Thursday, December 29, 2016

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

Elections are about comparisons, and while this post may be somewhat perfunctory, it is logically necessary.  We have two valence traits to assess:  honesty and competence.  If Trump was, by far, the most dishonest candidate we have ever seen, then it follows that Clinton was more honest.  We could also say that she was less dishonest, which is denotatively equivalent but connotatively more dismissive, but, whatever.

I have my problems with PolitiFact, but it is a useful reference point.  Here is Trump's record.   Now, here is Clinton's record.  Not even close.  Now, remember that PolitiFact is under pressure to try to keep things even for fear of accusations of bias, and they only evaluate a subset of statements.  They also can't put weight on statements that are more central to a candidate's campaign or political life, or less weight on statements that are throwaway lines.  Nevertheless, it is a useful baseline.

Clinton lies.  But nowhere near as often, as brazenly or as egregiously as Trump.  Look through the lies, and compare them to Trump accusing Ted Cruz's father of being involved in the Kennedy assassination, or calling global warming a Chinese hoax, and then denying having made that claim in a debate to add layers on top of layers of bullshit.  Clinton's last "pants on fire" lie in her file was to claim that Trump wanted to let the auto industry die, twisting his words to mean the opposite of what he said.  That's the equivalent of Trump's denial of the Chinese hoax tweet.  But, where is Clinton's equivalent of claiming that global warming is a Chinese hoax in the first place, or that Ted Cruz's father killed Kennedy?  Uh, yeah.  This ain't close.  Trump is the bigger liar by far, and that's just an attempt to find an apples-to-apples comparison.  By the numbers, Trump was way ahead on lies in PolitiFact's scorecard anyway.

This post was somewhat perfunctory, but necessary for the series.  As I said when I introduced the "valence dimension", the important point is that there is a policy dimension, and there are characteristics that voters supposedly want intrinsically, like competence and honesty.  On honesty, this isn't close.  Clinton beats Trump.  Period.  Clinton may not be even close to the most honest politician around, but she was running against the most dishonest politician we have ever seen, by far.

But, did voters make that comparison?  Stay tuned for the next installment...

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