Editor’s column: Refute the big lie
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Nov. 7, 2020 -A supporter of Donald Trump yells at a Black Lives Matter supporter during a “Stop the Steal” rally, the same day President-elect Joe Biden clinched his win. (Photo: Ray Di Pietro)
Almost five months ago, Joe Biden was inaugurated President of the United States, an event that came after months of lawsuits filed by former President Donald Trump’s campaign team, outright lies and a disgraceful and violent insurrection against Congress the very day that body was certifying the results of the federal election.
That was bad enough, but even worse is that almost half a year after Biden was seated, an eighth of a way through his term, is that so many Americans are still buying into the big lie that Trump won.
A poll conducted and released by the Vanderbilt University Poll June 8 showed that 71% of poll respondents who identify as Republican believe that Joe Biden stole the presidential election, while 30% of those identifying as independent voters share the opinion.
To be clear, there is a big difference between opinion and fact.
“This is a remarkable number—that the vast majority of a political party feels the other party is illegitimate, despite the lack of any evidence,” said Josh Clinton, professor of political science at Vanderbilt and co-director of the university’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. “This survey question has not been previously relevant in American politics, so going forward this will continue to be a concern when evaluating how this will impact future elections around the country.”
The poll sampled 1,000 people across Tennessee and it was conducted between May 3-20 with a 3.7% margin of error.
Reuters news service, an unimpeachable news service, provided a succinct fact check on the stolen election rumors in February.
“Courts dismissed more than 50 lawsuits of alleged electoral fraud and irregularities presented by Trump and allies. U.S. election security officials have said the election was ‘the most secure in American history,’” stated the Reuters story.
What in the world has happened to our country and our state that so many people continue to believe such an easily disprovable lie? How did Donald Trump manage to convince so many people, many of whom are reasonable about other issues, that he won an election he clearly did not?
I was recently a guest on a Nashville TV political talk show that typically features two guests from the right or the Republican Party and two progressives. I’ve known one of the Republican men for more than 30 years: We met at a time when we were both active in Democratic politics. Now, I know Southern Democrats are traditionally more conservative than, say, Northeastern Democrats, but I can’t help but wonder why he changed courses. Maybe he saw more opportunity as the Republican Party became the majority party in the state or maybe the Trump movement allowed him to be who he was all along.
But I was still surprised to hear him admit on television that he, too, believes the election was stolen from Trump. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, for I also saw the photos he posted on his social media channels from just outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The other guest, a man who works in state government, agreed that he, too, believed the election was stolen. Both men sat there, on camera, with Cheshire cat grins on their faces. Again, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
If our own state lawmakers don’t have the integrity to accept valid election results—and the truth—how can we expect different from their constituents who are look to them for leadership?
“I weep for America,” responded my fellow guest, Justin Kanew, to the two Republicans perpetuating the election lie on air.
I get it. Many of us weep for our country, torn apart by political division and lies. But we must do more than weep. One of the tenets of propaganda is that the repetition of lies makes them seem truthful. Psychologists call this the ‘illusion of truth’ effect. Those of us who care about the truth must just as stringently keep repeating it, no matter how long it takes. Hopefully, at some point, the repetition of truth will crowd out the repetition of the big lie.
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