People on the Left take their politics seriously. Often, they are willing to lie, or to acquiesce in the lying of others, because they know that deception can be the key to victory.
The great strategists always appreciated the importance of deception in warfare. Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) quoted Muhammad that “War is trickery” and cited an Arab proverb that “Many a trick is worth more than a tribe.” Perhaps the most quoted line from the master strategist Sun Tzu is “All warfare is based on deception.”
Most writing on deception in warfare focuses on deception of the adversary, sometimes formulated as “Make your enemy think you are weak where you are strong, and strong where you are weak, and he will avoid attacking you where you are weak and instead attack where you are strong.”
Deception of the enemy is critical to success in warfare. But commentators often ignore the importance of deceiving one’s own people.
The political scientist Harold Lasswell noted that “every war must appear to be a war of defense against a menacing, murderous aggressor. There must be no ambiguity about who the public is to hate.” In politics, you need to fire up your own folks so that they give you their money, and so they give up their Saturdays to campaign door-to-door, and so they turn out in droves on election day. And if you want them to do something dishonest, you need to get your folks really angry—angry enough to violate the normal rules of behavior.
People who act dishonestly in politics usually justify themselves with claims that the other side did the same thing first or did something even worse. That makes it critical for people on the Left to paint their adversaries not just as mistaken, but as evil.
The Left’s favorite myths often focus on the offenses supposedly committed by conservatives or Tea Party people or Republicans.
Consider the characterization of voter ID laws as racist. The Justice Department is going after states that provide even this minimal form of voting-rights protection. (Every person who votes illegally cancels out the vote of someone who voted legally, so the lack of a reasonable voter ID requirement is itself a violation of voting rights.)
People need a photo ID to fill a prescription, to buy a gun, to get on an airliner, or even to attend a taping of a satirical TV show on which they make fun of Republicans for supporting voter ID laws. (Take that, “Saturday Night Live”!) Today, District of Columbia officials want to require a photo ID to buy nail polish remover. No one has sued claiming that these laws discriminate illegally against any group of people, for a simple reason: They don’t. Yet the nonsensical position of the Obama/Holder Justice Department, that a requirement for a photo ID is racist discrimination, is accepted by the unthinking Left.
In order to justify their position on voter ID, leftists make the bizarre claim that election fraud in the U.S. is virtually unheard of, rare as being hit by lightning. In years past, political reporters would have laughed uproariously if anyone suggested such a thing. Every experienced political reporter can tell stories about stolen elections. (As for me, my first scoop as a reporter came when I caught a state legislator’s campaign stealing an election.) Today, Politically Correct political reporters treat the “no such thing as vote fraud” idea as a serious proposition. Lyndon Johnson stealing his Senate election in Texas, and the cemeteries giving up their dead on election day in Chicago – those things never happened. We’re supposed to consign to the memory-hole the story of how Bob Livingstone, later the Speaker-designate, first won his House seat from Louisiana after the incumbent, who had defeated Livingston by stuffing ballot boxes, was forced to resign. Or how Democrats tried to steal the 1994 election for chief justice of Alabama. Or the cases of felons voting illegally in the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota, electing Al Franken (who went on to cast the deciding vote for Obamacare). Or the convictions of those who committed fraud to get Barack Obama on the primary ballot in Indiana, without which Obama might have lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton.
Or the 59 precincts in Philadelphia where Mitt Romney got zero votes in 2012—an impossibility given that there is always a small percentage of voters who, in any honest election, get confused and vote for the other guy by mistake.
Or, for that matter, Al Gore’s attempt to steal the 2000 election. Yes, Gore: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 (with one of the two Clinton appointees in the majority) that the Gore camp’s selective recount scheme was an effort to take away people’s right to vote, but people on the Left have convinced themselves that it was the Bush campaign that attempted to steal Florida and succeeded in doing so.
Interestingly, one sure violation of voters’ rights as we have come to understand them involves a practice that the Left celebrates: the widespread use of absentee ballots. Absentee voting is an open invitation to voter intimidation and vote-buying, because there is no way to guarantee a person’s right to a secret ballot. That is, of course, the real point of ending all restrictions on absentee voting—to make it easier to violate people’s rights, to make it easier to steal elections. As you would expect, the Justice Department has filed no lawsuit to protect people’s rights in this regard.
Myths and legends of the Left
To discuss politics with a committed member of the Left is to be bombarded with nonsense.
- Remember Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Missouri who fumbled a question on abortion? (He referred to legitimately reported rape as “legitimate rape” and suggested stupidly that women don’t get pregnant from rape. Magnified by the media’s desire to manufacture a “Republican War on Women,” Akin’s remarks made him a laughing stock—never mind that the news reports correcting him on the latter point were equally ridiculous from a scientific standpoint). Akin is often cited by the Left, as well as by anti-Tea Party people within the Republican Party, as an example of how nominating a Tea Party candidate has ruined the GOP’s chances in an election,. The problem: Akin ran against the Tea Party candidates in his primary, and won only because of the tacit support of Democrats (who recognized him as a particularly weak candidate).
- Remember how the Voting Rights Act, supported by angelic Democrats against evil Republicans, turned white Southern racists into Republicans? Lyndon Johnson is supposed to have said (yeah, right) that, by signing the act, he was turning the South over to the Republicans. And Richard Nixon took advantage of the backlash by adopting the white supremacist Southern Strategy. Except that’s not what happened. A higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted in Congress for the Voting Rights Act. Nixon’s Justice Department was hardly friendly to segregationists or even so-called “racial moderates” in the South—it pursued forced busing, for example, in some cases in which civil rights leaders opposed the idea—and Nixon’s Labor Department pursued the first “affirmative action” quotas. After an attempt to elect Southern Republicans to Congress mostly failed in 1970, Nixon formed alliances with Southern Democrats that effectively stopped the GOP’s growth in most of the South. Following the Voting Rights Act, the South didn’t vote more Republican than average for president until 1988, 23 years after the act was passed. Louisiana didn’t get a Republican U.S. Senator until 2004; Georgia didn’t get a Republican governor until 2002. In my home state of Alabama, Republicans as late as a week before the filing deadline in 1974 had no candidates for any of 13 statewide offices on the ballot; there were zero Republicans in the legislature in January 1977; and, between 1874 and the 1990s, Republicans won precisely two statewide elections. Only in 1994, 29 years after the Voting Rights Act, did Republicans become competitive for many offices in the state, and only in 2010—45 years after the Voting Rights Act—did the GOP take the Alabama legislature. If that was the result of a voting rights backlash, it was one of the slowest backlashes in political history. (White supremacist Democrats turning Republican? Hardly: Throughout the South, the first areas to elect Republicans to state and local offices were precisely the more educated areas, many settled by Northerners, that had voted for relatively anti-segregationist Democrats back in the days of one-party rule. With a few exceptions, white supremacists remained Democrats until the day they died.)
- Remember how Matthew Shepard was killed for being gay? There’s no evidence to support that claim. Trayvon Martin, murdered by a white guy? The evidence strongly supported the claim that Martin, not George Zimmerman, was the assailant, and Zimmerman is Latino with some African ancestors, which, in the Left’s hierarchy of races and ethnicities, means he wasn’t white. The Bush campaign’s “Willie Horton” ad was racist? The disgusting Dukakis program of furloughs-for-lifers-without-the-possibility-of-parole was exposed initially in a prize-winning series of newspaper reports and was first cited in the presidential campaign by Al Gore. Tea Partiers are racist, and oppose Obama because they think he was born outside the U.S. or because they think he’s Muslim? All made up. [I’ll elaborate later in this series on deception.] Sarah Palin was connected to the shootings of Rep. Gabby Giffords and others? That was a lie concocted by a left-wing website that, just before the shooting, posted an attack on Gifford that could be read uncharitably as a death threat (Giffords, the left-wing blogger declared, was “DEAD TO ME.”)
Compared to the radical Left, people in the mainstream are sometimes at a disadvantage because they refuse to engage in such deception. It’s a problem similar to that that once put Christians at a disadvantage in armed conflict.
From the time of Karl the Great (Charlemagne), who became Holy Roman Emperor in A.D. 800, for eight centuries thereafter, certain assumptions were universal in the area under Christian rule; one of them, according to J. Bowyer Bell and Barton Whaley in Cheating and Deception, was the historical reluctance of Christians to practice trickery due to “a disdain for the practice of guile in combat.” Bell and Whaley noted: “The Christian religion imposed a moral command that turned the minds of the governors and governed to otherworldly values at the expense of secular considerations. Pragmatic considerations, even raison d’état, could seldom be offered as a ready excuse for recourse to fraud.”
Traditionalist conservatives, libertarians, Tea Party supporters, and mainstream JFK-type liberals—anyone who stands in opposition to the extremist Left—find themselves today in a similar situation. They refuse to stoop to their opponents’ level, and risk losing because of it. Their challenge: to expose the deceptions of their adversaries while holding fast to their principles and always telling the truth.