Fighting The Ongoing Big Lie

[ Posted Monday, February 22nd, 2021 – 17:49 UTC ]

Since the riot at the Capitol last month, both Democrats and the news media have managed a notable achievement, by slapping a label on what is actually a persistent and ongoing danger to both them and American democracy -- Republicans using made-up "voting fraud" claims to make it harder and harder for citizens to vote. Because this fake and non-existent "voter fraud" was not just what Trump latched on to in order to try and overturn an election result he didn't like, but it is also the root of a decades-long Republican attempt to cling to power even while getting a minority of the votes cast.

Both Democrats and the media quickly began using the old term "the Big Lie" to describe Trump's delusional view that the election was somehow "stolen" from him. But this has now grown to encompass not just all of Trump's complaints (about problems that somehow just could never be proven in any court), but also the entire idea of using "voter fraud" as a political wedge issue.

Democrats are going to need to keep this pressure up, because already Republicans are attempting to rewrite recent history to include the "belief" that "voter fraud" happened on a wide scale. Always missing from these Republican concerns is the fact that they themselves whipped this delusional fantasy up among their own base, meaning it would never have existed without their own participatory fearmongering (in fear of drawing Trump's wrath, since he had long since morphed into the Fearmonger -in-Chief). The problem (according to Republicans) is no longer even "election fraud," but is now just the fear of "election fraud" -- which is all the excuse Republicans need to roll back all those voting reforms that the COVID-19 pandemic made necessary.

Here's but one example of how the GOP is trying to morph Trump's Big Lie into a political tool which fits in with their particular voter suppression toolbox:

The second-highest-ranking Republican in the House is Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). He was on ABC's This Week on Sunday, where host Jonathan Karl raised the subject of [Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy's change of heart. He asked Scalise a simple question: Did he acknowledge that Trump lost fairly?

"Joe Biden won the election. He is the legitimate president of the United States," Karl prompted. "The election was not stolen, correct?"

After an aside in which Scalise asserted the obviously untrue claim that Biden, a month into his presidency, had "killed millions of American energy jobs," he addressed Karl's point.

"At the end of the day," Scalise said, "when you look at where we are in this country, either we're going to address the problems that happened with the election that people are still -- millions of people are still concerned about -- the Constitution says state legislatures set the rules for elections. That didn't happen in a few states."

The two went back and forth a bit before Karl returned to his question.

"I asked you, is he the legitimate president of the United States," he asked, "and do you concede that this election was not stolen?"

"Look, once -- once the -- once the electors are counted, yes, he's the legitimate president," Scalise said. "But if you're going to ignore the fact that there were states that did not follow their own state legislatively set laws, that's the issue at heart, that millions of people still are not happy with and don't want to see happen again."

"You know, look, we -- you can rehash the election from 2020 all day long," he continued. "but there are people concerned about what the next election is going to look like. Are we going to finally get back to the way the rule of law works? And I think that's the biggest frustration many people have, is those states that didn't follow the law, are they going to keep doing that in the future, or are we going to finally get back to what the Constitution calls out for electing our leaders?"

Um, sure Steve. The article goes on to point this out, in scathing fashion:

Yeah, that's what Republican voters are mad about. I think we all remember the guy with the horns standing in the Senate chamber on the afternoon of Jan. 6, shouting that he and his friends had overrun the seat of legislative power in the United States because they were concerned that no court had adjudicated the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's absentee voter rules. We all remember seeing those signs saying "Stop the Steal," under which was a lengthy paragraph explaining that the word "steal" in the stated context referred solely to existing questions about the ways in which legislators expanded the availability of votes in the face of a global pandemic.

Scalise is one of those people pretending to believe Trump's false claims. He's not going to go all-in on ABC News with Karl sitting there, obviously, but he'll make the sanitized version of the case. After all, Trump's falsehoods about fraud are very useful to Scalise and his party, as they allow it to advocate for new rules limiting the ability of voters to cast votes -- changes that often disadvantage Democratic candidates. In Georgia, for example, where the state went from having two Republican senators and having voted for Trump in the beginning of November to electing two Democratic senators and voting for Biden at the end of January, Republican legislators have proposed slashing early voting, including rules that have allowed Black religious leaders to encourage people to vote on Sundays after church. You know, because Republicans are so worried about states changing their rules.

In actual point of fact, they're not. They are instead ramping up their efforts to make voting harder for more Democratic voters than ever before. The Brennan Center For Justice (which tracks such things) just issued a new report for February. This is what they have found:

In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year. Thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).

And here is what all these bills target:

Thus far this year, thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 bills to restrict voting access. These proposals primarily seek to: (1) limit mail voting access; (2) impose stricter voter ID requirements; (3) slash voter registration opportunities; and (4) enable more aggressive voter roll purges. These bills are an unmistakable response to the unfounded and dangerous lies about fraud that followed the 2020 election.

Arizona leads the nation in proposed voter suppression legislation in 2021, with 19 restrictive bills. Pennsylvania comes in second with 14 restrictive policy proposals, followed by Georgia (11 bills), and New Hampshire (10 bills).

Anywhere where Republicans control legislatures -- and that includes a lot of states, they are feverishly working not just to roll back any and all changes the pandemic ushered in during the 2020 election, but to make things harder than they ever have been before to easily cast a ballot.

This is precisely why Democrats should be shouting this from the rooftops. The Republican Big Lie did not die with Donald Trump's exit from the White House, it is alive and well and actively trying to make it as hard as possible to vote. Democrats, on the other hand, want not just to make it easier to vote, they're also trying to reform the entire election process -- including killing gerrymandering House districts forever. And, notably, they are making the attempt at the federal level -- which would overrule any or all of the state-level changes Republicans manage to pass.

This is a fantastic issue for Democrats, because their position is so incredibly easy to explain, and most people agree with it: "We think it should be as easy as possible -- while still remaining safer than ever -- for everyone to cast a ballot. This is the 21st century, and people love flexibility in how they cast their vote. We think it is a question of fairness. We think no matter what shift a worker has to work, they should still easily be able to vote for whomever they wish, without doing so being any kind of financial burden or problem at their job. And you know what? Most Americans agree." That is a hard argument to refute, and it paints the GOP into defending what is, essentially, unfairness and guaranteeing that some people won't be able to vote.

How popular are these ideas? Wildly popular, it turns out:

The poll, conducted by the independent firm Strategies 360 and Voting Rights Lab, found that 74% of Americans believe voters should have the ability to cast absentee ballots by mail in future elections -- an idea that enjoys support from 62% of Republicans and even stronger majorities of independent and Democratic voters. Among all voters, 70% support the widespread adoption of no-excuse absentee voting, in which voters can apply to have ballots mailed to them in advance of the election without providing a reason.

Two-thirds of voters also said they would favor expanding early voting periods ahead of Election Day, the poll found.

Those sky-high numbers can be used against Republican politicians, if Democrats would only lean into them in a big and coordinated way. This drumbeat should get louder soon, since the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is about to get underway, which will feature Trump as a headliner. There are going to be several breakout group presentations on the evils of "voter fraud" and what conservative politicians should be doing to "fix" the "problem." If Democrats could point out that all of these efforts are just a continuation and extension of Trump's Big Lie, it would go a long way towards discrediting them with the general public. Which would make their next move a lot easier. Democrats have teed this effort up in the largest way possible, in Congress, but they haven't really started their major push yet.

But they are on the brink of doing so, and it could actually be the vehicle for jettisoning the filibuster once and for all:

Congressional Democrats are pushing a sweeping package of voting rights, gerrymandering, election, campaign finance and ethics reforms, called the For the People Act. It's listed as H.R. 1 in the House and S. 1 in the Senate, signifying that it is Democrats' top legislative priority. For the past two decades, every bill labeled both H.R. 1 and S. 1 has become law.

If the For the People Act is to pass, though, Democrats will need to surmount the one obstacle clogging up almost all legislation that doesn't directly affect the federal budget: the filibuster. Democrats hold only 50 votes -- plus Vice President Kamala Harris' to break ties -- and Republicans could easily use the filibuster to prevent voting reform. McConnell, who previously called the legislation "socialism" and a "power grab," blocked it from a Senate vote in 2019.

Debate over the filibuster -- that it is an archaic tool used mostly throughout history to block civil rights laws and is now preventing the government from operating as voters want it to -- is already at a boiling point. If the filibuster winds up killing democracy reform, it may be what finally drives Democrats to turn around and kill the filibuster.

So this fight is coming, in a big way. But to rhetorically pave the way for it, Democrats need to build on their political labelling success by pointing out that all Republican efforts to make voting harder for everyone are built on the very same Big Lie Trump used -- all the "voting fraud" out there which does not and has never existed. Keep calling the GOP position the Big Lie, and eventually everyone will react to hearing "voter fraud" by immediately responding: "Oh, you mean the GOP's Big Lie?"

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

5 Comments on “Fighting The Ongoing Big Lie”

  1. [1] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    As I read along here, following your chain of thought and sample articles, I was with you every step of the way.

    Hey, what about H.R. 1? Ah, you got it. As federal legislation it can overrule the states.

    Hey, what about the need to end the filibuster in order to pass H.R. 1? Ah, you got it.

    This had better be the straw that breaks the camel's back this year. Without H.R. 1 as law before 2022, the Dems are going to have a hard time no matter how successful the Covid fight will have been, and no matter how well the economy might be doing by then. Because the Democratic voters who want to reward the party that actually worked to fix the country and improve their lives just won't be able to vote.

  2. [2] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Since Republicans will always piously claim that they just want to make the vote more accurate, Democrats and newspeople should both zero in on changes that could not possibly have any such effect: "How does eliminating Sunday voting protect the integrity of the vote?" "How does reducing the number of polling places combat voter fraud?"
    It should be illegal for any state to purge voters from the rolls simply for not voting in a certain number of elections. It's an abridgment of voters' right to vote their conscience by not voting at all. If Benedict Arnold is running against Osama bin Laden, you should not have to vote for "the lesser of two evils" just to maintain your right to vote in the next election.

  3. [3] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    If Republican voters truly believe that it is so easy to vote multiple times or to vote using someone’s identity that isn’t them, and that Democrats are doing this to steal the elections, then they should be encouraged to fight fire with fire and attempt to vote multiple times themselves!

    Honestly, this may be the only way they figure out the truth. Not only are there just too many people in this country to think that you can steal enough people’s identity and their votes to impact an election, but there are just too many road blocks in the process to do this efficiently and effectively! The amount of time and effort to track down those that may be deceased but still on the voter rolls, to create the false ID’s or find a copy of their signature in order to request an absentee ballot would be a massive undertaking that culminates (if they are lucky to not get caught) in just a SINGLE vote!

  4. [4] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Stop perpetuating and promoting the Real Big Lie.

    But then where would you be without one demand?

  5. [5] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    With a few exceptions voters can cast a write in vote.

    This is an outright lie. In point of fact, the vast majority of states do not allow for write-in votes without a person declaring their intention to run as a write-in candidate and jumping through multiple hoops thereafter in order to achieve "ballot access."

    Even if the vote isn't officially counted the voter will still have cast a vote.

    Incorrect. You continuing to spew these lies of yours on this website is akin to informing people that yelling their vote out their window or texting their vote is still casting a vote... it isn't.

    For example, California;s constitution guarantees a right to cast a write in vote, though the California courts have ruled it doesn't have to counted.

    Incorrect, lie, or repetitive ignorance/misinformation... take your pick. In order to be eligible to receive a write-in vote and have it actually count in the State of California (and the vast majority of states in America), a candidate must first file a written statement declaring him or herself to be an official write-in candidate for a particular election and pay a filing fee and/or collect a significant number of signatures or both. Write-in votes cast for someone who has not filed as an official write-in candidate in California (and the vast majority of states) will not be counted.

    Those are the facts.

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