Victor Davis Hanson

All presidents at one time have fudged on the truth. Most politicians pad their resumes and airbrush away their sins. But what is new about political lying is the present notion that lies are not necessarily lies anymore -- a reflection of the relativism that infects our entire culture.

Postmodernism (the cultural fad "after modernism") went well beyond questioning norms and rules. It attacked the very idea of having any rules at all. Postmodernist relativists claimed that things like "truth" were mere fictions to preserve elite privilege. Unfortunately, bad ideas like that have a habit of poisoning an entire society -- and now they have.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was recently caught fabricating her own autobiography. She exaggerated her earlier ordeals, lied about the age at which she divorced and was untruthful about how she paid for her Harvard Law School education.

When caught, Davis did not apologize for lying. Instead, she lamely offered that, "My language should be tighter." Apparently, only old fogies still believe in truth and falsehood -- period. In contrast, Davis knows that promoting a progressive feminist agenda is "truth," and she only needs to be "tighter" about her fabrications to neutralize her reactionary critics.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for years falsely claimed that she was a Native American. That fabricated ancestry proved useful in upping her career trajectory. When pressed about her racial background during her 2012 campaign, the Harvard law professor denied any deliberate misrepresentation and went on to be elected. Such progressive crusaders assume that they serve the greater truth of social change.

In the gospel of postmodern relativism, what did it matter if the president of the United States promised that Obamacare would not alter existing health-care plans when it was clear that it would? Instead, the good intentions of universal health care are the only truth that matters.

For that matter, the "law" that requires a president to enforce legislation passed by the Congress is likewise a construct. If ignoring bothersome laws -- whether the individual mandate and timetable of Obamacare, or federal immigration law -- serves a greater social justice, then such dereliction also becomes "truth." Blindly enforcing legalistic details of the law that are deemed no longer in the interest of the people would be the real lie, or so the reasoning goes.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.