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Lies that undermine America are apparent to see

Robert Reich, syndicated columnist

Speaking at a rally on Saturday, Trump repeated his lie that the last presidential election was stolen from him, and again raised doubts about the integrity of the upcoming election. “We need to watch the vote. We need to guard the vote. We need to stop the steal,” he said.

How can we conduct a presidential election when one candidate and his party continue to lie about the outcome of the previous election and sow doubts about the electoral system?

Our system depends on trust. But if voters are repeatedly told they can’t and shouldn’t trust it because it is rigged, and a significant number come to agree, then no outcome will ever stick. We will be forever fighting over elections.

If voters come to believe that the people who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were “true patriots” who have been unfairly prosecuted, how can anyone maintain faith in our system of justice?

Trump has poisoned the well. His big lie about the 2020 election has led to more lies about unfair prosecutions, including his own.

And Trump is forcing every other Republican to add more poison.

On Sunday, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who is on the short list for becoming Trump’s running mate, said prosecutors were unfairly charging “every grandma and MAGA hat who was within a country mile of the Capitol” for the violence that occurred on Jan. 6, 2021.

On another Sunday show, South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott, also on Trump’s short list, asserted that a number of the rioters were people who “came into the Capitol because the doors were open.”

Both Cotton and Scott claimed that some Jan. 6 defendants were being held in pretrial detention longer than the sentences they would face if convicted. (That, too, was a lie. Most defendants have been released while awaiting trial, and most of the small number in custody have pleaded guilty or violated pretrial conditions.)

The litmus test for being Trump’s vice president — lying that the 2020 election was stolen, that the rioters were patriots, and that Biden and the Democrats are unfairly prosecuting them and Trump — is also becoming the litmus tests for being a Republican lawmaker. Any Republican who doesn’t spout these lies is politically endangered.

These are not small lies. They are not political hyperbole. They are lies that cut to the core of our entire system of self-government. They undermine belief in our democracy and system of justice.

It is one thing for Donald Trump — a pathological liar and sociopath — to conjure up these lies. He is nuts.

It has been America’s great misfortune for him to emerge at a time when the nation was already distrustful and disdainful of politics.

But for an entire political party to wittingly repeat these lies amounts to organized treason.

How can lawmakers who presumably know how dangerous these lies are nonetheless seek to convince the public they’re true? Is their love of power so great that they would sell out our democracy for it? If so, what do they get from unprincipled power?

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