The Big Lie came close to destroying our democracy on January 6, 2021. Now it works through state legislatures as the false justification for disenfranchising voters, mostly Black and Brown, to ensure future Republican wins and therefore end our democratic form of government in a quieter, more insidious manner than an outright attack on our federal legislators as they tend to the people’s business.
It took a little time for the Republicans to condition their constituents to accept blatant falsehoods and they started small. Kellyanne Conway, former counselor to “former guy” Trump, first uttered the words “alternative facts” to Chuck Todd during a Meet The Press interview on January 22, 2017 in defense of Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s lie about the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration. It was that early-on in the Trump presidency when alternative facts were acknowledged as such and said with a sly smile. Conway is not just the aggressive blond ultra-Right Republican mouthpiece she played on television. In 1992 she earned a JD with honors from George Washington University Law School. She knew exactly what alternative facts were all about and where they would take us. Although the term she coined seemed ridiculous at the time, it was an unintentional warning that the GOP would evolve into the grand old purveyor of lies.
As Conway knows, in a court of law opposing sides present what could be called alternative versions of fact. Evidence is used to prove fact and the finder of fact, the judge or the jury, makes an informed determination as to what is truth in the case being heard. This is how our judicial system is supposed to work but it is only as good as the people in the courtroom as we will soon see in Minneapolis where the former police officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck stands trial for Floyd’s killing. In the current political arena alternative facts are spun by the GOP in the court of public opinion where the individual is the finder of fact for him or herself and if enough like-minded people can find each other an alternative fact, otherwise known as a lie, it can gain momentum as a “fact.” This Republican alchemy takes a cheap lie and turns it into a golden truth for believers to defend without question. Find enough of these believers willing to discard information, proof, common sense, and critical thinking and a lie becomes a fact; drop the adjective.
The Republicans, playing the long game, found the man who could shout lies louder and longer than anyone else or perhaps he found them. The cable news megaphone of the Right, along with the wild west of social media, set the stage for the like-minded from all corners to gather and gather they did, shutting out all that runs contrary to their “truth.” Now the Republican Party, successful in the poisoning of our politics with outright falsehoods, is using lies about election integrity to return us to the era of Jim Crow, when citizens of color were denied their right to vote through laws passed to suppress their exercising of that most precious of all American rights.
On January 20, 2021, when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their respective oaths as President and Vice President, kindness reentered American politics after a destructive four year absence. Biden and Harris, joined by Congressional Democratic leadership, replaced leadership by lie with a compassionate vision to give us hope with undeniable accomplishment in a very short time. While Republicans promise more obstruction and distortion of the truth, America is being embraced by an honest man and woman made for the challenges ahead as they lead a grieving nation ready for a brighter tomorrow.
While we search for renewal, we are up against the stark reality of racial inequity as 43 states seek to diminish the status of Black and Brown voters through state legislation that has no place in a free and fair America. The For The People Act of 2021, known as H.R.1 and passed in the House by a vote of 220-210, stands as the defense to the Republicans’ attack on the franchisement of too many Americans. Do not expect a bipartisan Senate to this pass this legislation, which should be heralded as progress toward the fruition of true democratic ideals. The passage of H.R. 1 into law would provide comprehensive voting reform to protect against voter suppression as well as being a kind, compassionate act of a Congress ready to champion a diverse nation. Expect more lies and obstruction from the minority party with its view of politics as a zero sum game as they turn to regressive Jim Crow laws which will suppress the minority vote for years to come. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, H.R. 4, will restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. If passed into law, it will provide the much needed restoration of vital voting rights protection.
It is not the time to stand silent while Republicans take away that for which much blood was spilled. H.R.1 and H.R.4 must become law to protect the true integrity of federal elections. We the People must call out the lies of a failed minority party that continue to chip away at our democratic foundation, and we must protect the right of each and every one of us to vote. As our new president shows us the power of kindness and a government that works for all people, we must unite to defeat those who wish to return us to a past which will forever remain a blight on our country. We must end voter suppression once and for all.
Susan SurfTone is a musician, former FBI agent, and frequent contributor to The Advocate.