The Big Lie and Its Persistent Threat

Part II: The Modern GOP

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

Continuing our series on the GOP, we tackle the anti-democratic lurch of elected GOP officials, the sinister actions they are taking, and the potential consequences for our democracy. So a really light, fun post today.

The biggest and most consequential issue to explore is the Big Lie.

If you have not heard the ubiquitous term being tossed around on cable news and the New York Times, let me enlighten you. The Big Lie is the lie that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election and there was massive voter fraud. This is a lie because:

  1. Joe Biden indisputably won the election by 7 million votes and 74 electoral college votes (same as the former guy in 2016).
  2. There is zero proof that there was wide-scale voter fraud. In fact, Republican officials themselves said this was one of the safest elections in our lifetime. Unless you want to count this guy who used his dead mother to vote twice for Donald Trump.
  3. What theyโ€™re actually saying is Biden votes and more specifically black and brown votes should not count. The calls for voter fraud oddly came up in mostly racially diverse places. ๐Ÿค” In Georgia, it was black voters in Atlanta. In Arizona, it was Native American voters. Why the focus on Philadelphia? Thatโ€™s right itโ€™s majority black. Itโ€™s not hard to tie the Big Lie to the racist notion that elite whites are better prepared to vote that has infected our country since its founding.

While we could laugh at how ridiculous the Big Lie sounds, the sad fact is that a majority of Republican voters (53% to be exact) still believe that the election was stolen from Trump.

Why would they believe this? Well, how many hours do you have to spare? I could go on and on, but there are few main causes for why an obvious lie has cemented itself in Republican voters minds:

  1. Right-Wing Ecosystem: One of the biggest threats to our democracy is the propaganda machine that we call Fox News (or OAN, or Newsmax, or anything Rupert Murdoch owns). The reason this is a threat is that so many voters only consume this type of content and these media companies have trained their viewers to distrust everything else. These companies are radicalizing average Americans so that they can score more ad dollars.
  2. Social Media: Another way Republicans are insulated from reality are the rage-algorithms on social media (predominantly Facebook) that disproportionately elevate right-wing content. In fact, many people who joined radical groups like QAnon were recommended by Facebook. โ€œ64% of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation toolsโ€ (What was I saying about radicalizing for ad dollars?)
  3. A Real Circlejerk: The Big Lie was born from Donald Trump's mouth, but then GOP officials began repeating that lie, then Fox News picked up the lie, then-Republican voters started believing the lie, then elected officials โ€œfollowed the will of their voters,โ€ and the cycle continued.

So What?

Itโ€™s easy to hear the Big Lie and shrug your shoulders. Who cares if a bunch of crazy people believe an obvious lie?

We can look to history for this answer. In 1923, a young Adolf Hitler led an attempted a coup very similar to January 6. He too tapped into the growing resentment in Germany after WWI, just like the current resentment over inequality. He failed just like Donald Trump, but when German officials did not take steps to strengthen democracy in the aftermath of the failed coup, we all know what happened after that.

This sounds alarmist, but looking at our current situation with open eyes shows that there is a reason to be. Every day new information is leaking about how Trump weaponized the Justice Department to go after his enemies (aka elected officials!), attempt to overturn the election, and start a coup. Itโ€™s a slippery slope and we are just at the edge.

An Excuse for Voter Suppression

In response to this lie, the GOP has only grown more emboldened to implement restrictive voting laws to limit Democratic voters. A number of Republican controlled state legislatures have signed bills that restrict voting access and criminalize helping others vote.

The Georgia voter suppression bill that Brian Kemp signed in April, is a direct response to the overwhelming black turnout that propelled Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the Senate. They are scared. They know that if people vote, they will have no chance to maintain or take back power. Rather than the obvious solution of having policies that are more widely popular, the GOP has decided that it will restrict voting access so they can win with a smaller and whiter electorate. The irony of course is that these laws actually harm their own voters. Particularly the attempt to limit mail-in voting. Florida has a lot of Republican retirees that wonโ€™t be able to vote as easily with these new bills.

In fact, theyโ€™re not even hiding the fact that these are racist bills. The Texas Legislature had incorporated historically racist terms in SB7, their 2021 voter suppression bills. The phrase โ€œPurity at the ballot boxโ€ was used to deprive Black Texans of their right to vote in the 1890s and early 1900s.

As a reminder (I canโ€™t believe Iโ€™m saying this), voting is a right in this country! It is not something you earn, it is a constitutionally recognized privilege as an American citizen.

The Real Threat Lurking

Now all of that sounds pretty bad, right? Well, Iโ€™m sorry to say, there is something far more sinister about these bills.

The real threat is that these bills are quietly setting Republicans up to steal the 2024 Presidential election after failing in 2020. There are steps being taken at all levels of government to make this a reality.

  1. Local: We were saved in 2020 because of principled Republicans like Brad Raffensperger in Georgia who refused pressure to overturn the results. Well, weโ€™re seeing signs that not so principled Republicans are looking to replace guys like Raffensperger. Some of the โ€œtouristsโ€ ย who assaulted the capital on January 6th are running for secretary of state positions, which would give these lunatics the power to overturn election results.
  2. State Legislatures: The Georgia election law has a sneaky provision that allows the State Election Board to remove county election officials and appoint a single person who can make decisions with little oversight, even decertify legitimate votes. This type of tactic is being shopped around other Republican-controlled legislatures in Arizona, Texas, and more.
  3. Congress: ย If you needed another reason to fight for Democrats to maintain control of the House (other than Kevin McCarthyโ€™s hair that is), there is a very real scenario where a Republican-controlled House could decertify a legitimate Democratic election win. And not to put any pressure, but Republicans already have a real chance of flipping the House simply because of gerrymandering! (what a cool system we have).

Building Empathy and Opening Eyes

I have real empathy for the Republican voters who are trapped in this fantasy world that the GOP has concocted. In many ways, we are in a new Civil Rights Era with persistent voter suppression and attempted delegitimation of black votes. The late John Lewis remains an instrumental figure in this movement partly because of his belief in nonviolence.

From his early years in activism, he did not hate. In a stunning excerpt from his book, Walking with the Wind, he was being beaten and scratched by white women and children at a bus station in Birmingham. Yet, he still did not hate them. He recognized that these angry and fearful people were trapped in the same cycle that we all are in.

Systemic racism and inequality affect everyone, even those that violently uphold that system. When pools were drained in suburban areas because black families were moving in, who suffered? Everyone. Black and white kids equally no longer had a community pool. Unless you are wealthy and get crazy tax benefits, the current Republican Party hasnโ€™t helped its constituents much lately (see part I: the Modern GOP).

The same is true with voter suppression. All of America is worse off when we restrict voting access. We are living in a minority-rule country where Republicans have excess influence in government, despite the vast majority of Americans leaning Democrat or Moderate (remember Biden won by 7MM votes). If everyone could vote, our politics would better reflect our country and we could more easily pass large, systemic changes.

The more people that understand the stake, the greater chance we have to avoid a Hilter-esque second coup. I hate being this alarmist, but the fact is that it has happened in the past and it could happen again in this country if we donโ€™t do enough to stop it.

Next week, weโ€™ll wrap up our series on the GOP with some solutions!

๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.

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