Cover Image: Representative George Santos from his official website
George Santos, everyone’s favorite member of the United States House of Representatives, has recently been charged with a whole series of crimes, including (but not limited to) conspiracy and credit card fraud. As a result of this, the congressman faced the possibility of expulsion from the lower house, subject to a two-thirds vote. However, the votes were simply not on the table, and Santos survived this ordeal with less than half of the chamber voting to remove him from office. Despite the lies, the crimes, and the simple unlikeability of the representative, Santos remains in power. While others are outraged at such a blatant fraudster, I am now more endeared by the man than ever. Because of this quite frankly excessive abuse of power, Santos has inadvertently exposed the corruption and rot at the heart of the American political system, and has done so in the funniest way possible.
George Santos is a liar. This is known. This is known by his biggest critics and even by his biggest supporters. Yet no one seems to care, at least not in any way that actually matters. He has been criminally charged and exposed for his blatant corruption to such an extent that it makes Clarence Thomas blush, and yet very little seems to be being done about it. This is peak Americana, the Bernie Madoff of political lies and corruption. As Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek said in regards to Madoff, “it was the social context that allowed him to do what he did that was the problem,” not the individual himself. The same applies to Santos. The American people have been being lied to by politicians for decades upon decades upon centuries. Now, the bar has been set so high that it requires a mountain of evidence to even start the conversation on corruption. The question then becomes who, if not what, is to blame for all of this?
It is easy to place the blame for Santos and his associates’ lies on the Trump presidency. After all, the blatant insanity of the average Tweet from the president gave rise to a whole new wave of (for lack of a better term) bullshit coming from our political leaders. But that seems a little too easy in my book. Trump was (at least for me) a symptom of the issues facing the American public and the world at large, the great culmination of this political stagnation. Instead, let us look at the dozens if not hundreds of earlier examples of American political lies and corruption to see where it turned from bad to god-awful.
Before Donald Trump, there was a terrible president named George W. Bush who served as the previous standard bearer for what made a politician bad. Some people have rose-colored glasses on when viewing this presidency, saying that things were not as insane during this period as they are now. Those people are wrong. In terms of lies and incompetency in our political system, Bush holds a special place in the Hall of Fame of bad presidents. Without going too much into every single thing that Bush did wrong, a notable lie (hell, the notable lie) during his presidency was every piece of rhetoric leading up to the Iraq war. There are several examples of these, but the most atrocious of which is the idea that there were WMDs still being stockpiled under the regime of Saddam Hussein. This blatant lie led to the deaths of millions of people due to the United States’ intervention in the Middle East over the past twenty years, but it is not even the first destructive lie that led to a major conflict in U.S. history.
Before the Iraq War, there was the Iraq War. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991, part of the push for the United States to get involved militarily included testimony claiming that the Iraqi army had thrown babies out of incubators. This testimony was later revealed to be false and was in fact given by a member of the Kuwaiti royal family. It is not just Iraq this has been used on, however. The justification for the United States entering the Vietnam War to a full extent was the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, something that was later revealed to be distorted if not entirely falsified. Going further, how about the U.S.S. Maine, a ship that was claimed to have been blown up by the Spanish with limited evidence? How about the falsified narrative that the first inhabitants of this land were savages who needed to be civilized by white Christians? America was built on lies, and it has easily seeped into the political system at hand.
In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed that dozens of State Department officials were communists with ties to the Soviet Union. This was blatantly false, but it set off a chain reaction of blacklisting individuals from work and persecuting those with the most moderately leftist views. Similar lies crop up even today. People up to, and including, President Donald Trump questioned whether or not President Barack Obama was born in this country. It is not just the more conservative amongst the political class who does it, however. Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders claimed that known conservative Democrat now-President Joe Biden could be the “most progressive president since FDR.” Biden himself promised not to restart border wall construction, but as pointed out by the website Mother Jones, Biden has in fact started construction back up. Everyone lies in politics, some are just smarter about it.
Anytime you want to complain about how crazy things have gotten in American politics, with all the lies, the corruption, and the extremist rhetoric, just remember it has always been this way. And don’t forget to keep praying for people like George Santos, because without those who are so blatantly corrupt and crazy, we would forget the standard corruption was even there. At least we can all laugh at the rise and fall of yet another politician’s insane story in the great history of American governance.
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