mom and pop grocery store are furthered when companies like Chevron and Apple, or large banking establishments like Bank of America, are left unfettered by “regulations on businesses.”
9. Reproductive rights impinge on religious freedom.
10. Economic growth = tax cuts + spending cuts.
That lying constitutes the Republican Party’s strategy necessarily speaks volumes to how they’ll address the critical issues that this country is facing. Lies will be the basis for gutting entitlement programs upon which so many (including Republicans) depend. Lies will be the basis for whatever fixes to the economy the Republicans intend to impose (we’re still waiting for the details). Lies will be the basis for health care policy. And lies will most assuredly be the basis for how we address international issues and challenges.
Lying as strategy, however, also speaks volumes to how frightening change is to so many people within the Republican fold, for it betrays a singular refusal to see things as they are. But the country has changed, and the “comfortable, the entrenched, the privileged,” as Dr. King once wrote, “cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change in the status quo.” Instead of asking people, through lies, to reject change, the Republicans should be showing them how to embrace it. For all of our sakes.
But that is not what is happening today.
While we may, as Steve M. suggests, “need a stronger word than ‘lies’ for what the Republicans were spewing last night,” we would do well to address the kind of work that the lies are being employed to accomplish. For if the party can, with Mein Kampf effectiveness, make people believe the lies, then their policies will be the Truth that we’ll be stuck with for a very long time.