“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,” is an old saying.
On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm, hit the U.S. Gulf Coast. Katrina caused over $108 billion in damages. Nearly 2,000 people died and over 1 million were displaced. The incompetent federal response magnified the catastrophe. George W. Bush was president.
On Aug. 21, 2013, Louisiana Republicans were asked who was more responsible for the inadequate federal response to Katrina. Twenty-nine percent blamed President Barack Obama, while 28 percent blamed Bush and 44 percent didn’t know who was to blame.
Obama wasn’t president when Katrina hit. He wouldn’t be elected until Nov. 4, 2008, or take office until Jan. 20, 2009. Still, more Republicans blamed him than Bush.
Republicans didn’t care that blaming Obama made no sense. Facts seemed to be irrelevant. Basing conclusions on a lie was becoming Standard Operating Procedure for Republicans.
Now our country is caught up in a truly Big Lie that threatens to tear our democracy apart.
President Joe Biden overwhelmingly won the 2020 presidential election, with 306 Electoral votes to former President Donald Trump’s 232, and 81.27 million popular votes to 74.22 million for Trump. Election officials, both Democratic and Republican, confirmed the election was fair and secure.
On Dec. 1, 2020, Trump’s Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press, “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.” Trump vilified him.
Christopher Krebs, Trump’s head of cybersecurity, told Trump repeatedly there was no evidence of interference or fraud. Trump fired him.
Despite these repeated confirmations of election security, with no evidence of fraud or interference, Trump continues to claim he won the election. Frighteningly, most of his supporters believe him. They are signing on to completely ludicrous conspiracy theories; as with Hurricane Katrina, facts seem to be irrelevant.
Two Trump lackeys spreading these lies are Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell. One of their claims is that Dominion voting machines were somehow manipulated to change votes from Trump to Biden, specifically by Dominion executive Eric Coomer.
In response, Dominion filed a $1.3 billion lawsuit against Giuliani and Powell. When asked for evidence of Coomer’s guilt, Giuliani said, “Exactly what role he played, I had no idea…. I could guess but it would not be an educated guess.” (Daily Kos, Oct. 7, 2021)
Powell said, “I don't have a lot of specific knowledge about what Mr. Coomer personally did.” So, based on ignorance and uneducated guesses, Giuliani and Powell believe they have ironclad proof that Dominion had manipulated the votes. We’ll see how the lawsuit plays out.
Another claim says a software company called Smartmatic somehow manipulated votes across the country. According to Smartmatic’s website, “Smartmatic technology was used only in Los Angeles County, California in the 2020 election…..Smartmatic did not provide any hardware or software or services to Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, or Arizona during the 2020 U.S. election…. There are no ties between Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic.” The evidence supports Smartmatic, refuting the fraud claims.
Trump supporter Mike Lindell, the MyPillow founder, said he had proof that in Idaho, “vote tallies in all 44 of Idaho's counties showed evidence of ‘electronic manipulation.’” In seven of Idaho’s counties, votes are hand counted, with no electronics involved. This makes electronic manipulation of those votes impossible, despite Lindell’s claims. (The Hill, Oct. 1, 2021)
These and other conspiracy theories have been debunked repeatedly. Every lawsuit brought to overturn the 2020 election results was thrown out of court. Despite that, Republicans are spreading the Big Lie that we can’t trust our election systems.
Why? Republican leaders want to destroy our faith in our democracy. Our system is based on a peaceful transfer of power. If Republicans can’t win electorally, they’ll make sure all elections are viewed as tainted. This paves the way for an authoritarian takeover, their ultimate goal.
This is not the first attempt to use the Big Lie to promote an authoritarian takeover. It was used in 1920s-30s Germany to destroy democracy. “The great masses of people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one … Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
A lie is a lie, no matter how big or how often it’s repeated. If we want to save our democracy, we must stay vigilant and not allow the Big Lie to destroy us.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.