Trump poisons the well of democratic discourse…

Trump poisons the well of democratic discourse…

Why Trump Wants to Disempower Institutions That Protect the Truth

President Trump is attacking the very institutions that are meant to expose lies: universities, the media and the judiciary. Democracy is impossible without them.

By Lawrence Douglas / The Guardian    Donald Trump is hardly the first president to lie. But what distinguishes Trump from previous presidential fibsters are his meta-lies. These claim that the very institutions empowered in a democracy to expose lies are themselves corrupt, dishonest and lying. In spreading his meta-lies, Trump poisons the well of democratic discourse.

The great political thinker Hannah Arendt once dryly observed: “Lies have always been regarded as necessary and justifiable tools … of the statesman’s trade.” Arendt writes that what distinguishes democratic from authoritarian regimes is not the greater honesty of democratic politicians. The saving grace of democracies is the existence of neutral, politically-independent institutions capable of safeguarding truth from the politics of prevarication.

It is precisely these institutions that are the target of Trump’s most persistent lies and calumny.

These institutions – the university, the judiciary and the free press – subject the statements of politicians to truth-testing. In this way, citizens can make informed choices at the polls. Without these institutions – and, just as crucially, without belief in their integrity – democratic self-governance would be impossible.

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