The Austin American-Statesman Editorial Board (Austin, TX) posted this on Sunday, January 10, 2021:
Politicians stretch the truth all the time. Some lies, though, are so big that they can pull at the seams of a nation, pit its people against one another, leave a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood in the halls of the U.S. Capitol, and render a police officer and a rioter dead.
President Trump’s wild-eyed claim of a stolen election is just such a lie. And a lie doesn’t grow that big or that dangerous being tended by just one man. Eager to flatter Trump or afraid to displease him, much of the Republican Party leadership repeated this lie for the better part of the last two months, giving it oxygen and a glint of legitimacy in the eyes of Trump supporters. Belief in that lie—that their country needed saving—led to rioters assaulting the Capitol on Wednesday, as members of Congress undertook their Constitutional duty to finalize the election results.
Repairs are underway at the ransacked Capitol, the backdrop for President Biden’s January 20th Inauguration. Repairs for our divided nation will prove more difficult. The events of this past week, indeed, of the past four years, remind us how powerful words and lies can be, and how fragile our democracy is.
This moment calls for accountability and truth. Both seem in perilously short supply in today’s Republican party. It is unclear whether Trump will be dislodged before Biden takes office. But the doubts and conspiracy theories Trump has sown will not expire with his term. They will fester and poison the body politic unless GOP leaders heed the words of Senator Mitt Romney (R, Utah): “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth! That’s the burden, that’s the duty of leadership.”
Too many of our leaders have shunned that burden. They prefer to chase the adulation of their political base, to stoke the manufactured controversies that animate fundraising e-mails, than do the tough work of governing. They have forgotten that public service is about service.
Unfit for office since Day One, Trump has been the worst offender, but hardly the only one.
Senator Ted Cruz fueled Trump’s election lie, leading the charge Wednesday to block certain states’ election results, knowing that Congress had no authority or justification to disenfranchise millions of voters. If he had any shame, he would resign, but we know Cruz has no shame.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also fueled that lie, filing a spurious lawsuit last month asking the Supreme Court last month to toss four states’ election results, then returning to Washington on Wednesday to tell Trump supporters, “We will not quit fighting.”
After that crowd laid siege to the Capitol, our state’s (Tx) chief law enforcement officer shielded their sedition with another lie, claiming on social media that those who stormed the Capitol were not Trump supporters, but members of the left-wing Anti-Fa movement.
If he had any shame, Paxton would have resigned years ago, when he was indicted for securities fraud, or months ago when the FBI began investigating charges of bribery and corruption. But we know Paxton has no shame.
The list of Trump’s abettors runs deep. Governor Greg Abbott cheering on Paxton’s election lawsuit. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick offering cash rewards for claims of voter fraud. Central Texas Representatives John Carter of Round Rock, Pete Sessions of Waco and Roger Williams of Austin, who returned to the Capitol after Wednesday’s insurrection, tear gas residue still clinging to the walls, and voted exactly as the rioters wanted. All of them lent credence to an alternate reality of rampant voter fraud, knowing full well that multiple voter recounts, dozens of judges, and Trump’s own cyber-security chief and his own attorney general had affirmed the election results were valid.
Voters will deliver their verdicts on these officials in due time. In the meantime, we all need for our leaders to pull back from the brink, to dispense with the lies that incite lawlessness
We need hearty debate, of course. Discussions on tax policies and environmental policies and most crucially the path out of the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to kill a record number of Americans each day. But we cannot have those debates, and reach some resolution, if we don’t accept the legitimacy of the elections that put those leaders in office.
Once the recounts and court rulings have upheld an election, we cannot allow the lie of a stolen election to persist. Republican officials have an obligation now to tell the truth, to accept the presidential election didn’t go their way, and to recognize it was a free and fair election all the same.
No doubt that will infuriate those who steadfastly believe the lie: Feed the lie, legitimize the mob, watch our democracy burn.