Republicans are counting on lies and brute force to win elections. Just like in 2020.
The path from Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally to the Capitol was paved with lies about the 2020 election. Now, lies about what happened on Jan. 6 are becoming the Republican Party’s only strategy to regain power – and it’s working.
The Republican Party doesn’t have a governing agenda. It’s a pathetic predicament but obvious to anyone who stepped foot in Trump’s White House. One reason congressional Republicans are focused on cultural issues – Dr. Seuss, fake red meat regulations and a handful of transgender high school athletes around the country – might be to avoid judgment on how they used power: no health care reform, no infrastructure package, heading toward 600,000 dead from the pandemic, and the attack on the Capitol.
The strategy is simple: Obfuscate, lie, change the subject and hope voters hold the other party to a higher standard. It’s cynical, un-American and, as exasperating as it may be, effective.
Trump, the world’s preeminent practitioner of projection, recently announced his intention to refer to the 2020 election results as “THE BIG LIE,” a term applied to his refusal to admit defeat. He has been similarly whitewashing Jan. 6, claiming that “right from the start, it was zero threat,” and claiming that the rioters “went in, and they’re hugging and kissing the police and the guards.”
I don’t know that any American watching that day could have left with that impression, but if he repeats it enough, that’s what his followers will begin to say.
We all witnessed the insurrection, yet nearly a third of Republicans blame Democrats for it.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Aug. 19, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is hard at work pushing the lie, arguing that Trump “said he would help” stop the attack even though other House Republicans attested to Trump siding with the rioters.
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin declared that the attack “didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me.” Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama blamed antifa (undermining McCarthy’s claim that Trump was able to disperse it with a polite request).
More “respectable” Republicans refuse to address the incident, as if it were an unfortunate faux pas and not a rabid crowd calling for murder. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina didn’t mention Jan. 6 in his rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s address to Congress. Former Vice President Mike Pence, an explicit target of the rioters, was also silent on the insurrection in his first major public speech since leaving office.
The few examples of steel-spined Republicans are even more telling. Rep. Liz Cheney directly challenged Trump’s ham-fisted attempt to claim the term “Big Lie,” tweeting last week that “the 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
GOP men don’t like strong women: Rep. Liz Cheney is courageous while Republican men are profiles in cowardice
But like other independent-minded Republicans, Cheney is inviting punishment for their good deeds. The Wyoming Republican Party censured her for her vote to impeach Trump, and she could well be ousted from her House leadership post as early as this week.
Sen. Mitt Romney was booed at a Utah GOP convention for admitting, “I don’t hide the fact that I wasn’t a fan of our last president’s character issues.” As the booing continued, he challenged the crowd, “Aren’t you embarrassed?” He might as well have been talking to the entire Republican Party at that point.
As long as Republicans can escape accountability, they can win their primaries. For most members of Congress, that’s as good as reelection. Acquiescing to Republicans’ efforts to change the subject should be seen as aiding and abetting their efforts to defeat democracy.
Democracy report card
The Republican Accountability Project’s new GOP Democracy Report Card is an effort to ensure that members of Congress won’t be able to escape accountability for their votes and statements at the time of the insurrection. Every Republican member of the House and Senate is assigned a letter grade based on a four-part formula:
►Did they sign the amicus brief in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit to overturn the election?
►Did they object to the electors from at least one state on Jan. 6?
►Did they make statements undermining the legitimacy of the election?
►And did they vote to impeach Trump?
The results are depressing but predictable: More than 100 members received F’s, while only a handful (including Romney and Cheney) received A’s.
Ridiculed for truth-telling: Trump Republicans have had it with Liz Cheney and the democracy she chooses to defend
As Jonathan Last observed, the Republican Party’s only plan to retake the presidency is by improving on their process from 2020 – nullifying or overturning election results, by brute force if necessary. Anything to stay in power, whether or not they deserve it.
Overturning elections means denying stubborn facts like vote totals. The first step to getting away with such uninhibited a-reality is to get people to believe lies. By repeating them over and over, you don’t convince people of the lie, you persuade them to forget what’s true. Forgetting the truth is the top agenda item for Republicans, but we have to make sure we’re always there to remind them of how low they’ve fallen.
Olivia Troye, director of the Republican Accountability Project, is a former career intelligence professional, and a former national security and counterterrorism adviser to Vice President Mike Pence. Follow her on Twitter: @OliviaTroye
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