The Political Student Assembly hosted a discussion on the role of deception in the 2016 presidential election Monday evening in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.
The conversation focused on how the unfavorable public perception of the two presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, has been shaped by their deceit and what this distrust of elected officials says about the current state of politics in America.
Ted Steinberg, a junior majoring in policy, planning and development who led the discussion, said that the issue of accountability has come to the forefront of this year’s election, as each candidate has accused the other of lying. Issues such as Clinton’s use of a private email server to send classified information has made her appear dishonest, while many of Trump’s supporters focus on his willingness to state what they see as the “truth,” rather than try to make his speeches politically correct.
“I think that both candidates, especially Trump, have made it a focal point of their campaign to crack down on government malfeasance, and [Trump] has been trying to paint Clinton as the epitome of government corruption and malfeasance,” Steinberg said. “I think, in the process, he’s doing exactly what he says you shouldn’t do — have a government official who’s lying all the time.”
According to PolitiFact, 73 percent of Clinton’s statements are at least half truthful, whereas Trump’s statements have are mostly false 70 percent of the time. Madelynn Taras, the assistant director of PSA, said that when the presidential candidates at least partially lie 25 to 75 percent of the time, it is easy to see why many Americans, especially millennials who have just reached voting age, have become increasingly jaded by politics.
“A ‘truthful politician’ today is kind of an oxymoron,” Taras said. “I hope that the standard could be raised so that we’d be getting more truth out of politicians and really understanding where they stand on certain facts. But realistically, I don’t think that that would happen anytime soon.”
Steinberg said, however, that despite the feelings of distrust toward the government and politicians ingrained within the minds of Americans, it may be these same sentiments that spur on change in the next generation.
“[I hope] we’re going to set ourselves to a higher standard and establish that the next generation of leaders is going to be about honesty, about transparency,” Steinberg said. “It’s a government for the people, by the people. There really shouldn’t be the divide that we have right now in terms of trust.”