Editor’s Viewpoint: Truth or Dare: Winner take all
Did you hear about the British politician who lied about his opponent? He won the election but lost his seat in Parliament recently when his victory was overturned by an election court. While using half-truths and other selected facts to attack political opponents is commonplace in the United States, our English cousins don’t find such tactics a joking matter. Ask Phil Woolas, a member of Parliament who ran for re-election in November. Not only was his victory taken away from him, he also has been banned from serving in the House of Commons for three years — all based on “facts” he published in election materials, including that his opponent and his opponent’s party were going to give illegal immigrants the right to stay in the country.
Accused of making false statements by his defeated opponent, Woolas faced an election court, which determined that he had printed statements in campaign literature that were untrue, and that doing so was illegal. Woolas appealed to an administrative court, which backed the first court’s decision and the election results were voided — the first such case in 99 years.
Unlike the Brits, we tend to reserve our reactions for sitting politicians who get caught lying or otherwise performing illegal acts, such as U.S. Rep. Charlie “What Taxes?” Rangle, South Carolina Gov. Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford and of course, President Bill “I wasn’t Jonzing for Paula” Clinton. I’ve noticed, though, that most politicians’ responses to the accusations and eventual proof of wrongdoing follow a pattern: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, a sequence that mirrors the five stages of grief that terminal patients experience.
Oddly, public reactions to political deceptions often follow the same pattern until we get stuck on anger, which occasionally prompts even stranger behavior: We re-elect them. If that phenomenon holds true for Phil Woolas, the lying conviction may help him regain his seat, with his supporters proclaiming his victory as vindication of the truth.
In life, we reward people for getting the job done, and we don’t tend to ask too many questions about how it was accomplished. So, is winning, regardless of the tactics, the only standard we should hold political candidates to? If so, and we reward our politicians for bad behavior, then at least, we shouldn’t act surprised when we get more of the same in return.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.