It should be possible, for example, for a candidate who favors lower taxes to argue for them without claiming, as Mitt Romney has, “Instead of raising taxes, I will cut them.” In fact, federal taxes have gone down for the great majority of Americans under President Obama.
It should be possible for a candidate who thinks the federal government should be smaller and less active to make that argument based on facts. It’s not necessary to claim, as Romney did, “Instead of expanding the government, I will shrink it. . . . Instead of adding more regulations, I will reduce them…”
Again, those statements are false. The Federal Reserve of St. Louis shows federal employment shrinking. Overall government employment has shrunk severely because of the Bush-Cheney recession. Bloomberg News reported in October 2011 that “Obama’s White House has approved fewer regulations than his predecessor George W. Bush at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father.”
It’s possible for a candidate to argue that the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus bill was unaffordably large or that it took the wrong approach to fighting unemployment. But it’s simply false to say, as Romney has, that the President ignored unemployment. That stimulus bill was aimed at unemployment. (And most American economists say it worked. Once again, it’s possible to argue we won’t be able to afford it in the long run, but Romney wasn’t satisfied with that.)
Of course, Romney isn’t the only example of OIP Derangement Syndrome in his party. Republicans have spread false information about Obama’s policies since 2008. The Bush-Cheney administration became notorious for disdaining “the reality-based community.” Romney simply proved himself most comfortable fitting around the false beliefs of his electoral base. He’s been seeking my vote for various offices since 1994, and after his one term as governor I’m not at all surprised by his political shape-shifting.
Romney’s latest examples of shifty mendacity—his new debate positions, his pilloried ad about Chrysler, and his Potemkin food drive after Hurricane Sandy (shown above)—damaged his standing with potential endorsers and perhaps in the polls. If he loses the vote on Tuesday, it would be nice to think that we the people realized that willingness to lie on important matters is a Bad Thing in an elected official.
Already the Romney campaign’s brazen lies have led journalists such as Kevin Drum, Jonathan Chait, James Fallows, and James Bennett to question what they say about our political system. Can we address problems, much less solve them, if a candidate is happy to ignore facts? Even Newt Gingrich, back when he was losing to Romney, complained, “You cannot debate somebody who is dishonest. You just can’t.” Not just for their own mental health but for the sake of the country, people with OIP Derangement Syndrome should try to recover their sense of truth and base their political arguments on facts.
Unfortunately, if we reelect Obama as President, those people are more likely to clutch onto even more outlandish explanations and false beliefs. And some of those people are already in elected office.