In a representative democracy dominated by dual partisan factions, half-truths are destined to abound in public discourse. They are political leopard spots, unlikely to change, especially in an “information age” that rewards volume over veracity.
Indeed, one theory for modern electioneering might hold that more national elections today are lost than are won. That the candidate whose half-truths wander least from intuitive honesty is less likely to be dismissed by lazy voters.
Regardless of campaign rhetoric, party planks, media bias and shouted soundbites, there are universal truths that are understood, whether or not they can be articulated.
Life isn’t fair. Time waits for no one. Change is inevitable. We all die sometime.
The list of immutable realities, if you sit down to itemize it, is long. And government can neither alter or eliminate any of them. Any government, and any politician, that claims or seeks such ability is either foolish or false; often both in mingled degree.
Thus the appeal of the half-truth: Rather than challenge a broad principle, attack one narrow sliver.
It is easier to argue, for example, about the the plight of poor women mutilated or killed in back-alley abortions than plead the case for killing unborn children a million times a year.
Even abortion-rights proponents always sound the chorus that legal destruction of fetuses should be “rare,” which isn’t really that far from their political opposites who think it should be never. But in the decades since, abortion has been commonplace, not rare. The early restrictions have been eroded and relaxed, till some otherwise reasonable-sounding leaders now seem tone-deaf to barbarism bordering on infanticide.
The Supreme Court justices in 1973, along with the normal majority (to borrow Will Rogers’ sublime designation) of people, would have repulsively rejected any claim of the right to abort a near full-term baby.
In other words, had the argument before the court back then been to secure the reality we have today, the case for abortion would have failed miserably.
That also partly explains the issue’s continued contentiousness, even after all this time. It has trouble living up to a “law of the land” standard because as constructed—not as a legislative product of self-governing democracy, but as a coercive judicial edict—it clashes with the universal truth regarding sanctity of life.
Across the political spectrum, each extreme hurls its half-truths into the public fray, where normal Americans weigh them against innate universalities.
For all nations, legal immigration is better than illegal, and border security is a requirement. Every illegal immigrant not only cheats our country’s laws, but also gains an unjust advantage over legal immigrants properly awaiting their turn.
The politician or party that ultimately polls better probably will be the one whose ideas and solutions least offend those truths.
On matters of crime, race, education, taxes and foreign policy, half-truths dominate discussions, complaints, promises and blame-mongering. Since few people are inclined to truly research any of them, they tend to weigh the untenability of arguments against the true north of their trusted internal American compass.
The principles of limited government and sovereign individual rights are deep-seated in our core. Those particular realities also figure favorably among the best governments ever instituted.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the furthest thing from guarantees of any specific result or outcome, however. Freedom to do wrong is still freedom, and rushing unwisely down an unsound path in search of happiness is still a pursuit.
The purpose of government isn’t to ensure through its power the selection of right choices or right paths. The American experiment has succeeded because, normally speaking, we the people possess foundational moral values buttressed by education and religion.
Only a people with a propensity for good can enjoy liberty and be productive. For people prone to mischief, liberty is an enabler of their vices. Sometimes they run afoul of laws and wind up losing their freedom. More often, they simply fall short of their American potential. Overeating is a problem that produces a host of other problems. So is irresponsible parenting. And drug or alcohol abuse. But they’re also all products of liberty.
America’s strength has always been its people, not its politicians. The true value of our diversity is realized through uniculturalism with respect to universal truths.
The way Will Rogers put it was, the American in the Normal Majority just goes along, “believing in right, doing right, tending to his own business, letting the other fellows alone.”
Stephen Vincent Benet eloquently invoked our infused national spirit to open his 1929 Pulitzer Prize-winning epic poem “John Brown’s Body,” from which a few couplets are pertinent (and beautifully written).
American muse, whose strong
and diverse heart
So many men have tried
But only made it smaller
with their art,
Because you are as various
as your land …
A friend, an enemy,
a sacred hag
With two tied oceans
in her medicine-bag …
All these you are, and each
is partly you,
And none is false, and none
is wholly true …
So, from a hundred visions,
I make one,
And out of darkness build
my mocking sun.