Over at Mother Jones, Rick Perlstein charts the history of bald-faced political lying.
Here’s his opening premise:
IT TAKES TWO THINGS to make a political lie work: a powerful person or institution willing to utter it, and another set of powerful institutions to amplify it.
To which I would add a third: people must want to believe the lie. Perlstein correctly points to Reagan’s Morning in America campaign, a megadose of happy horseshit that painted a patriotic smiley face on two trends that are very much in evidence today: the ‘deficits don’t matter’ explosion in debt coupled with the long, slow evisceration of the American middle class as wealth was transferred ever upward in the form of lowered taxes and increased corporate welfare. But Reagan’s message resonated mainly because people wanted desperately to believe it — they were tired of Carter being a such a downer, man, harshing our buzz with talk about our dependence on Mideast oil and the need to fundamentally change our life style. After Vietnam and Watergate and the oil embargo, America was forced to take a long, hard look in the mirror, and what it saw was downright gnarly. Cocaine and disco and Star Wars dulled the pain for a while, but it wasn’t until Ronald Reagan came along in 1980 and promised to haul that Dorian Gray portrait back up to the attic once and for all that people collectively decided to pull the lever marked “Ah, to hell with it.”