Trump’s lies matter because they poison our democracy and Republican politics. They have convinced tens of millions of his supporters that the 2020 election was stolen, dramatically weakening faith in our system of government. This in turn has turned our already poisonous political polarization up to 11 and gives Democrats cover when they also unnecessarily increase polarization in pursuit of narrowly partisan aims. Trump’s lies have also kept him in control of the party’s voters, as they see him as a martyr for their cause. Neither the country nor the party can move on so long as Trump’s fabulation is left unchallenged.
But his ongoing con game works only if it’s the only game being played. To date, few if any serious political figures have taken the time and effort to specifically rebut his claims. Thus, honest Republicans hear him on the one side with specifics and hear on the other side only generalized rejections. You can’t beat something with nothing; thus, Republicans have come to believe his falsehoods rather than the truth they never hear.
Cheney can rectify that. She can take to the House floor each day to deliver specific takedowns of each of Trump’s claims. Armed with support from people who actually know how elections work, she can bat down Trump’s falsehoods one by one. She can’t change the tide of public opinion overnight, but over the span of days and months, she could present the truth to Republicans. Many of them will see how they have been deceived and come to hate the deceiver.
She should start with the easily rebuttable points. Trump earlier this week repeated his ridiculous claim that the release of absentee votes in Wisconsin in the early morning of Nov. 4 was proof of Democratic vote fraud. That’s nonsense. It was a merely the release of all the absentee ballots from heavily Democratic Milwaukee. The county had declared well ahead of Election Day that it would count all of the mail-in ballots in one central location and release the results at one time. The results came out in the early morning because Wisconsin law — set by the Republican-controlled legislature — prevented election officials from preparing mail votes for counting before Election Day. (Other Republican-controlled states such as Ohio and Florida permitted election officials to speedily report results from mailed-in ballots.) Wisconsin’s release wasn’t evidence of fraud; it was evidence of an election administration agency competently doing its job under the law.
Milwaukee’s overwhelmingly pro-Joe Biden vote was also in line with what every observer, Republican or Democrat, expected given that Democrats were much likelier to vote by mail than Republicans. Plus, the overall vote from the city, including Election Day votes and mail ballots, showed Trump’s share of the vote had gone up since 2016. It also showed a significantly smaller increase in the total number of votes cast in 2020 than was the norm in most Wisconsin counties. Neither of these data points would be present if Milwaukee’s election authority had cheated by adding Biden votes. Indeed, the city’s results were exactly what one would expect in light of the returns released elsewhere.
Cheney can also debunk every single one of Trump’s other preposterous claims. In Georgia, for example, Trump claims that election agencies in Democratic-controlled Fulton and DeKalb counties cooked the books in favor of Biden. But if that’s true, why did these counties show the same trends in votes and turnout as in neighboring Cobb County? Cobb’s Board of Elections was controlled by Republicans, yet it too showed a big increase in the total votes cast and a large swing in favor of Biden compared with 2016. That makes no sense if Trump’s claims are true, but makes perfect sense if they are not.
Debunking a liar takes time and attention to detail. Cheney will now have that time, and she’s smart enough to pay attention to the detail. It would be helpful if she were joined by someone who opposed Trump’s impeachment, but that shouldn’t deter her from this course.
The ancient Roman statesman Cicero saved his republic with a series of speeches known as the Catilinarian Orations in which he painstakingly uncovered and denounced the plot of one of Rome’s consuls to establish a dictatorship. Cheney’s Trumpian orations could save America from Trump’s malign machinations. She should take to the House floor as soon as she’s ready and let slip the dogs of war.