ANDY SCHMOOKLER - NVD

Schmookler

My wife, April Moore, started serving this year as a member of the Shenandoah County Electoral Board. She’s told me about two things that have made a big impression on her.

The first impressive thing is how carefully our election system has been set up, and how scrupulously the people in the system work to assure that our elections are fair and secure. Because of the excellent job our democracy has done to make sure the will of the people can get expressed properly, the system has been working rather well.

But, unfortunately, the second thing that’s made a big impression on April is how, contrary to the real situation, part of our political world is making a big issue of “election integrity.”

She’s heard some Republicans in our county sounding the alarm, for example, that Democrats were trying to steal Virginia’s 2021 elections. Many Republicans in our county — leadership and rank-and-file — seem genuinely to believe that the people on the Democratic side are thieves.

Likewise at the state level of Republican leadership, where state Sen. Amanda Chase said in an interview, “I know how Democrats are cheating, and that information has been given to the Youngkin campaign.”

To this baseless Republican charge, Attorney General Mark Herring responded aptly: “If Senator Chase has any evidence of cheating or voter fraud then she has an obligation to bring it to the attention of authorities who can do something about it rather than secretively sharing this supposed ‘evidence’ with political allies.”

But Herring knew that there was no such evidence. “Let’s be clear,” Herring said, “these kinds of baseless, false claims are simply designed to undermine confidence in our democracy and our elections.”

But this practice of false accusation originates neither at the county nor the state level. Rather, its original source is at the national level, where the dominant leader of the Republican Party — Donald Trump — has invested massively in the Big Lie that the election had been stolen from him.

The Big Lie persists despite its having been repeatedly refuted in multiple trials and inquiries and by an abundance of evidence. That Big Lie is, essentially, a False Accusation.

That lie, it must be noted, isn’t just some incidental notion in the Republican world. It’s been made the party’s one central dogma. And supporting that False Accusation is required for political survival in the party.

Which is why it makes sense to talk about the Republicans' world as animating a “Culture of False Accusation.”

In so many ways, such False Accusations make things worse in so many ways:

They degrade the American Constitution: “Stop the Steal!” when there is no steal, undermines the Constitution by sowing baseless doubts about the validity of the outcome of our elections. Respect for the elections is at the very foundation of our American Covenant: Everyone agrees to respect the outcome of a fair constitutional process, win or lose. That agreement is what allows us to have a society where the assignment of power is determined peacefully, and not by war.

They further the pernicious strategy of “Divide and Conquer:” It divides the American people against itself, enraging one side against the “thieves” on the other. Which makes things worse by preventing the American people from living with each other in more spirit of peace and goodwill, and working together to achieve their common good.

They extend the detrimental impact of a most broken human spirit. This whole theme of “stolen election” originates in the mind of a man whose conduct, in the wake of his losing a legitimate election, will surely be recorded in the pages of infamy; a man who’d willingly incite an Insurrection to keep himself in power even though it was clear – as even his servile attorney general declared -- that he’d lost fair and square; who displayed a level of selfishness and lawlessness unprecedented in the history of the American presidency.

It helps paralyze the nation at a time of crisis: This False Accusation — by falsely labeling as a thief the man the American people legitimately hired to do the important job of president — generates popular support for a pernicious policy of across-the-board obstruction. It disables the ability of Americans to cooperate for the common good.

It says a lot about today’s Republican Party that its central dogma is not only a lie, but one that’s destructive in every way.

Both set of Republicans — those who believe the obviously False Accusations and those who feed their followers what they know to be lies — are empowering that force of brokenness that threatens to deal a death-blow to American democracy.

Andy Schmookler is a prize-winning author. Many of his works can be found at www.ABetterHumanStory.org.