Donald Trump is a pathological liar. This is an established fact, but also an overlooked one for his followers, who all seem to get their news from the same source: the echo chamber that is Conservative talk shows and radio programs.

The thing is, Trump’s penchant for dishonesty goes well beyond exaggeration and mischaracterization; he’s actively misleading the American people on a grand scale — and his first TV ad is proof positive.

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What’s He Lying About This Time?

It’s one thing for Mr. Trump to lie to his droves of slavish supporters on the campaign trail, but it’s quite another for him to release a national television ad riddled with blatant faleshoods.

But that’s exactly what he’s done.

The Trump campaign released their first TV ad recently, and it’s positively crammed with lies. The most extravagant lie is the campaign’s use of footage that purportedly shows the US-Mexican border teeming with immigrants, but which actually depicts migrants crossing the border into Melilla, in Morocco — some 5,000 miles away from the border Trump has vowed to wall off.

The Trump Campaign Responds

You’re probably wondering what kind of response could possibly make up for this kind of deception. Contrition? An immediate withdrawal of this ad from national airwaves? No; in true Trump tradition, his campaign advisors have responded pretty much exactly as you’d expect:

“No shit it’s not the Mexican border — but that’s what our country is going to look like … this was 1,000 percent on purpose.”

That’s a direct quote from Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, from an interview with NBC News. Somehow, he still has a job.

It really couldn’t be any clearer at this point that neither Trump, nor anyone on his circus-like entourage, cares even the tiniest bit about the American people. If they did, we’d have some indication by now that this campaign is anything other than a public self-pleasure session for the man with the World’s Most Fragile Ego. He will say absolutely anything it takes to cater to the “silent majority” he likes to go on and on about, but the better label might be something like: “silent lowest-common-denominator.”

Why Does This Matter?

You’d be forgiven for laughing off Trump’s commitment to dishonesty as an aberration, or something that’s beyond Politics As Usual. You might even be forgiven for ignoring Mr. Trump entirely, since it’s very clear he has no chance of ever becoming President this year or any other year (any number of polls reveal that so-called “dark horse” candidate Bernie Sanders would trounce Trump in a national contest).

Trouble is, you’d be very, very wrong to assume that Trump’s campaign isn’t Politics As Usual. This is exactly the sort of misleading campaign tactic we’ve become accustomed to from the Political Right. Donald Trump is not a caricature of the Republican Party; he is the logical culmination of their very particular style of governance.

Take, for example, the issue of global warming:

When liberals and progressives warn the developed world that human folly is exacerbating climate change, it’s not because we choose to believe this; it’s because we’ve conferred with environmental and climate scientists, and have learned that the scientific community has reached a virtual consensus. Meanwhile, the Republican Party remains quite literally the only group of folks in the developed world who actively undermine efforts to curb climate change, and who regularly sabotage efforts by free-thinking people to do something about it.

In other words, like Donald Trump, they’re counting on the fact that American voters don’t do their own fact-checking anymore.

And how about the Presidential candidates’ economic and tax policies? The Republicans would like you to believe that Bernie Sanders’ proposals (including a tax on Wall Street speculation to make tuition at public universities free, and to fund a single-payer health system) would cost us untold trillions and bankrupt us as a nation. But the truth is, making these kinds of investments would actually save us a considerable amount of money in the long run. Meanwhile, Republican tax policies (including the ridiculous notion of a “flat tax”) would worsen our deficit by anywhere from 3 to 10 trillion dollars over the next decade.

It’s the same story for every GOP candidate who’s deigned to release a tax policy so far, including Mr. Trump. They’re apparently hoping that nobody in Middle America reads past the sentence containing the phrase “tax break,” and instead remains ignorant of the fact that the only people who will actually receive said tax break are the wealthiest people in America, many of whom already have more wealth than they could spend in a dozen lifetimes.

Again, we don’t say these things because we want them to be true; we say them because we have conferred with economic professionals, and have arrived at this conclusion with their help.

Politics As Usual

This is what politics has become in America, and it’s why we don’t currently have anything approaching a “functional, representative democracy.”

Let’s put it another way: the Republican Party is counting on all of us remaining ignorant. The seething ball of hatred and avarice they dress up as “rational discourse” and “fiscal policy” could never hold sway in a nation peopled by informed citizens.

And that’s probably the most important takeaway here, as well as the saddest part of our story. Apparently, 83 percent of American adults think of themselves as “informed citizens.” I don’t know about you, but in a political climate where we’re still debating the existence of climate change, the merits of medical marijuana, or the fact that being gay is not a choice (all issues that science has effectively reached a consensus on) there’s no reason to believe that a majority of American voters are informed.

And right now, Mr. Trump and others like him are preying on that ignorance. We can’t let them.

Image by Gage Skidmore

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Holly Whitman

Holly Whitman is the author behind Only Slightly Biased, a freelance journalist and striving to be one of the best women political writers on the web. Her work has been featured on Yahoo Finance, Fortune, Politicus, Bust and Feministing. You can find her on Twitter at @hollykwhitman.

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