I have a serious question for people who have power in America, and who continue to deny the outcome of the 2020 election and enable Trump’s big lie: what are you saying to yourself in private? How are you justifying yourself in your own mind?
I don’t mean to be snide or snarky. I’m genuinely curious.
If you hold public office and deny the outcome of the 2020 election, are you telling yourself that despite the overwhelming evidence that Biden won and the lack of evidence of fraud, you still genuinely doubt the outcome?
But you must know that 60 federal courts have found no basis in Trump’s claim, nor have any so-called state “audits” and even Trump’s own attorney general found the claim baseless.
Or are you telling yourself that it will soon be over – that Trump will fade, that the big lie will disappear, that your party and America will soon move on?
But you must know you’re wrong. The big lie is growing. It has metastasized into a cancer that’s dividing the nation and devouring our democracy.
Or are you telling yourself that you have no real choice but to support the lie if you want to keep or obtain political power?
Even if true, is power so intoxicating to you – so important as an end in itself – that you’ll do anything for it?
Where will you draw the line? If Trump is reelected and imposes martial law? If he or another Republican president forbids public criticism of his administration? If he calls for violence against those who oppose him?
And what do you tell yourself about the measures your party is taking based on the big lie: suppression of votes, takeovers of election machinery, assertions that state legislatures can overturn voter preferences in the certification process, rejection of the January 6 committee’s findings?
You have sworn an oath to uphold the constitution. How do you defend yourself in your own mind?
I’m asking you, Kevin McCarthy. And you, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio, and Rick Scott and Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson. And others.
And I’m asking those of you with significant power in the Republican party who have remained silent in the face of all this – such as you, Mitch McConnell, and you, Mitt Romney: how do you justify your silence?
And I ask those of you now running for office who are denying the 2020 election results and pushing other aspects of Republican authoritarianism – such as you, JD Vance, and Blake Masters, Mehmet Oz, Herschel Walker, Doug Mastriano, and Kari Lake: what are you telling yourself in private? How are you excusing yourself? Why are you even running?
And I ask the billionaires and CEOs who are bankrolling these people: how do you rationalize spending millions, even tens of millions, helping them get or remain elected?
I’m asking you, Peter Thiel, and you, Stephen Schwarzman, and Ken Griffin and Steve Wynn and Mike Lindell and Patrick Byrne and others: is this really the way you want to spend your fortune? Is this your legacy to the nation?
And I ask all the people making money off this rot – the TV hosts and producers and media moguls who are raking it in while poisoning the minds of America with bald-faced lies – what are you telling yourself in private?
I’m asking you, Rupert Murdoch, and you, Tucker Carlson, and you, Sean Hannity, and you, Laura Ingraham: how are you defending yourself to yourself?
I don’t expect you to answer me. This is a question for you to answer to yourself, alone and in private.
But before you do, may I have a confidential word?
Whether you’re a politician supporting the big lie, a billionaire backer of it, or a broadcaster who’s pushing it, it is not too late for you to get off the road you are on.
Yet if you continue to promote or enable this lie, you are undermining our democracy. The crisis you have helped create is worsening. You bear part of the responsibility for what comes next.
When the history of this trying time is written, future generations of Americans will judge your actions and your silences harshly.
They will recall your cowardice and your self-justifications. They will remember your lust for power and your moral blindness. They will recollect your unwitting ignorance or your witting failure to come to democracy’s defense in this perilous time.
Generations to come will sit in judgment about what you have wrought. And if the democratic experiment called America continues to unravel because of what you did or failed to do, you will live in infamy.
Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now. He is a Guardian US columnist. His newsletter is at robertreich.substack.com.
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