Deep, dark secret that only one or two folks know about me: I was a Teenage Republican.
Not that I had much choice. Our high school didn't have a Teenage Democrat Club. Back then in our town, Democrats were encouraged to leave. Or stay behind closed doors, preferably on election days. You couldn't get a job at the courthouse if you weren't registered with the GOP.
So my choice was to join or not to join the Teenage Republicans. The mom of one of my best friends was a councilwoman, making said friend interested in politics. She didn't want to go to the meetings alone, and my social life being what it was (ie, no different than now), I joined the acned version of the Grand Ol' Party.
To tell the truth, I don't remember a thing about the club. I don't recall actually doing anything. Yet I think it did me some good in that I started following the issues, and have voted in every election from the moment I reached voting age. And if you pay attention to politics, you can't help noticing that politicians have traits that lend themselves nicely to certain characters in mystery novels.
I was always a lousy liar, I think because I grew up around science geeks. Yes, truth has gray areas, but certain facts can't be denied. The sun rises over different points on the horizon, but always in the eastern sky. So I'm fascinated by people who can bend the truth like they're pulling taffy. A skillful politician, if it suits his agenda, might tell you this month that the sun rises in the north. It's before the fall equinox, so he'd be right. Northeast sky. Doesn't matter if, in a month's time, the sun will rise in the southeast. He's scored his point, having convinced you today. When he draws you further from the facts next time, you're more likely to trust him.
Take a villain in a mystery, or any characters with secrets to hide (and really, every suspect worth his alibi will have a secret). Give those characters some ability to spin the truth and you'll fool the reader every time.
I like to think I learned from the best, since Richard Nixon was president when I was a Teenage Republican.
I must say, though, that the current batch of GOP politicians is disappointing. They just lie. No finessing the truth at all. They don't start from fact and pull you into their scam from there. Too lazy. They merely pick their own alternate reality and stick to it, repeating untruths ad nauseum in interviews, until they sound like scratched CDs and look ridiculous. I mean, seriously, you can admire a great con man. He's a pro. But do we really want to elect people so inept that they can't even lie convincingly?
If you're thinking of running for public office, do the fiction writers of this world a favor and master the basics of verbal manipulation. We're depending on you for inspiration.
For everyone else, make sure you're registered to vote. If you're in one of states (like I am) that insist on trying to suppress your vote, make sure you have the proper ID. And don't be, as Mr. Lincoln said, one of those people who can be fooled all or even some of the time.