A few years ago I did a couple of pieces for the Daily Kos in which, citing non-partisan fact-checking statistics, I observed that Republicans tend to lie more than Democrats. My explanation for this mendacity gap was that Republicans, being radical ideologues, tend to be quicker to adopt dubious means to achieve their noble ends in the fight against evil. Among those dubious means is the bending, stretching or embroidering upon the truth in the service of a higher Truth. (If you believe that the GOP is a conservative, not a radical reactionary party, you need to look at some of my early posts.)
Now, Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has performed a great service, developing “honesty quotients” from PolitiFact data on the leading candidates for the 2016 Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. Would it surprise you that the two leading Democrats have honesty scores that exceed all the five leading Republicans? On a scale of zero to five Democrats averaged 3.34; Republicans, 2.26. Consistent with my thesis, Jeb Bush, probably the least ideologically fervent of the Republicans, turns out to be the most honest in his public statements, while the two most radical–Cruz and Carson– share honors with Donald Trump as the worst fibbers.
So now, when you call the Republicans a bunch of liars and your conservative friends demur, you can cite hard data to prove that you’re not just being a crude partisan. Neat, no?
A caveat: Politifact normally doesn’t try to get inside the head of a speaker when they rate the honesty of his remarks, so if you adhere to the conventional definition of a lie as a deliberate misstatement of fact, then, really, Politifact is measuring inaccuracy, not mendacity.
That observation leads me to modify my earlier discussion of Republican mendacity. Many American right-wingers largely inhabit an alternate reality in which their widely accepted “facts” are not facts at all. Take climate change: almost all leading Republicans will deny it, or at least deny human activity as its cause. Are they simply lying? Some undoubtedly are, but others are just automatically repeating the party line without any serious reflection, while still others have convinced themselves that climate change is a hoax because as loyal Republicans they want to believe that. There is often a thin line between outright mendacity and willing self-deception. Ben Carson in particular may believe much of the nonsense he spouts: he just doesn’t live in the same universe of facts as the rest of us. But the effect, in the end, is the same: the ideologically driven telling of untruths. You can call it lying.
Flash: Just as I was finishing this post, I saw that Kevin has come out with some observations on Ben Carson’s particular brand of untruth-telling. Worth checking out.