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Voting for Liars

Voting for Liars
I grew up a "values voter." I still consider myself one - even when I vote against a self-proclaimed "values candidate." Too often, I've watched as candidates proclaim they support "traditional values" while running dishonest, dirty campaigns. Several years ago, I came to recognize that voting my values means considering how candidates talk and act, not just the policies they purport to support. Telling the truth is a traditional value.

I remember the election when this understanding clicked for me. I found myself torn between the two major candidates in a U.S. Senate race in Missouri. The incumbent, for whom I previously voted, spoke at my graduation at a Baptist university (following myself, the senior speaker). But I also liked some of the other candidate's ideas even as I disagreed with some key policies.

A few days before the election, the nonpartisan fact-checking site labeled the ads of the incumbent as among the most misleading of the entire national cycle. At the time, I was a Baptist minister and a doctoral student in political communication. The level of deception in the ads troubled me. So I cast my vote according to my values and voted against the more deceptive candidate. While all politicians mislead at times, I cannot in good faith support a candidate who represents the worst of political discourse.

Looking at the 2016 presidential campaign, I'm disheartened by much of the rhetoric from across the political spectrum. As I've noted, I will vote third-party to protest both major candidates. But I remain particularly troubled by how many of my fellow white evangelicals publicly announce their support for the most deceptive nominee in modern presidential politics: Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton's scorecard at the nonpartisan fact-checking site shows about one-quarter of her statements are rated as "mostly false," "false" or "pants on fire." Only one-quarter of her statements garnered a "true rating," while the other half of her statements came in as "mostly true" or "half true." Clinton's truthfulness is a problem, especially on issues like her emails that she has consistently lied about to the public.

Trump represents something entirely different. About 70 percent of his statements received a rating of "mostly false" or worse! Only four percent of his statements came in as true, with only one-quarter of his statements labeled "mostly true" or "half true." Fact-checkers struggle to keep up with Trump's lies, which are dozens per day. He lies about almost everything, even denying right after a debate a statement he just made during the debate on national television! Trump doesn't 'tell it like it is.' He just makes stuff up over and over. Even when confronted with the truth, he refuses to accept reality and stop lying.

Like most politicians, Clinton lies. But Trump doesn't even have a relationship with the truth. His lies are in a league of their own, perhaps even a big league (or bigly). My critique of Trump is not based on partisanship. The facts are clear that he's the most deceptive candidate in the race. To excuse his lies because he's "our guy" is to allow party to trump principles. The satirical website The Babylon Bee (a Christian version of The Onion) put it well in a fake editorial from Trump with the title "Let’s cut to the chase, Evangelicals: Which exact lie can I tell you to get you to vote for me?" It would be funnier if this wasn't such a serious problem!

Trump's lies should matter to those who claim to vote values. We cannot embrace a candidate who lies more than other and claim to vote traditional values. From the Ten Commandments to the writings in Proverbs to the declarations of the prophets to the teachings of Jesus, the Bible emphatically preaches the value of truthfulness. Additionally, why should we trust Trump's promises to us when he constantly lies and breaks his pledges (both wedding vows and campaign promises)?

I do not expect a perfect candidate. I recognize all politicians will misstate things and even lie. But I will at least refuse to vote for the worst liars. Perhaps by voting such values we can push all politicians a bit closer to telling the truth.

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