I work in local politics and there are many reasons politicians are dishonest, some of which I have covered on this blog. However, one is unavoidable. The public wants to be lied to. I work in political communications and can honestly say that consituents do not want an honest politician representing them, for the most part. They usually want a politician without scandal and with a spotless record. These people don’t exist in reality but they do in fiction and so politicians comfortable with authoring fiction about their lives will get elected. The requirement for perfection in politicians has a selection bias for pathological liars. Since the public can’t handle real people with real problems, they get fake people whose biggest problem is narcissistic personality disorder, a symptom of which is pathological lying.
Whenever I hear some folksy, salty, demand for “straight-talk”, I think “Ditch the plaid-shirt, heartland, persona, you’re a snowflake who would enter a moral panic over ‘straight-talk’ Straight-talk is telling you that you want to expand the death penalty, bring back torture, and make public school kids pray to a God against both of those things.” The public is vicious and they don’t look for character in their leaders, they have a battery of litmus tests and if a politician fails one of them, then they enter a moral panic. Typically, these litmus tests are litmus tests that the average person who uses them is hypocritical about. If a politician has a drug problem, a constitutent, themselves, having the same drug problem is almost never an object to that constituent casting scathing judgment about their politician’s drug problem.
The constituents are looking for someone on their side of the culture war and what is most important is that a politician’s image and positions are consistent with their cultural side. Almost all of the conservatives who preach abstienence have made zero efforts at practicing it or any sexual restraint. That isn’t the point. Most people against abortion feel no remorse in getting an abortion. The average constituent could care less about morality, their biggest worry is their identity. Conservative positions represent the culture before the cultural revolutions of the late 20th century. It is about a traditional American culture establishing itself by obtruding its moral precepts but its political and social evangelists have no interest in living by those precepts. They’re, basically, just rituals and ornaments to signify their culture is dominant.
On the left, it is similiar. Not with the intellectual or activist left. Those people tend to have lots of problems but are less hypocritical and are truly conerned with the ethics of their representatives to a major degree. However, the minorities and grassroots constituents tend to have a similiar relationship with their politicians as the conservatives do. The Black ones, for example, and I work in Black politics despite being White, want politicians who virtue signal about racial justice things and they will tolerate gross amounts of corruption and utter lack of doing anything as long as their representatives complain about racism. It is not about housing or health care, it is about a culture war. If anyone contradicts their position in the culture war then they’ll oppose them. An honest polician in the Black community may want to focus on economic development which would do more for them but is less satisfying than the cultural issues. And, on cultural issues, they want special attention paid to their own and a conspicious neglect of other minorities and other marginalized groups. Given the lack of material effect of those cultural issues and the hypocrisy of expecting special treatment for one’s own minority to the neglect of others, it involves a fair amount of dishonesty on the part of the politicians to pretend they’re doing something.
The rhetoric between both sides is kayfabe. The underlying truth is a war of cultures and identities. The conservatives don’t care about morality and the grassroots liberals often don’t care about economics, the environment, and so forth. They care if their people exert cultural victories over the other and that is the principal reason, among others, why the people want to be lied to. That provides for a selection bias for much less than ethical people. For pathological lairs with narcissistic personality disorder. An honest conservative would be forthright about the vice in their community, even among their base. An honest liberal from a minority community would empahsize that the historical oppression of other minorities as equally important as their own. The public doesn’t want the truth.