Here is a list of things it’s okay to lie about out of embarrassment:
- That Voyager is your favorite version of Star Trek
- Regularly listening to Steve Winwood
- The real reason you’re visiting the proctologist
- How frequently you masturbate
- Being a Scientologist
- Not knowing whether the earth orbits the sun or the sun orbits the earth
- Being an adult fan of My Little Pony
Here is a list of things it’s not okay to lie about out of embarrassment:
- Who you’re voting for in a presidential election (or any free, open, and fair election, for that matter)
The polls gravely underestimated Donald Trump’s support among the American electorate. Any number of explanations might account for this, few of them mutually exclusive. One particularly plausible candidate that’s been bandied about in the wake of Trump’s election is that people actively lied to pollsters, claiming to be either undecided or in support of Hillary Clinton when they were in fact all-in for the Tangerine Terror. Marketing expert Aradhna Krishna presents a good argument for this hypothesis in a recent piece for Scientific American.
Personally, I don’t doubt that there might be some veracity to this idea. Trump was a terrible candidate, who seemed to do everything in his power to make voting for him difficult to justify. But here’s the thing: If you can’t justify your vote in a presidential election, it’s a damn good bet that you’re not voting wisely. For our government to function even passably well, voters need to be able to rationalize their decisions within a coherent system of ethics and some kind of halfway plausible epistemology. If you can’t do this for your preferred candidate, you should really consider voting for someone else.
There are those who try to shift blame for this phenomenon to the liberals and moderates who consistently heaped scorn on Trump and those who voted for him (see the enraged limey below). Maybe, the thinking goes, people avoided voicing their support for Trump because they were afraid of facing the ridicule and open disdain of those who saw Trump for the degenerate huckster he is. Maybe, indeed. But this is really no excuse. Members of the anti-Trump coalition deserve absolutely no scorn for expressing their political opinions. That is their right – I dare say their duty – in an open, representative democracy. Rather, all blame in this regard rests among the folks who lacked either the moral fortitude or intellectual wherewithal to take a stand for what they believe in. If that happens to an erratic halfwit and sexual predator who built his race on open appeals to racism and xenophobia, so be it.
One of American democracy’s most dire ailments is a paralyzing drought of discourse. Both sides of the political spectrum are frighteningly eager to vilify one another. People carry out most of their political conversations in an ideological vacuum, stepping out only occasionally to demonize the other side. Partial resolution to this comes from efforts to stop seeing our political opponents in such stark terms. But that only gets us part way. The rest of that bridge is built from people willing to take up the task of showing the other side why there are not villains after all.
Brass tacks, people only feel embarrassed about things they can’t justify. Overeating. Drinking too much. Looking at twisted dungeon porn on the internet. Failing to wash their hands after pooping. Harming people. Cheating. Lying. Lying about lying. Dissembling about your vote would be a reasonable course to strike if we lived in country where anyone faced any threat of serious reprisals. Here, in the United States, you might have withered under scrutiny. You might have had your feelings hurt. If you had to lie about who you’re voting for this year, it’s not because liberals are such big bullies. It’s because you probably knew that, ethically and intellectually, justifying your vote would be an uphill battle. And that means you probably shouldn’t have voted at all.