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Trump's 'Big Lie': a clear and present danger

On Jan. 6, Donald Trump stood at a podium and looked out over a stretching crowd of supporters, true believers all. They had been called to the Washington Ellipse to hear him reiterate his “Big Lie”: the 2020 election was fraudulent and stolen.

And so Trump began: “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by the emboldened, radical left Democrats and stolen by the fake news media. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. You will stop the steal. I will lay out some of the evidence. And we fight. We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

For some two hours, in a rambling, often digressive, grievance-filled rant he provocatively embellished his “Big Lie.” But then lying and dissembling has defined his presidency. Since the first day of his campaign, when he demonized undocumented immigrants, he has sown the seeds of alternative realities and “deep state” conspiracies. He was then and he is now an unhinged, amoral grifter who sells elixir from the back of a splintered wagon. Nothing has changed, just the volume of his desperate vitriol.

Consider the following “Big Lie” precursors:

He told us repeatedly that the “fake news” was the “enemy of the people.” Unabashedly he said that the coronavirus was harmless, would disappear, a hoax by the Dems, knowing that it was both lethal and highly contagious. His extortive phone call with the president of Ukraine, for which he was impeached, was “perfect.” At Charlottesville, he insisted there were “very fine people on both sides.” Climate change is a hoax. “Only I can fix it!” “We will always protect pre-existing conditions,” while arguing for the repeal of ACA. “My justices will vote as I deem correct.” Muslims cheered when the Twin Towers fell. Obama was born in Kenya. Democrats are socialists and communists. The Mueller investigation was a “witch hunt,” and there was no collusion with Russia. “We’ve turned the corner.” His gaslighting has been endless.

By the time Trump had concluded his Ellipse speech, he had, with intent and incitement, turned the “Stop the Steal” crowd into a feral mob. Of course, their ilk has always been with us, as have those demagogues who appeal to the darkest impulses of their followers, as Trump relentlessly and seditiously did, exhorting his tribe to go to the capitol and “fight.”

Responding to his call to arms, with a pitched battle rage, these insurrectionists, some armed, assaulted the capitol, breached the doors and windows of the Senate and House, leaving destruction, injury, terror and death in their wake. The ostensible intent was to obstruct the ratification of the Electoral College vote. Which they did. With casual impunity.

When it was over and they were finally pushed from the Capitol and the grounds, Trump tweeted a video to his supporters, saying, “I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide victory. This was a fraudulent election. We love you. You are very special. I know how you feel. But go home in peace.” With mission accomplished, he made no mention of those who died (a Capitol Police officer would later die from his injuries).

How to ultimately explain the willful, full-throated rejection by the Trump tribe of the demonstrable integrity of the last election? Or how to understand the raging, treasonous attempt to burn down to the chimneys our extraordinary form of government, from which we all benefit?

But until the coming inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is safely completed, I will worry. Meanwhile, to Donald Trump and his Senate (eight) and House (139) enablers: You were complicit.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.