“People always overdo the matter when they attempt deception.” – Charles Dudley Warner
A great piece of advice in political discourse is to watch out for subversive language or hyperbole. Whether it’s slandering their opponents, naming a piece of legislation, or characterizing initiatives; if the argument is dressed up in hyperbole you can know that the argument doesn’t stand on its own merits. For instance, the 2001 Patriot Act is a 342-page monstrosity that was passed in the weeks following 9/11. It gave a license to the Federal government to do every horrible sort of domestic espionage in the name of security. Contrary to its title, it has little to do with Patriotism. This is not lost on those who named it. We’ve seen the same in recent legislation such as the Equality Act or the Voters Rights Act of 2021. These pieces of legislation are not addressing protections that don’t already exist, but rather seek to weaken Constitutional protections already in place.
This practice of dressing policy up in deception is nothing more than creating an audience for whatever the politician is intent on pushing into law. It’s awfully hard to convince the population of the gravity of your solution without a problem to apply it to. The practice of creating demand for the supply is often seen in the grievance politics of modern America. Consider that there are more than 60 million law enforcement encounters a year in the United States. We launch movements characterizing the 60 million encounters with terms like “systemic racism” based on a stark few encounters. In 2019 there were 9 unarmed black people shot by law enforcement in the United States. It’s never a good thing when law enforcement encounters end in lethal force, but as we’ve seen in the aftermath of 2020, painting policy with broad strokes can have disastrous consequences. Near every community that defunded their law enforcement in a moment of public passion in response to police shootings, has seen a significant spike in violent crime, and those communities affected are disproportionately minority communities.
Since January a few dozen states have made good-faith attempts to button up their voting laws after mass reports of irregularities in the November 2020 election. States like Georgia initiated uniform photo identification requirements for absentee ballots, created uniform voting times, and banned polling site electioneering by setting perimeters around polling locations for giveaways, etc. As a response Democrat politicians launched an offensive declaring these uniform rules a “return to Jim Crow” as if these laws don’t apply to all people equally? Several major corporations under public pressure from grievance peddlers began pulling their business from Georgia. The most visible example of this is Major League Baseball pulling their All-Star game from 51% black Atlanta and moving it to 10% black Denver, Colorado. At first glance, we’d call this an unintended consequence. Upon second glance you realize this is exactly the desired consequence; the minority population of Atlanta is being punished and the blame lies squarely on those evil right-wing legislators who dared to create a fair and uniform electoral system. Never mind that 75% of Americans support voter ID laws. Much of the public won’t bother actually reading the legislation or seeking a balanced understanding of it.
Idaho is not immune to deceptive political practices. One of the tools that have been widely adopted by the Democrat Party in the absence of rural influence is the ballot referendum. With a ballot referendum, sharply outnumbered urban communities can throw their concentrated numbers behind policy and skirt the legislature to make law. We saw this happen in Arizona where concentrated blue markets got a ballot referendum passed to allow a 3rd party to redistrict their state. A complicit Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the ballot referendum process is tantamount to a legislative effort, and therefore falls within the constitutionally-mandated purview of voting law by the legislature. This has shown to be a very effective strategy in Idaho as well. Since 1996, 76% of 34 ballot referenda have passed in Idaho. This process of placing a summary of intent on a ballot for a vote can be a disingenuous practice, as the public is neither responsible for mechanisms of funding or the granular details of any particular law that follows. Recent attempts by the legislature to protect their authority by limiting this ballot referendum process have been met with derision on the part of those who seek to benefit from it.
Politicians are notorious liars. The profession attracts a disproportionate number of those who’ve refined the art form. Whether explicitly dissembling about policy and action, or merely misrepresenting their motives, they should always be approached with skepticism.
“I think people involved in politics make good actors. Acting and politics both involve fooling people. People like being fooled by actors. When you get right down to it, they probably like being fooled by politicians even more. A skillful actor will make you think, but a skillful politician will make you never have to think.” – Donna Brazile