The conservative defense of the Big Lie
Published January 14, 2021
By Thomas Mills
Donald Trump became the first president impeached twice. The vote in the House included ten Republicans, making it the most bipartisan impeachment in history. Several other Republicans who voted against impeachment disavowed the president and one said he might regret his vote if more evidence shows the White House complicit in the attack on the Capitol.
While the step needs to be taken, it won’t likely have much immediate impact on our politics. Trump loyalists still believe the conspiracy theories that led to the assault and few Republicans are backing off of the claims, even if they know they are false. Time may change some of these attitudes but a commitment to the truth by Republican leaders would do more.
The GOP base has been misled by lies for decades. The propaganda machine of Fox News and talk radio became exacerbated by the rise of the internet. Conspiracy based outlets like Breitbart and Newsmax make Fox look relatively tame, spewing outright lies instead of distortions.
An article by the conservative Washington Examiner published just hours before the assault on the Capitol lays out a cynical case for lying to the Republican base. Editor-in-chief Hugo Gurdon wrote, “[E]ven if conservatives should generally protect historical norms that liberals are constantly eroding, it can’t be an ironclad prohibition. GOP objections are not a real threat. Everyone knows we’re watching congressional Kabuki and that Biden will be inaugurated without a hitch on Jan. 20.”
Gurdon goes on to defend lying to the base by saying, “Trump has bamboozled millions of supporters into believing his narcissistic claims that he won and was defrauded. One could contemptuously brush aside the concerns of those who’ve been duped. It’s harder, but not meritless, to give a hearing to the concerns of those “deplorables,” then to move on, as we will, into the Biden presidency.”
The article could be called “In defense of lying.” It lays out the Machiavellian argument for duping your supporters for the sake of a political win. The strategy didn’t just fire up the GOP base, it led to an assault on the Capitol and has empowered and emboldened right-wing extremists who believe the attack on democracy was a public relations victory.
Right-wing and conservative media have radicalized middle-class white people, feeding them a steady diet of grievance politics and lies. And they are continuing. Trump advisor Peter Navarro claims this morning that the election was stolen. Freshman Congresswoman and Qanon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene vows to file impeachment articles against Biden as soon as he’s sworn in. None of the Members of Congress who voted to overturn the election have come clean. And Trump has certainly not owned up to his responsibility.
Republicans saying we need to move on and unify the country are really just trying to regroup. Their base still believes the lies they have been told. These ill-informed Americans need to be set straight and people like Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz need to pay a price. Impeachment is a beginning but it’s certainly not the end. We must defeat the disinformation campaign perpetrated by conservative outlets and Republicans who have aided and abetted it should be forced to admit the election was free and fair. Otherwise, they will continue to exploit their ignorant base and look for other lies to achieve and hold power.