If you’ve ever wondered what you can do to help your country, ever wanted to be part of something bigger than yourself, now is your chance: Speak up and speak out, loudly and often, about the lie that the 2020 presidential election was rigged or stolen or somehow sullied by massive voter fraud.
The Big Lie has evolved from the narcissistic ravings of an ego-bruised, one-term, twice-impeached former president to a belief many Republican voters and lawmakers, willfully or opportunistically, embrace as gospel. This stain on American democracy isn’t dry yet, but it will become permanent if we don’t get to scrubbing.
To accept as fact, or even as partial fact, that there were significant voting security issues surrounding the election of President Joe Biden is to wholly dismiss the meaning of the word “fact.” And yet, this lie continues to spread, virus-like, wholly unencumbered by evidence.
To many—Democratic, Republican or otherwise—it seems a ridiculous conspiracy, best ignored in the hope it fades away. The go-to line among some Republican lawmakers is that it’s time to move forward. And after a year of confronting a deadly pandemic and caustic politics, a large swath of the population has little emotional gas in the tank to take on a half-baked untruth.
But this particularly insidious lie cannot be ignored. It has become the basis for hundreds of bills restricting voting access in statehouses across the country. It is parroted relentlessly across all social media platforms and still routinely spills from the mouths of those who think they stand to gain from sowing doubt about the integrity of U.S. elections.
At a recent Republican summit in Ohio, Josh Mandel, a GOP candidate hoping to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman, said: “Let me be very clear, this election was stolen from Donald Trump. My squishy establishment opponents in this race won’t say those words. But I will.”
Those words are a lie. Mandel is a liar, and he should be ashamed of himself.
Of course, the primary propagator of the Big Lie is its creator, former President Donald Trump. From his Mar-a-Lago resort, he routinely dispatches news releases that show he hasn’t backed an inch away from the false election fraud claims he started spewing well before the election was even held.
Here are just a few recent lines:
“The 2020 Presidential Election was, by far, the greatest Election Fraud in the history of our Country.”
“As our Country is being destroyed, both inside and out, the Presidential Election of 2020 will go down as THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY!”
Some conservatives have pushed back on this dangerous nonsense. In Arizona, where a circuslike review of ballots in Maricopa County has been unfolding like a bad “Saturday Night Live” skit, the Republican county recorder, Stephen Richer, responded to the former president’s embrace of the ballot-inspection lunacy by tweeting: “We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country.”
He’s right, of course. But this isn’t going away. It’s pure quackery, proven false again and again and again, but it continues to spread.
Shutting up about this lie or ignoring it will not work. It needs to be stomped out with facts, drowned out over the airwaves, shunned socially and politically, and ground down with a pestle of relentless pragmatism.
The facts are simple: Biden won the election by more than 7 million votes, with an Electoral College victory of 306 to 232. No recount or ballot review has uncovered anything that would impact those numbers, and every court case challenging the election results has failed. Period.
Those who choose to believe otherwise should be ostracized. They should not appear on news shows or be treated as serious sources of information. It should be profoundly embarrassing to spout such garbage.
If ever there was a time for everyone, from individuals to entire news organizations, to draw an uncrossable line, it’s now. Because this lie has metastasized, and the best we can hope for is to contain the damage yet to come.
So here’s where you come in. Whatever size drum you have, bang it. Loud.
Be relentless. Share facts. Shame friends and loved ones who have bought into the Big Lie, and counter conspiracies with truth.
This requires every person’s voice—right now.
Consider this, from “Horton Hears A Who,” a book by the decidedly not-canceled Dr. Seuss in which the mayor of a kingdom of people inhabiting a single clover extols his fellow citizens to make their presence known:
“This,” cried the Mayor, “is your town”s darkest hour! The time for all Whos who have blood that is red to come to the aid of their country!” he said. “We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts! So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”
The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was not the culmination of anything. It was the beginning of something.
Something we all must now find ways to grind to dust.
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune