Republican Cory Gardner’s campaign for Senate often refers to 2014 as an “historic” election year, for reasons that are as vague as Gardner’s policy positions. Normally I might scoff at the very idea of ascribing such a lofty adjective to this election cycle – after all, 2014 will not be the first year that the United States re-arranges its makeup of white dudes in Congress – but the more I consider the label, the more considerable I find the history. I believe Gardner is correct when he says this is an historic election, but not for reasons that have anything to do with Senate majorities and minorities.
Anyone who engages in politics as career or hobby is destined to feel cynical about the whole process at some point; I recognize this, but it's not cynicism that has skewed my perception of this election. No, this is about deception. This is dishonesty, fraud, and sham on a level I have personally never encountered before – and from what I read and hear, I am not alone.
I cannot recall another time when candidates so brazenly dismissed their own past and bulldozed their own words with such disregard. I hate to use the word, “lie,” because it has become so cliché to declare that our politicians are a bunch of fibbers, but there’s no other word that is more appropriate here. The lies have been suffocating in their consistency, from candidates who will lie about anything, to anyone, at any time.
GEORGE WASHINGTON HAS LEFT THE BUILDING
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, saying stuff.
The United States Congress is already the most disliked and distrusted organization that has ever been measured by public surveys. The current Congress has worked less and achieved less than any prior body before. The 2014 election has helped illustrate the problem: How could anyone expect to negotiate with the likes of Gardner when you quite literally have no idea in what he actually believes? You can only guess at the real answer on any subject other than the career ascendency of Cory Gardner. Yet now, here we are, potentially sending a man to the U.S. Senate to represent Colorado even though we really haven’t a clue what he’ll do.
I like to think of myself as a generally optimistic person, yet I am confronted with a magnitude of lies that I hadn’t though possible outside of novels and North Korea. I take some relief, I suppose, in knowing that I’m not alone. Kansas City Star columnist Barbara Shelly recently wrote a blistering rebuke of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who is seeking re-election by any means necessary. Here's the lede to that column:
All politicians spin. They exaggerate and make selective use of facts and data. These are the tricks of the trade.
But I have never seen a public official lie as easily and as relentlessly as Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. [emphasis mine]
That sounds harsh, and it is possible that Brownback actually believes his own mythology. But much of what he has told the citizens of Kansas is flat out wrong.
Shelly continues by listing a page of whoppers that Brownback repeats as gospel. It doesn’t matter that most of Brownback’s lies have been debunked a dozen times over—he keeps repeating them, because he knows that there are still plenty of people who want to believe that their elected officials are guided by an actual belief in something.
It’s important to remember that these aren’t opinions we’re discussing. Gardner and Brownback lie confidently about established facts – the kind that Siri or Google could answer in about 20 seconds. Brownback likes to say that there was just $876 in the state treasury when he took over as Governor in 2011. In fact, he has repeated this line in three different state-of-the-state addresses. Shelly says that the story is “complete hokum,” and that Kansas had $251 million in its bank account when Brownback took charge. This information is public record – anybody can look it up.
This is not to discredit politicians in general. I know many elected officials, on both sides of the aisle, who are genuine people with examined positions on important issues. But increasingly we are seeing elected officials the likes of Brownback and Gardner, for whom words are merely a vessel to deliver them to their chosen destinations. These are men who solve a Rubik’s Cube by removing the stickers. They don’t seek the satisfaction of solving a difficult puzzle; their just want you to believe that they solved it.