Saturday, December 24, 2016

Assessing democracy in the aftermath of Trump's victory, Part V: Trump's honesty

In Part IV, we introduced the concept of "valence" characteristics, in which it becomes rational for voters to vote for ideologically distant candidates if the closer candidate has a low "valence" score.  There are two main "valence" traits that political scientists generally discuss: honesty and competence.  So, yeah, let's start with honesty.

Stop laughing, we've gotta get through this.

Yeah.

Um.

Yeah.

It's hard to know how to start this.  I have my issues with PolitiFact, but it is a starting point.  They have this graduated scale bullshit, where they rate statements on a six-point scale from "true" to "pants on fire," and of the statements currently rated by Trump, 18% are currently rated "pants on fire," with 33% currently rated "false," and another 18% "mostly false."  That's a really, really bad record.  Why?  This is the guy who rose the political ladder by telling everyone that Obama was born in Kenya, and his campaign was no better, including such gems as the claim that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.  Trying to document all of Trump's lies is a futile endeavor, though, because by the time you debunk one, he's told 100 more that are even more egregious.

I'm a mathematician at heart, but quantitative measures simply can't do this justice.  The valence models referenced in yesterday's post require putting candidates for office on a common scale.  Trump can't be put on the same scale as other candidates.  He breaks the fucking scale when it comes to dishonesty.

Here's the problem, though.  So what?  Lying, in politics, is also a job skill.

For Trump, it is also a betrayal.  Consider the wall.  Trump promised to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and make them pay.  Bullshit.  He can't make them pay, and he probably knows it.  He lied.  To appeal for votes on the basis of a lie, well, now we're getting into that failure of democracy thing...  I did promise that, didn't I?

We could also talk about the promise to appoint a special prosecutor for Hillary Clinton, and leading chants of "lock her up."  What ever happened to that?  Oh yeah, that was just bullshit too.  And he has already admitted that.

A functioning electoral system requires that candidates make and at least attempt to keep their promises.  Candidates who are simply pathological liars, though, disrupt that process.  They cannot be trusted to keep their promises, so their promises should be disregarded.

I guess that leads to the next question, which is about voters' capacity to assess valence characteristics, like honesty, right?  Coming soon...

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