For those who dwell in the rational world, one of the most disconcerting aspects of our current era is the extraordinary purchase falsity has gained in our nation’s politics. It’s not merely a foothold that has been secured, but a stronghold. The entire Republican Party, almost, if one counts not just those who propagate patently dishonest claims, but also those who enable those lies through their silence.
I’m speaking here, obviously, about the enormous and corrosive falsehood that Donald Trump had a presidential election victory stolen from him last year. That’s evidence-free absurdity on stilts, which is why scores of Big Lie lawsuits failed in courts across the country. It’s why recounts and audits — including even the clownish Cyber Ninjas effort in Maricopa County, Ariz. — have confirmed Joe Biden’s victory.
It’s why Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s reckless lawyer, was recently forced into the sheepish acknowledgment that he had culled some of his lurid voter fraud claims from social media posts (!) and sometimes hadn’t even made a cursory effort to investigate those allegations before spewing them out.
Yet in the face of all that, the vast majority of congressional Republicans remain mute about the Big Lie, refusing either to reject it forcefully or to rebuke Trump for its telling. Discounting the occasional congressional kook, most obviously know better. Some stay silent to avoid Trump’s wrath. Others don’t have the fortitude to challenge a myth believed by 68 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of the Fox-washed faithful. Others are amoral accommodationists who believe the Republican Party’s best path back to party power is to keep Trump and his supporters on the GOP side of the political jungle.
That’s why it’s encouraging to see some Republicans putting country above party by speaking the truth.
A speech by US Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming last week at Saint Anselm College was a cogent cri de cœur every American should watch. She recounted that in his recent keynote speech at the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee fund-raising dinner, Trump had repeated his contention that the Nov. 3 election results were “the insurrection” and again called Jan. 6 “the protest.”
“Political leaders who sit silent in the face of these false and dangerous claims are aiding a former president who is at war with the rule of law and the Constitution,” Cheney declared, adding that the nation needed a Republican Party willing to speak the truth: “That millions of Americans have been tragically misled by former president Trump, who continues to this day to use language that he knows provoked violence on Jan. 6.”
Noting that the founders provided that every elected federal official would swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, Cheney added: “Today, too many political leaders seem to have forgotten the sacred nature of that oath.”
Meanwhile, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a longtime Trump friend and ally, has finally reached his had-it-up-to-here point with the former president’s lies. Christie, who like Trump is contemplating another presidential candidacy, has a book out this week, “Republican Rescue.” According to The New York Times, he writes: “An election for president was held on November 3, 2020. Joe Biden won. Donald Trump did not. That is the truth. Any claim to the contrary is untrue.”
In an interview with CNN, Christie said that Trump is currently dominating the discourse with his false claims of election fraud, but that “if you give people the facts, they ultimately come around.”
“You need other voices to speak out,” he said. “I am doing it.” Bearding the lion as long-range political strategy? Perhaps. Still, credit better-late-than-never Christie for saying what’s true.
He’s not the only Republican with a book that addresses the election.
Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and the man whom Trump pressured to “find” enough votes to switch Georgia to his column, has just come out with “Integrity Counts.” Raffensperger was a conservative Trump voter, but he did the right thing: He told Trump no.
The meat of his book is an annotated text of the phone call he and his team had with Trump, plus a detailed letter Raffensperger sent to members of the Georgia congressional delegation refuting Trump’s allegations. Rational readers will come away shaking their heads at Trump’s gallimaufry of falsehoods.
“We looked forward to meeting the president’s lawyers in court,” a forum where “witnesses who lie risk prison time and lawyers who lie risk losing their license to practice,” Raffensperger writes. Tellingly, Team Trump withdrew their lawsuits the day before they were scheduled to go before a judge.
“Integrity counts,” Raffensperger concludes. “It always will.”
If only it counted more — or could count more adherents — in today’s Republican Party.