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Do They Really Believe The Lies?

Tell a lie often enough and you start to believe it.
July 6, 2021
Do They Really Believe The Lies?
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A famous German once said, “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” The case of Trump, his defenders in Congress, and their allies in conservative media is different. They told big enough lies, and repeated them so often, that they came to believe their own falsehoods.

For example: The Biden administration recently decided to withhold lethal aid to Ukraine. Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Remember when freezing military aid to Ukraine was an impeachable offense?”

Of course, that was not why Congress impeached Donald Trump. Now, does Rubio believe this lie? Maybe. But it certainly appears that his transformation from laissez faire capitalist to a man eager to use the power of government against private businesses is sincere.

Another example: Senator Ron Johnson once admitted in private that he knew Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. But the revealing part is that he also believes that the left is an existential threat to America, unlike the patriotic people at Trump’s rallies who, Johnson says, love America. And because Johnson has talked himself into believing that the entirety of the left is an existential threat, he has allied himself with anybody anywhere—even Vladimir Putin—to stop them.

Here’s another example. The Claremont Institute was founded with two principles: a reverence for statesmanship and a belief that America’s Founding documents were demi-biblical Truth. Today, the people at Claremont are so dismayed by the left’s “existential threat” to America that they published “The Flight 93 Election,” apologized for the most unstatesmanlike president America has ever had, and now openly question the wisdom of the Founders while suggesting that the Constitution be reimagined. The students of Lincoln’s statesmanship and Crisis of the House Divided now reject Lincolnism because tHe LeFt Is So BaD.

Eliot Cohen reminds his students that the danger is not from politicians who lie. All politicians tell lies from time to time, some venal and some mortal. Your alarms should go off, however, when the politicians convince themselves that their lies are true to relieve their consciences from the guilt of lying. Because when that happens, they will be able to use the lie to justify anything, be it foolish, or self-serving, or wicked.

Today Republicans have convinced themselves that their big lie about the existential threat of the Democratic party is true, and so they have justified a great many actions which are, at best, ignoble. They believe their own lie so deeply that they have become an existential threat to the republic themselves.

Shay Khatiri

Shay Khatiri studied Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He’s an immigrant from Iran and writes the Substack newsletter The Russia-Iran File.