A Politics of Lies Is Not ‘Legitimate’


Helen Andrews (whose just-published and interesting-sounding book Yuval Levin recently praised in this space) has written an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal titled “When Mob Inciters Become Lions of the Left.” It discusses Aaron Sorkin’s film on the Chicago Seven, making the point that our culture has often romanticized leftist political violence. Helen concludes: “Only one side of politics gets to romanticize its violent revolutionaries. It would be better if neither did.” I think that’s basically right.

But the sentences leading up to what I’ve quoted are wrong. Helen again:

It would be good for the republic if the millions of Trump voters who harbor doubts about the election were able to extract similar concessions. [I.e., similar to post-Sixties reforms of the party nominating processes.] Tightening up voting procedures and reducing the use of mail-in ballots would make elections less vulnerable to fraud. But any legitimate points they had will now be ignored, thanks to the double standard that has existed since the 1960s.

Maybe it would be good for the republic to tighten up voting procedures (in whatever unspecified way) and reduce the use of mail-in ballots, which are less secure than in-person voting but have not resulted in appreciable voter fraud and may increase voter participation. (In my opinion, rural states have particularly good reason to use mail-in voting.) But even if we grant the claim for the sake of argument, we should not want doubtful Trump voters to “extract” concessions, because the extraction would be founded on lies. It is not good for the republic if beneficial policies are achieved by means of, and in a way that reinforces, a massive disinformation campaign led by the president. The “point” over which these deceived voters have obsessed — with the cynical or moronic assistance of Senators Cruz and Hawley and more than half of the House GOP caucus — is not that, in principle, we need some election reforms. It is that the election was stolen from Trump. Again, this is a lie. If it is ignored (if only), that will not be due to any cultural double standard. It will be because it’s a lie, and a lie that has now turned lethal.

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