With the removal of Liz Cheney from her Republican leadership role in the U.S. House – for having the unmitigated gall to insist that presidents should actually speak truth to the American people – the GOP has blown away the final fragile fragments of the always-unsteady bridge across America’s political divide.
A nation indivisible? We might as well strike that notion from the Pledge of Allegiance.
What’s frightening is that our deepest divisions have little to do with issues or policy. On questions of substance, we can disagree based on philosophical beliefs, constitutional principles or even ideology. In those cases, there often is room for elected leaders to negotiate on individual issues and find a point on the political spectrum that is at least tolerable to the majority. If not, they can simply agree to disagree, with the party in power prevailing.
That’s not where we are now. The foundational difference between Republicans and Democrats is rooted in the unraveling sanctity of truth.
A majority of Republicans in America believe – or at least accept – former President Donald Trump’s fiction that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud. Democrats, of course, know that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president.
This is the point at which indivisibility becomes unsustainable because our differences are irreconcilable.
The halfway point between truth and a lie is still a lie. There can be varying degrees of untruth. But actual truth is absolute. To “meet in the middle” between what most Republicans believe and what Democrats know is to acknowledge that there is merit in Trump’s false claims that he was cheated out of a second term.
It’s the same dynamic that played out on Jan. 6, when Republicans opposing certification of the presidential outcome insisted their objections were merely based on doubts about the integrity of the election expressed by their constituents. Never mind that the seeds of those doubts were sowed by those very same leaders as they fell over themselves trying to secure a spot on their soon-to-depart leader’s coattails.
“What’s the harm in pausing and just taking a look?” the Republicans asked as they proposed an expedited probe of election-fraud allegations before certifying the results.
But again, agreeing to “just take a look” would have sent the message that there might just be something to look at. It would have meant meeting halfway between the truth and a lie.
That is the factual no man’s land where we are trapped as a nation. It is a war-torn gulf riddled by a relentless rapid-fire of repeated lies.
But Republicans’ promulgation of the Big Lie is not just an attack on truth. It is a defense of deceit.
And in that battle, there can never be a middle ground.
John Deem is a longtime writer and editor living in Winston-Salem.