Thou shalt not lie.
When many of us think about the notion of lying, the ninth commandment is probably one of the first things that comes to mind. A simple four-word phrase telling inform us to avoid lying whenever possible. Yet the Bible is by no means the first written work to bring about the concept of lying. In fact, Hammurabi's Code, the modern world's first documented set of laws, also mentions this unholy practice. However, Hammurabi's Code provides much more of a deterrent to lying than simply admonishing against the practice. According to the 11th codified law, if an owner lied about stolen property then he could be put to death. In other words, in ancient Babylonia, lying simply was not tolerated.
Oh how the times have changed.
Flash forward nearly 3,800 years and we now have the most notorious liar in political history currently being a step away from the American presidency. In an age where we have an entire industry based on fact-checking, Donald Trump has managed to not only lie with reckless abandon to both the voters and the mainstream media, but has done so in a way where we are now more surprised when he tells the truth instead of when he lies. His lying has become so ubiquitous that Pulitzer Prize-winning website politifact.org was unable to select a single lie of the year in 2015 and instead selected Trump's entire campaign for its series of ridiculous lies and misinformation. As of last count, Trump lies 76% of the time and has only told the outright truth 3 times out of 139 statements. By contrast, likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has told the truth 72% of the time and has only told 3 outright lies out of 194 statements.
So why does Donald Trump need to constantly lie?
The answer to this question is rooted both in his appeal as well as his ego. In terms of appeal, Trump is blatantly lying because his lies represent what the base of the Republican Party has come to believe. The Republican base believes that Muslims are terrorists so Trump appeals to this belief by mentioning the famous legend of General John Pershing and his murder of Muslim soldiers to help stop Islamic terrorism. The Republican base believes that the economy isn't doing as well as the numbers indicate so Trump appeals to this belief by citing outrageously false numbers that justify their belief. The Republican base believes that Mexicans are swarming over our southern border in record numbers so Trump appeals to this belief by showing footage of Moroccan refugees claiming that they're Mexican. The Republican base believes that our country will have to take in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees so Trump appeals to this belief by grossly exaggerating the actual number. And the Republican base believes that African-American violence targets Whites so Trump appeals to this belief by citing a completely made-up statistic by a fictional source.
The second justification for Trump's lying is done in a way to overcome his perceived weaknesses, helping to give his ego a boost at times when it is most needed. When Trump was widely condemned for wanting to impose a ban on Muslim immigration, Trump responded by falsely claiming Muslim Americans in New Jersey cheered when the Twin Towers came down on 9/11. When Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was accused of assault against a female reporter, Trump spun this by claiming the woman in question changed her story. When Trump was criticized for refusing to disavow David Duke's support, he attempted to spin this by claiming he didn't know who David Duke was. When Ted Cruz correctly claimed that Trump was in favor of intervening in Libya, Trump denied this even though he had discussed it on his own personal blog. And currently, as it has come to light that women have an unfavorable view of Trump, he has tried to spin this by falsely claiming that Hillary Clinton "doesn't do very well with women."
These two reasons, appeal and ego have created the perfect ingredients for a campaign built on deceit and deception. Once upon a time, the American public would be turned off by a candidate who lied this much. However, Trump knows that those days have long passed. His experiences in reality television have made him keenly aware of both what draws people in and what keeps them coming back for more. On the campaign trail, Trump knows the makeup of the Republican base and knows that they won't care that he is lying because the kind of things he is saying sound true and that's good enough for them. He also knows how the network news cycles work, so anytime something bad comes out against him, he quickly says something equally outrageous or false which pushes the original story on to the backburner. By the time Trump is interviewed, he's addressing the current issue, an issue being driven by him and him alone, rather than the previous issue whose story he could not control. By doing this and knowing that he won't be challenged by media outlets for fear that they might be missing out on his attention, Trump has successfully created a campaign based entirely on falsehoods.
But lying can only get you so far.
At some point, the truth will have to come out. Over the next six months, Donald Trump will be facing his first formidable opponent of the campaign season in Hillary Clinton. Whereas Trump's Republican opponents were hesitant to call out his lies for fear of alienating his supporters that might eventually drift their way, Hillary Clinton will have no such concerns about breaking the truth to the Republican base, a group that lives in its own bubble where facts have become impervious to their own self-imposed reality. Hillary Clinton will make no qualms about the true statistics behind economic growth, net immigration, refugee limitations, and crime rates. She will continue to show Donald Trump as a flip-flopper with his lies on Muslim immigration, military intervention, and David Duke likely to become front and center. Unlike the media, Hillary Clinton will actually call out Donald Trump rather than simply allowing him to continue to lie without repercussions.
Because as ancient civilizations knew, lying should have repercussions. Up until this point, Donald Trump has been given free reign to control the narrative of his campaign. He has lied, been called out for lying, and then lied about the original lie, sometimes within a span of less than twenty-four hours. The media has given up trying to do its job for fear of losing out on a ratings bonanza, never mind the fact that the man they're openly allowing a presidential candidate to lie and who may very well become an unmitigated disaster for our country and the world if elected. At a time when the truth has been forsaken for entertainment, Hillary Clinton has become the last line of defense against a man who has run the most dishonest campaign in American political history. However, unlike ancient Babylonia, Donald Trump will not be put to death for lying, but rather will have to compete against a formidable woman challenger who may very well defeat him. For Trump, that would very well be a fate worse than death.
Because no amount of lying would explain how Donald Trump lost to our very first woman president.
Thou shalt not lie.