And a really bad truth ache, left to fester, can be fatal.
The Whigs learned that the hard way about 165 years ago. The Republican Party, my old Party, seems determined to prove that what was good enough for the Whigs is good enough for today’s GOP. The Whigs of the 19th century couldn’t unite against slavery and quickly faded into oblivion. Today’s GOP can’t unite against a lie, a lie that has become a litmus test demanded by the Party’s leader, the defeated former President of the United States, Donald Trump.
When political parties commit to embracing an immense and dangerous lie, they and the country they aspire to lead are in grave danger. Today, we have a political party dedicated to perpetuating the biggest political falsehood in the nation’s history. And it is, simply, a lie too far. The Party seems to have no sense of history of where parties and movements in the thrall of demagogues and prevaricators invariably wind up.
Now, to be sure, fibbing and politicking, unfortunately, do go hand-in-hand. Savaging the truth here, exaggerating a bit there, deflecting blame for the bad, and grabbing credit for the good—all tools in many a politician’s tool kit.
History, including our history, is replete with prevaricating heads of state. Even George Washington was quite willing, on occasion, to stretch the truth. It was, after all, French military genius Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau who strategized the defeat of British General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, and not General George Washington. However, the father of our nation was not above taking credit for the historic victory.
To name a few others:
Hiroshima was a city and not a military base, as Harry Truman assured the nation when announcing the bombing that ended World War Two;
Gary Powers was not flying a U2 weather plane, as President Eisenhower explained when the Russians shot him down;
Lyndon Johnson justified ramping up American military action in Vietnam by claiming we were attacked in an attack that never happened.
Nixon’s protestations that no one at the White House knew of the Watergate break-in was, of course, a lie,
The Reagan Administration did trade arms for hostages despite the Gipper’s assurance that we hadn’t,
There was never any evidence that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, as President George W. Bush assured the nation.
And, yes, President Obama certainly knew (contrary to what he said) that if you liked your doctor and you liked your insurance plan, there was a good chance you would not be able to keep either with Obamacare.
Do not, however, equate the prevailing Republican commitment to the lie that the 2020 election was sabotaged and that Donald Trump had the election stolen from him with the self-serving truth benders enumerated above. Campaign rants echoed throughout the country that promulgate, and depend on, a colossal lie designed to diminish trust in American elections is not the stuff of rhetorical discretion. It is, instead, the stuff of an authoritarian power grab. And Republican leadership, today, is either ignoring this danger, succumbing to this threat, or actively engaging in the biggest prevarication ever embraced by an American political party.
It is a sad and dangerous game they play. By refusing to call out the Trump stolen-election farce for what it is, the GOP is tying its future to a lie of unprecedented proportions in an ongoing scheme to undermine America’s faith in its elections. The Republican Party, with eyes wide open, is recklessly jeopardizing every semblance of credibility it ever had. And to what purpose? Simply to appease an angry, defeated, unrepentant former president, who demands eternal loyalty, and who threatens to destroy those who deny him such subservience.
A new generation of Republicans, foolish, selfish, and myopic, has formed a line behind this modern-day, self-absorbed pied piper, who, like his predecessor of Hamelin, will, ultimately, lead those who follow him into oblivion. It is shameful that today’s Republican Party still advertises itself as the Party of Lincoln. What an insult. What a defamation of our sixteenth president. The Republican Party, today, is not even a trace of the Party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, or Ronald Reagan. It is no longer even the Party of Paul Ryan or Trey Gowdy. It is a new day in Trump’s Republican Party.
As an exemplar of today’s GOP, Matt Gaetz (R-Fla), bragged last month, the old days are gone. What’s coming? “It’s going to be the days of Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene, Dr. Paul Gosar and myself,” Gaetz bragged. And he is right; the Jordan-Greene-Gosar-Gaetz quartet is among the leading standard bearers of today’s Republican Party.
So, how is this new iteration of the GOP going to turn America’s constitutional democracy on its head? It might be easier than we dare to think. The Party’s strategy is to scare the electorate into thinking that the nation is ruled by an illegitimate President, a President who was elected in the biggest, most blatant widespread hoax in the nation’s history. Never mind that no evidence has ever been found of such a widespread conspiracy or even a meager coordinated effort to undermine the election. It is a farce to which every Republican candidate for public office must subscribe or risk condemnation by the very Republican, who decisively lost the last election, but who is, decidedly, the undisputed leader of the Party.
The Party unofficially requires that every candidate swallow this bitter pill. No one is to publicly acknowledge that Joe Biden was legally elected President of the United States in 2020. In other words, Republican candidates must, essentially, redefine truth; redefine it to mean that which serves one’s interest, and not that which is accurate or correct. This is the stuff of bygone and dark periods in history.
The Rand Corporation, formerly a part of Douglas Aircraft, is now an independent research and analysis group that, according to its mission statement, is focused on the welfare and security of the United States. It describes our current state of affairs as a crisis of “Truth Decay,” pointing to the diminishing role of truth and facts in American public policy. The entire American experiment waivers as the truth becomes the lowest coin in the political realm.
Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham recently diagnosed the Republican Party’s dilemma quite accurately, writing, “Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, claims the GOP is the Party of Lincoln, but he knows Republicans are the Party of Trump. They have fully embraced the twice-impeached former President’s most potent political weapon — relentless lying.
The Washington Post has determined that 163 Republicans embracing Trump’s lies are candidates for statewide positions that administer elections. Among them are 69 candidates for governor in 30 states, 55 candidates for the U.S. Senate, 13 candidates for state attorney general, and 18 candidates for secretary of state where that office is that of the state’s top election official.
It’s a festering GOP Truth Ache.
Hold on to your hat America.