The Big Lie: It’s Bigger Than You Think

The Big Lie is that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election. He didn’t. The Big Lie is that Joe Biden is in the White House now because of a massive election fraud. There wasn’t any.

Those of us who still reside on planet Earth are quick to point out that there is no evidence for any of these claims. None. Zip. Zero. That’s why it’s called The Big Lie. Its only purpose is to soothe Trump’s fragile ego, solidify his grip on the Republican base and supply a fictitious basis for the voting restriction bills being enacted in Red states across the country (Georgia, Florida and Texas so far). It’s also the trumped-up rationale for a GOP-sponsored phony “audit” of the election results in Arizona’s Maricopa County (in one especially bizarre twist here, people searched for bamboo fragments on ballots — as supposed evidence that fake ballots were shipped in from Asia; I am not making this up).

I didn’t think we’d still be talking about this 6 months after the election. But because Trump and his cronies persist in keeping the The Big Lie alive, it is still a thing. Actually, it seems more entrenched and more dangerous now than it did back in late 2020. According to recent surveys, as many as 70% of Republicans believe that the election was stolen.

GOP members of Congress know the “stolen election” claim is a complete falsehood. They are being shamefully and deliberately deceptive. They are using it to cling to power — via the short-sighted political gain they expect will come from promoting the lie. But the GOP faithful out there in country truly believe the lie. It’s scary. And it’s becoming (as the phrase goes) an “existential threat to our democracy.” If one of the two major parties in the country believes that the current government is “illegitimate” and that violence against the government is therefore justified (see January 6 insurrection) — then we have lost one of the pillars of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power. It could be sufficient damage for the entire structure to collapse.

The Big Lie is bigger than you think. We should reframe how we speak of it. To say that there is “no evidence” to support the Big Lie gives it too much credence. It suggests a possibility, however small, that matters remain inconclusive (perhaps evidence of fraud will be found tomorrow?). Not so. Rather, the overwhelming, consistent and complete lack of evidence points to a positive assertion: The election was legitimate. It was freely and fairly won by Joe Biden. It’s a fact. Here’s how we know this:

  • The election was held on November 3, 2020. By the following Saturday, the initial count was completed and Biden was declared the winner with 306 electoral votes — coincidentally the same margin that Trump achieved in 2016 and that he declared to be a “landslide.”
  • At a popular vote level, the result was even more lopsided. Biden wound up with over 7 million more votes than Trump.
  • Over the next several weeks, each and every state “certified” the election results — even states that are controlled by the GOP. The electoral vote tally remain unchanged.
  • On December 14, the Electoral College met and voted “to cement Joe Biden’s victory over incumbent President Donald Trump.” There were no claims of irregularities or fraud by the electors doing the voting.
  • And, of course, on January 6, Congress (after an interlude caused by an insurrection at the Capitol) confirmed the election results, with then Vice President Pence declaring Biden as the winner. Even Republicans largely showed their support: only 8 GOP Senators voted against accepting the results.
  • This all led to Biden’s inauguration on January 20th. The sequence of events played out just as in every previous election. At no point was credible evidence of fraud presented.

Except under the most extraordinary circumstances, this should have — and would have — been the end of the story. But enter Donald Trump — who is almost the definition of negative “extraordinary circumstances.” Thanks to his Big Lie, these events were not sufficient. We needed more. Fortunately, we have more.

Prior to the December Electoral College vote, various recounts and audits were demanded — all by GOP officials in red or purple states that had voted for Biden — states like Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and, of course, Georgia. The hope was to provide evidence of fraud. They failed.

In every case, the initial results were confirmed: Biden remained the winner. Most famously, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger acknowledged: “We have now counted legally cast ballots three times and the results remain unchanged…There is no evidence of widespread fraud or malfeasance.” Joe Biden won Georgia. Period.

But wait. There’s still more.

Undeterred, Republicans challenged the results in various state and federal courts. By the time the dust settled, 62 lawsuits had been filed. In every instance (except one in Pennsylvania that involved a technicality that would not have changed the result), the lawsuits failed. Even the Supreme Court (yes, the court with a 6-3 conservative majority, including 3 judges appointed by Trump) rejected the claims of election malfeasance.

But wait. There’s even more.

At one point or another, virtually every Trump administration official charged with overseeing elections and election security acknowledged that Trump had lost. The list includes William Barr (Trump’s otherwise uber-loyal Attorney General), Christopher Wray (FBI Director), and Chris Krebs (Director of CISA). Krebs, as part of a joint-statement, went so far as to assert: “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

Similarly, top GOP members of Congress, including Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, echoed the same conclusion. McConnell notably warned: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again.”

But wait. There’s one more thing.

Even if you were to ignore all the above evidence, the Big Lie fails on logic alone. How can anyone credibly claim that Trump was a victim of ballot fraud — when Republican candidates for the Senate and House won many of their elections via the exact same ballots where Trump lost? How or why would someone change ballots to support Biden, while leaving all down-ballot races untouched? It makes no sense.

Given all of this, you may be asking yourself — how does anyone wind up concluding that the election was stolen? What evidence do they cite to support their belief?

The answer is that they don’t cite any evidence — because there is none. They simply assert that Trump won — because that’s what they want to believe is true and (more significantly) that’s what they are constantly and falsely told is true — within the news silos where they reside. It’s all they hear on Fox News, NewsMax, OANN and such. And on their Facebook pages.

And the Big Lie is now supported by almost all GOP politicians (even those that previously denied it). In fact, it has become a foundational principle of the party. The few that steadfastly remain opposed to the lie must be ousted (hello, Liz Cheney).

To be successful in their efforts, these officials need not prove any fraud. It’s sufficient just to sow doubt and mistrust. And in that, they have succeeded spectacularly — at least among the shrinking number of people who call themselves Republican.

Where does it all end? Will we ever return to a state of normality — where the GOP accepts the election results as valid? Or will things remain in this state of flux indefinitely? Or will matters get worse — leading to further right-wing distrust and violence — especially as the 2022 elections draw near?

Might a sufficient number of non-GOP voters reject Trump’s phony claims — leading to a major GOP election defeat in 2022? Or will the newly-passed voter suppression laws succeed in their goal of minority rule — allowing the GOP to win elections despite clear opposition majorities? And what will Democrats do if and when that happens?

The answers to these questions will determine the future of this country. Indeed, the answers will determine if our country has a future.


Follow-up [May 12, 2021]: It’s not just me who’s sounding the alarm about the state of our democracy. In the wake of the ousting of Liz Cheney from her leadership position, many of the country’s most respected political pundits are similarly sounding DEFCON-1 alerts. Thomas Friedman in particular has been warning: “…if Trump and friends are not stopped, one day they will get where they are going: They will lock in minority rule in America…{leading to}…a new civil war.” Cheney, to her credit, remains defiant: “I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

As this CNN analysis makes clear, the mainstream GOP’s support of Trump has become so extreme that they are even “willing to jeopardize the party’s chances of winning back the House in order to preserve the cult of personality around Trump and the 2020 election that he lost.” In essence: The Republican party has decided it can no longer win elections by broadening its appeal to voters. Instead, it plans to win future elections by making it legal to limit — or even ignore — the votes of those who oppose them. The result? Minority rule. Autocracy. So sound the alarms. For starters, get Congress to pass the For the People Act.

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One Response to The Big Lie: It’s Bigger Than You Think

  1. Marian Shapiro says:

    WOW! Very succinctly stated! Can this get published in blogs that Republicans read?Wish they could understand that the belief in Trump propaganda is what threatens the survival of our country and our Constitution, which they say they love!!!

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