By SEAN QUINTAL
Anyone paying even passing attention to the state of national politics is now familiar with the phrase, “The Big Lie.” It refers to Donald Trump’s claims, and his supporters’ and enablers’ claims, that last year’s presidential election was either fraudulent or illegitimate. Trump is now reportedly telling advisors he believes he will be “reinstated” to the presidency this year (Spoiler Alert: presidential reinstatement is not a thing).
These are not, however, just the rantings of a bitter, megalomaniacal narcissist; they have now become a tenet of Republican party politics. It’s so important for GOP office holders to acquiesce to The Big Lie, that Liz Cheney was ousted from her position as the third highest ranking Republican Party official simply because she insisted on calling a lie “a lie.”
GOPers in the House and Senate refused to vote for a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Republicans spent two and a half years, and $8 million, investigating the deaths of four Americans at Benghazi. But for the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War? Nothing, because it would contradict The Big Lie.
Moreover, The Big Lie enablers are tapping into a dangerous undercurrent of political violence, and the rejection of democratic norms, that are rumbling ominously in the GOP electorate. In a CBS News/You Gov poll in May 2021, two thirds of Republicans said they believe it’s more important to be loyal to Donald Trump than to enact sound policies; the same number do not believe Joe Biden was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. Almost half (47%) said that the party should give up on trying to convince voters of its ideas, but rather they should make it harder for their opponents to vote.
A PPRI poll from the same month asked a sample of Americans if they agreed with statements related to the QAnon movement and The Big Lie. 82% of Americans disagreed with the statement: “The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation;” but 1 in 4 Republicans (23%) agreed with this insane proposition. 85% of Americans disagree with the statement: “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” However, among Republicans, almost 3 in 10 (28%) support the premise of using political violence to subvert democracy.
And it is not just the congressional GOP’s refusal to condemn, or even investigate, the Jan. 6 attack on our democracy. It is also the efforts by Republicans in several states to not just make it more difficult for Americans to vote, but to make it possible for state legislatures to overturn legitimate election results. Georgia’s voter suppression law gives the Republican-controlled Assembly effective control over the State Board of Elections; so the state board can take over local county boards, to allow Republicans to handpick the people in charge of disqualifying ballots in Democratic-leaning places like Atlanta.
The threat of political violence, and the intentional attacks of the democratic process, are an existential threat to the America we have always known. So alarming are these developments, that more than 100 scholars of democracy have signed a new public statement of principles that seeks to make the stakes unambiguously, jarringly clear: On the line is nothing less than the future of our democracy itself. “Our entire democracy is now at risk,” the scholars write in the statement, “History will judge what we do at this moment.”
They write, “In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.”
After noting that all these Republican efforts are threatening those fundamental principles, the scholars warn: “These actions call into question whether the United States will remain a democracy.”
Republicans, at the national and state level, emboldened by sizeable minorities of their electorate, have abandoned the norms of mutual toleration and forbearance, which are the glue that has kept our democracy together. The GOP has concluded that the right to free and fair elections, a right for which countless Americans have given their lives, is less valuable than maintaining minority rule of the government.
American democracy, in other words, is in deep trouble.
Please join us via Zoom at 7 p.m. on July 7 for the next meeting of the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club. We will be joined by Seth Green of the Electronic Frontier Alliance. Green will examine a number of issues, to include digital privacy, free speech and cybersecurity. Find the link to join the meeting on our website www.lamesafoothillsdemocraticclub.com.
— Sean Quintal writes on behalf of the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club.