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Cover Story

Big Red Lies

Does democracy stand a chance against the Republican Party's dishonest strategy?

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The economy will trudge along, slowly getting better, while big, long-term issues such as climate change, energy dependence and entitlements go unaddressed because they get filibustered and blockaded in Congress.

That's not a recipe for a new American century. That's a recipe for decline.

This is how democracy dies, the stinking, rotten fruit of a take-no-prisoners mentality in which no quarter can be given, no compromise can be brooked, ideological purity is exalted above pragmatism, and victory, no matter how or at what cost it comes, is the only thing that matters.

American politics has always been a messy business, full of underhanded tricks and scandalous accusations of depravity and distortions and lies – from Andrew Jackson being the "son of a common prostitute" to Thomas Jefferson being a "half-breed Indian squaw," to the more recent ugly episodes of Willie Horton and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Politicians play to win. They always have.

And yet, what makes our political circumstance so despondent is the fact that the normal games and innuendos are accompanied by a collective inability to do anything – and an almost perverse joy when nothing gets done. When bad jobs numbers come in, Republicans react with near-glee.43 Winning is everything, after all.

If we can't get back where government actually worked, then what's left? At the very least, there's the truth. We can battle over actual ideas rather than simple caricatures, and then accept the consequences of elections rather than trying to bring the whole system down. We can be honest with ourselves about what's really happening, and look beyond the almost sociopathic desire to use other people's suffering and struggle as a way to gain points in a poll.

Facts are not stupid things. They are stubborn, but for that to even matter they need to be acknowledged. Deception cannot be tolerated, let alone rewarded. And that burden falls on all of us – politicians, the media, voters themselves. As long as facts are ignored and people can lie their way to power, nobody wins, not even the victors, and especially not the rest of us.

And that's the plain truth.