Is it OK to lie in your election campaign?

I notice that we’ve had some recent election setbacks, much of it driven by the usual Republican tactic of race-baiting. It’s going to get worse in the next election cycle. It seems the major approach they’ve taken is to lie forcefully about Critical Race Theory, inventing a new bugaboo to drive racists to the polls. And it worked!

A little clarity from the opposition on how CRT isn’t what the Republicans claim it is would have been nice. Here’s an example:

I guess it’s not illegal to lie through your teeth in order to get elected, but it sure would be nice if Democrats stopped being marshmallows who let them lie. I’m beginning to suspect they don’t particularly want to fight for racial equality, or labor, or tax reform, or any of those “divisive” topics that ought to be central to their platform.


  1. cheerfulcharlie says

    “We have successfully frozen their brand.”critical race theory”,
    into the public conversation and are steadily driving up
    negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as
    we put all of the various cultural insanities under that
    brand category.”

    “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the
    newspaper and immediately think“critical race theory.” We
    have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex
    the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular
    with Americans.”

    — Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) March 15, 2021

    Rufo is the ringleader of the creators of CRT hysteria. His admission here is something all critics of anti-CRT hysteria should know. It is a lie that all other divisive and right wing lies are to be attached too to stir up the MAGA morons. More culture war rat effing.

  2. hemidactylus says

    CRT seems rather arcane and highbrow and surely not the sort of thing that would be taught to K-12. Whenever I do book searches for it most of the results are dry and extremely boring academic tomes. No thanks. Ain’t got time for that soporific stuff. They do want to keep kids awake in class right?

    I think CRT is being confused with a broader more populist antiracism of various incarnations, Kendi included. I have some of his books and others remaining to be read. What I’ve heard of him from some podcasts seems mostly positive. I think he makes a radical shift in focusing on racist action rather than racist people, but I could be misremembering. I also plan on reading McWhorter for a contentious critique of “3rd wave antiracism”. McWhorter at least may be more measured than the stuff coming from Lindsay and Rufo. Plus there has been a shoehorning tendency to classify it all as Marxist threat (Tailgunner Joe tactics). I get pissed when they blend pomo, identity politics, queer theory, antiracism, Soviet and Maoist ideology, and Frankfurt Critical Theory as like the very same existential threat fluoridating our water supply and radicalizing the kids.

  3. Bruce says

    Imagine a thief who steals some money and then goes home and takes a nap.
    From the thief’s point of view, the world ceases to exist during the nap, but is created anew when the thief wakes up.
    Now imagine the victim tells the cops, who track the thief to his home when he wakes up.
    Racists who object to teaching about racism would be like the thief who then says: I just woke up here with all this money. Since the money is here, it must be mine. Why are the cops and the victim harassing me and criticizing me? I don’t want them to teach the neighborhood about how I got this money. As Obama said, we should look forward, not backward, so stop trying to look at how the town’s money all ended up in my house.

    The Republicans are pro-theif, pro-thievery, and anti-accountability. Then they have the gall to whine that looking at history is just mean. Based on Republican logic, we might as well literally defund the police, because they want the police to do nothing about theft (of labor), and just let thieves get away with everything. Complaints about CRT are like saying that no crimes should be investigated, because possession is 100% of the law, so prosecution for theft is impossible by definition. Your money is in my possession right now, so that proves I have always owned it and that settles it.

    The Republican platform now is essentially one of total anarchy.
    Smash the State? The Republicans just made that their only platform.

  4. cartomancer says

    I mean, yes, that’s obviously what they’re doing. But I don’t think the biggest issue is their deliberate misuse of a technical term for a field of legal theory. They could have come up with a new and entirely unprecedented label for what they’re doing and it would be just as bad.

    The issue is that they’re trying to inflame white racism and attack the teaching of historical truths with direct relevance to the fight against racism today. They’re trying to get any teaching about the US’s (and Europe’s) racist past and racist present removed from schools. That’s the bit that needs calling out the most.

    Yes, by all means bring up the disingenuous use of the term “Critical Race Theory”. But do so to shame and expose them as demagogues and rabble-rousers, as part of a deeper criticism, not as if that was the problem in and of itself.

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    But… but… I was told that Americans only care about economic issues and that “culture war distractions” like CRT will only result in defeat for the Right.

    It’s almost as if Americans are really greedy (yes, even the poor ones) racist shits who believe they’re going to someplace better after they die but need to please their equally bigoted deity to get in. It’s almost as if liberals keep underestimating just what contemptible chuds their Republican neighbors are, believing that you can appeal to reason or empathy.

    News Flash Libs: They have neither.

  6. PaulBC says

    There’s the motto in business “sales fix everything.” The Biden administration had high approval ratings initially under the assumption that it might start doing big things that help people… e.g. putting the pandemic behind us and finally enacting massively popular programs, starting with infrastructure but not limited to that. If Biden and the Democratic congress were actually doing all this, CRT would still mean cathode ray tube to most people, and would be a partisan side show like Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Make people’s lives tangibly better and they won’t give a shit about culture wars.

    I’ll add that we still dodged a big bullet a year ago, that Trump was on the cusp of gaining public consent for his belief that he could act entirely above the law as an autocrat (a belief he still holds, but is thankfully held back from acting on), that Biden for all his failings is at least getting the big part of the job description right: “not being Trump.” (Or mostly right, because it’s hard to tell on immigration policy.)

    An actual Democratic government would have eliminated the filibuster, strongly insisted that Justice Breyer stop dicking around and retire, and enacted major legislation by now. I could blame feckless Democrats for this (I do). I could also say it’s impossible. Manchin is a legacy Democrat who might as well be Republican. Others are not as extreme but care much more about their careers and their rich donors than enacting legislation.

    I am not sure I “blame” Republicans. They’re just playing the same game they always do, and we’re letting them. The Republican takeover in 2010 was a blindsiding momentum to many. The one coming in 2022 is just a slow-motion trainwreck. They’ve dusted off the old playbook and we haven’t learned anything. Maybe it won’t happen. I can’t predict the future. But it’s hard to see how it doesn’t happen.

    What amazes me is the ability of mainstream outlets like NYT to revert entirely back to pro-moderate “analysis” as if it was the 90s and its failure had not been repeatedly demonstrated. A moderate political operative Terry McAuliffe loses in a purple state due to a successful campaign to associate him with leftwing cultural movements. The remedy: We need more moderates! Huh?

    Democratic partisans like myself will keep voting for Democrats. Republicans who really buy the culture war (rural white Republicans and religious ones for instance) are unreachable anyway. There is a middle ground of “independent” voters who are better described as fickle voters, but they do have one thing right: once in power at a national level, Democrats fail to provide an obvious, tangible benefit in most cases, and even when they do, they don’t know how to sell it. (They were apologizing for ACA right out of the gate.)

    In short, the proximal cause of any single elect disaster may be a culture war issue, but the root cause is that Democrats usually provide little else worth talking about in an election.

  7. R. L. Foster says

    They did a masterful job here in Virginia of winding up many parents into a near hysteria. They even demonized some passages of Toni Morrison’s book ‘Beloved.’ The GOP now controls the statehouse and the House of Delegates. I’m left with a feeling despair. All of our recent gains are in peril. It won’t take much for them to turn us into Texas or Florida. First on the chopping block will be voting rights. Early and absentee voting will be severely cut back. Reproductive rights will be next. (Hey, all you women under 50, did you consider that when you voted?) Full cannabis legalization will be a non-starter. And, let’s not forget the 2024 presidential election. Don’t be surprised when they concoct an alternate slate of electors to go for Trump if it comes to that. We are so fucked.

  8. PaulBC says

    R. L. Foster@8

    They even demonized some passages of Toni Morrison’s book ‘Beloved.’

    Yeah, this makes me angry. Morrison received a Nobel prize and should be an uncontroversial part of the modern literary canon. Great literature is supposed to make you question your beliefs and maybe even give you nightmares. I guess if it’s literature by a Black author who upsets white kids, that no longer applies. When I consider the authors I was required to read in high school: e.g. Kafka and Solzhenitsyn, older works by Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and extant pieces of Greek tragedy. These are all potentially disturbing to anyone who’s paying attention (maybe 15% of the students?). They don’t make white people feel bad about being white, so I guess that’s why they’re OK.

  9. Susan Montgomery says

    ” I’m beginning to suspect…”

    Welcome to 1994.

    @2. The fewer people who understand a subject, the easier it is to lie about it. And, of course, the easier it is to get people all het up about it.

  10. fishy says

    I guess it’s not illegal to lie through your teeth in order to get elected, but it sure would be nice if Democrats stopped being marshmallows who let them lie.

    Countering liars isn’t what I vote for. Getting things done is. There simply isn’t the time.
    The fault lays before the media, not the Democratic party.

  11. davidc1 says

    This is what a bloke over at The Friendly Atheist wrote about the recent election in Virginia .

    “I was watching NBC news about the recent Virginia election. They were asking a bunch of voters what were the most important issues. Then they asked them what that meant. Democratic voters said what you’d expect jobs, global warming… and they did seem to have some sort of idea on what it was and what they thought people should do about it.

    When they asked Republican’s a common response to what was the most serious issue facing Virginia today a common response was “We have to stop teaching Critical Race Theory.” When they asked people what the theory said almost none of them had any idea whatsoever. They didn’t really seem to care what it said. They were against it.

    I can understand not caring at all about something. But then using that thing you don’t understand and don’t want to understand as a reason to do something makes no sense at all to me. But it’s very common among conservatives. That’s the difference between evidence based thinking and faith based thinking.”

  12. stroppy says


    “The problem with that video is that it’s about 40 seconds too long for Republicans to understand.”


    “In short, the proximal cause of any single elect disaster may be a culture war issue, but the root cause is that Democrats usually provide little else worth talking about in an election.”

    The zone is flooded. Take an already noisy media market, add in loud and aggressive, belligerent propaganda, and here we are, an environment where messaging is swamped and constructive dialogue loses value.

    The Democratic response, “Speak softly and carry a… hey, where’s my stick?”

  13. Susan Montgomery says

    @13. Ah, yes, but sticks are cryptofascist. Nope, the only thing we can do is call them names until they decide to give up and play fair. That’s called “consensus”.

  14. unclefrogy says

    it sure would be nice if Democrats stopped being marshmallows who let them lie. I’m beginning to suspect they don’t particularly want to fight for racial equality, or labor, or tax reform, or any of those “divisive” topics that ought to be central to their platform.

    yes I can fully agree with that. It has been some time since they have fully embraced the ideals they say they are for. It is almost like they are embarrassed by them. At least that is what I hope, They are wrong I think because it looks like those who can do more then just advocate in speeches but work hard to put them into effect have not always suffered politically from doing so. In fact a case could be made that it has helped them and there for us by doing so.

    I can not give any credit to the right wing for coming up with any new political catch phrases in a very long time. they are not creative in that way only in using some others catch phrase and distorting it with lies and innuendo.

  15. whheydt says

    If politicians and politcal campaigns couldn’t lie, they wouldn’t have anything to say.

  16. oddie says

    Explaining to Republicans aren’t actually talking about CRT when they bring up CRT is not going to stop the talking point. I have heard conversations with voters that explain crt to them and how they are misusing the term. They have blown off the clarification in every case. It’s not what they are talking about and they all know it and don’t care. They are pissed about the more inclusive narrative not specifically CRT. They don’t care how sloppy their language is and CRT is an easy stand in for all the racist bs they are actually promoting. The other sides pedantic insistence on explaining to the Republican why they are wrong about CRT misses the point and let’s them muddy the actual conversation

  17. PaulBC says


    Explaining to Republicans aren’t actually talking about CRT when they bring up CRT is not going to stop the talking point.

    “Critical race theory” is code for “making white people feel bad.” Republicans have simply come up with a way to dress it up in terms that don’t sound as infantile. Obviously, no one in their target audience cares if they’re using the term correctly.

  18. birgerjohansson says

    Atwater and wossname the rat that worked for Dubya refined lying to depths you would normally associate with Dr Göbbels. With Fox as megaphone.
    You are getting near a Weimar republic, but people think the danger is gone since 45 is sitting in Florida.
    The other day, new information revealed most Republican voters get more determined to vote, not less. Georgia was an outlier. The potential for a disastrous mid-term election is obvious, or should be obvious to the non-apathic public.