One might think honesty in politics would be a given. The leaders that inspire future generations. The creation of policies that govern and define a nation. It would be sensible to think in a global society that claims to value right over wrong, honesty would be top priority. However, it is not. Human corruption runs rampant all over the world, in all areas we touch. Those in politics often act with manipulation and deception to achieve power.
Dishonesty corrupts the political landscape. This corruption is ever so present in American politics, especially in political campaigning. Sometimes it is simple exaggerations, or using something out of context, to smear the facts. Other times it is blatant lies focused on manipulating the voter base or discrediting an opponent. It has gotten so bad, dishonesty has long begun to normalize. Many voters now expect politicians to lie. It becomes an excuse that the other side lies too. So there is no choice but to follow suit. If it becomes a choice of the lesser of two evils, all that remains is evil.
"In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution." - Thomas Jefferson
Despite how you might feel about the roots of the American democracy, it is fairly clear that the founders did not trust people to always do the right thing. They tried to create a balanced system that could evolve. A system of checks and balances, with binding legal doctrine and protected basic rights. All safeguards to keep people in power doing the right thing. Regulation in government to preserve what is right has been there all along.
So why is dishonesty not regulated in U.S. national politics?
A law to prevent dishonesty in politics is not a new idea. Several U.S. states already have anti-lie laws on the books. Though enforcement may be intermittent in success. The United Kingdom has debated similar regulations to prevent lying in Parliament. Maybe with better implementation and stronger enforcement on a federal level, it could be successful in the United States. Such regulation could benefit any country facing rampant dishonesty in politics, and certainly the American people now more than ever.
It is not legal to lie in court and under oath. That would be perjury. Someone cannot say something false that might cause a panic in a public place. That would be a crime, and a danger to public safety. However, politicians are allowed to lie all the time. Meanwhile, their actions in power can have long-lasting effects on the health and safety of the nation.
The U.S. government has always been by the people for the people. A will of the majority. I'd like to hope that a majority of Americans are reasonably honest. I would expect decent people to want honesty in their politics. It might even be argued in a fair democracy, people have a basic right to honorable representation in their government. People should have a protection from being manipulated and deceived by their government and those running to hold office.
Something like honesty might have been near impossible to regulate centuries ago. That certainly has changed in the 21st century. Fact checking is an accessible process that can be further perfected and adapted to help regulate politics. It can be done manually. However, maybe emerging technologies in data processing and artificial intelligence could also be developed to process the large amounts of data output to the public by political candidates and their campaign support. Similar systems could even monitor official government addresses to prevent deception in everyday governing.
The U.S. government has been monitoring and policing its people for sometime in the name of national security. Perhaps it is now time they are monitored and policed for that same reason. For the future of the nation, and the sake of transparency, maybe it's time to explore ways to bring honesty to the forefront of American politics.
How might something like an Honest In Politics Act function?
It could come in many forms. It could focus on single instances of dishonesty in addressing the public, as some of the existing state laws do. It could be made to encompass a pattern of behavior. It could also certainly be written to cover both. Making observations of patterns could be advantageous when it comes to proving intent, and greater deception. It would make claims of jokes and mistakes less defensible.
First, decisions would have to be made to define such patterns, create thresholds to account for simple error. There will always be mistakes and gaffes when addressing the public. It might be a matter of determining those operating beyond the statistical average of mistakes. Then flagging such officials, candidates, or organizations with suspected patterns for further investigation.
Such a process might be made easier using similar algorithms applied by various tech companies in regards to user input and behavior. In time, advanced AI systems with a massive database capable of fact-checking and monitoring these communications to the public simultaneously could be even possible. Any such technologies would have to be handled with utmost care for the obvious inherent dangers.
Of course, there would have to be proper due process and oversight. Any systems would have to be open to audit to verify legal and fair operations. The goal is to eliminate the manipulative deception and dishonesty in politics while protecting privacy and free speech of the individual. It is important to preserve privacy, and maintain public trust.
This would be about monitoring public interactions only by those seeking, or advocating for, political office. Speeches, websites, mailings, ads, and other means of communicating to the public would define the data observed. With technology advancing everyday, that is a lot of data. It is not an easy task. But, in modern times with the proper resources, it should not be impossible either.
What might happen to someone found guilty of being dishonest in politics?
A lifetime ban from elected office might be suitable for the more extreme offenders. Any laws would need to account for scapegoats being used by people in power. Maybe a suspension from holding public office, or working in politics, for a number of years will suffice with other cases. Fines would probably be appropriate to cover public expense, but would not be enough deterrent alone. Political organizations could be disbanded, or forced under new leadership and placed on probation. There is no point in wasting taxpayer money sending people to prison in most cases. Limiting such people or organizations from access to public office should protect the people.
It is not an insurmountable goal. It would have to be done with care and caution. However, if researched, planned, and implemented properly, effectively regulating and policing honesty in political campaigning and government operations could be a reality. Combined with proper education of ethics and common decency to future generations to come, it might just help usher in a new era of truth in politics, and honor in society. At least, it is a nice dream for now. It will take us all to make it happen, by standing together, and speaking loudly.