As Texas Shows, the GOP Big Lie Strategy has Already Destroyed Much of America

When politics are based on lies, fascism thrives

Photo by United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash
  • Republicans and their media are lying right now about why people are dying from the cold in Texas.
  • The GOP has been embracing lies instead of policy since the Reagan Revolution.
  • It’s become a way of life for Republican politicians.
  • As a consequence, Republican voters are among the most misinformed people in America.
  • When the electorate believes lies, democracy doesn’t work.
  • The Libertarian billionaires who own the Republican Party don’t believe in democracy, so this is working out exactly the way they want.
  • This is a formula for the destruction of democracy and the rise of fascism.

Back in the 1970s, Texas disconnected its power grid from the rest of the country so they wouldn’t have to put up with federal regulation of their energy system. As a result, people are dying across that state right now.

But rather than tell the truth, Republican officials across the state, from the governor on down, are lying to their people.

People are shocked that the Republican Party would embrace lies, from Trump’s lie that Covid was “just like the flu” and “will vanish soon” to his lie that he won the 2020 election “in a landslide.”

The audacity of these lies is so mind-boggling that many figure they simply must be true:

The lie that frozen windmills are to blame for the failure of Texas’s privatized and deregulated electric grid.

The lie that Donald Trump actually won an election that he lost by over 7 million votes.

The lie a $1.5 trillion tax cut for billionaires (the fifth of this size since 1982) made life better for average working people.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson‘s most recent lie that the attack on the capital wasn’t an “armed insurrection.”

People are astonished by the audacity of these lies, but equally astonishing is that tens of millions of Americans believe them.

Why would the GOP do this? And how is it that they’re getting away with it?

This is nothing new: forty years ago, lies replaced policy as the go-to strategy for the GOP.

The Republican Party, in fact, has been living on lies ever since 1980, when Ronald Reagan, a mediocre B-movie actor, showed how flash and style won elections better than policy and substance.

“Sell the sizzle, not the steak,” is an old cliché in the advertising industry, and the GOP embraced it full-on in the 1980s and never let go.

Reagan cut a traitorous deal with Iran to exchange US hostages for US weaponry to humiliate Jimmy Carter, and used the money (in violation of US law) to send weapons to fascist insurgents in Central America so they could overthrow governments that wanted to provide free education and free healthcare to their people.

When he and his Vice President, George HW Bush, were busted for it, Bush’s Attorney General, Bill Barr, helped them end the investigation by having Bush pardon Casper Weinberger, Ollie North and several others on Christmas Eve, 1992. Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh called it one of American history’s biggest cover-ups.

To suck up to bigots, “Christians” and homophobes, for all eight years of his presidency Ronald Reagan refused to do anything about an exploding AIDS crisis, refusing even to use the word AIDS.

Reagan promoted the bizarre notion that the best way to help average working people was to destroy their unions, double their payroll taxes, and massively cut taxes on the ultra wealthy. Americans knew it was awful policy, but he was so charming!

After Reagan left office, the Reagan Legacy Project set out to promote his “sizzle” by erecting statues or naming buildings after Reagan in every US congressional district and every country around the world.

George W. Bush carried on this fine tradition by lying us into two completely unnecessary wars and downplaying the involvement of Saudi Arabia in 9/11, even though almost all the 9/11 planners and participants were Saudis.

Instead, Bush and Cheney told us, we needed to attack Iraq — the world’s second most oil-rich nation — and sell their oil off to big Republican-donor oil companies.

Bush also promoted Reagan’s big lie about tax cuts, and shoveled several trillion more dollars into the money bins of the billionaire class.

Trump raised political lies to an art form, telling over 30,000 documented lies during his presidency and continuing to lie about virtually every consequential policy issue or event during and after his presidency.

He became a serious Republican presidential primary candidate, in part, because of his monstrous “birther” lie that America’s first Black president was not even born in America.

The GOP’s house organ, the television network owned by billionaire Republican donor Rupert Murdoch, has been pushing the lie that the Texas power grid failed because a few hundred of the state’s over-10,000 windmills froze up.

Their viewers, conditioned by 40 years of Republican lies, are gullible enough to ignore the frozen nuclear plants and failing natural gas generating stations that stopped working because they were never properly winterized — and were never winterized because Texas had deregulated their power grid because the main goal of the state’s largest power companies was chasing profits for their shareholders.

Texas Republicans made a deal with the devil, letting their electric utilities shovel hundreds of millions of dollars of profits into the bank accounts of their stockholders rather than putting that money into winterizing and maintaining their infrastructure…and then lied about it.

And it doesn’t even seem to occur to Texans that Greenland, Iceland, and all of Northern Europe use similar windmills that have no problem at all because they keep them winterized. They’re powering those countries just fine with no freeze-ups at this moment!

Although it was already widely known and accepted by scientists, and even the fossil fuel industry in the 1980s that burning fossil fuels was causing climate change, the Republican Party has lied about it steadily for all these decades.

They lied about the impact of privatizing one of the world’s best public school systems, and the result is a hybrid public/profit school system in shambles all across the country.

Republican presidents pushed through “clean air” and “clean water” legislation that, in both cases, made it easier for their big corporate donors to pollute our air and water, and then lied to us about it.

They made it illegal to declare bankruptcy on student loans, creating billions in profits for banksters, and lied to us saying that massive, lifelong student debt would teach young people “individual responsibility.” They even got a few Democrats to go along with them on that one, including Joe Biden.

They lied to women, saying that abortion was more dangerous than pregnancy, and then passed hundreds of laws across the country depriving women of easy, inexpensive access to birth control while funding “pregnancy crisis centers” that literally have telling lies to women as the centerpiece of their business model.

They lied to us that “guns don’t kill people,” and encouraged the sale of hundreds of millions of weapons, turning America into an armed camp and making us the world’s only developed country regularly tortured by school massacres.

For 40 years, Republicans have lied to us that Black and brown people are engaging in massive voter fraud, and they use those lies to make it harder and harder for Black and brown people to vote.

In the last few decades, they’ve expanded their anti-democracy program of lies to make it harder for college students and Social Security voters to cast a ballot, as well.

Republicans lie about the cost of national healthcare systems around the world, and their gullible, deluded voters actually believe that a Medicare For All single-payer system, like Canada and pretty much every other developed country in the world has, would cost us more than what we have now, instead of the reality, which is that it would save us trillions of dollars.

Ever since Ronald Reagan stopped enforcing the anti-monopoly laws in 1983, the GOP has lied to us about the impact of destroying America’s small business infrastructure, saying that putting every major American sector under the control of just four or five companies would be good for us: as a result, the average American family pays $5000 a year more than families in countries that enforce anti-trust laws like all across Europe.

Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices lied to us that they know exactly what the Founders thought and meant, as if the Founders were some sort of monolithic group (they weren’t). They used this “Originalist” lie to destroy our unions, empower giant corporations, put more guns on our streets, and gut economic and voting protections for working-class people.

They lied to us that they passed “criminal justice reform,” when their real mission was to change the “mens rea” provisions of criminal law to make it massively harder to prosecute or convict CEOs when they make decisions that lead to peoples’ death. To solidify that lie, they let a few thousand low-level criminals out of federal prison, but millions of low-level nonviolent drug offenders still rot in state prisons across the country.

The foundational premise of our democracy is that the American people are sufficiently well-informed to make decisions for themselves, and to elect representatives who will run the country for the benefit of all people.

But when an entire political party spends two generations telling lies that exclusively benefit billionaires and giant corporations, democracy is substantially weakened.

As Americans figure out that their democracy is no longer working, they become even more vulnerable to even larger, more monstrous lies from political demagogues.

Thus, Donald Trump.

And now the GOP is doubling down on Trumpism, another word for lying as a way of life and as a strategy for politics.

The good news is that our mainstream media, after three years of trembling in the face of these lies and trying to promote “both sides,” has started to call out the lies.

The bad news is that social media amplifies Republican lies at the speed of light, and the GOP, having seen how well lies have worked for 40 years and how even outrageous lies have worked for Trump, is doubling down on them with a new spate of anti-voter, anti-woman and other laws.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott openly lies to his people about the cause of their power crisis.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis openly lies to his people about the scope and details of deaths from the coronavirus…and NPR does a major segment comparing California to Florida as if Florida’s Covid numbers are truthful.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp lies to his citizens about “voter fraud” so the white power structure of his state can make it even harder for Black people to vote.

Republican lies, repeatedly told to benefit the Republican donor class of billionaires and giant corporations, are tearing America apart. And the websites and rightwing propaganda operations masquerading as news that promote these lies are today funded by a few Libertarian billionaires and some of America’s largest corporations.

If our nation is to survive as a democratic republic, the lies must stop. If they’re not stopped, in fact, our nation will resume the slide toward fascism that began in a big way during the Trump administration.

That means the Democratic Party has to stop playing nice and actually start using the word “lies.”

Democrats need to call out the lie that tax cuts for billionaires are a good thing, and start reversing the massive tax cuts put into place by Trump, Bush, and Reagan. To do this, they must explicitly point out that we’ve all been lied to for 40 years.

They need to call out the lie that our privatized education and healthcare systems are among the world’s best and serve us well: the fact is that both in America are the world’s most expensive, and both have been crippled by Republican policies.

Democrats at the national level, including the president, must demand that Texas Republicans stop lying to, and thus killing, their own people.

The bottom line here is simple: you can either have democracy or fascism. Fascism requires lies to succeed, democracy requires the truth.

Forty years of Republican lies must be called out and repudiated, and the policies and laws based on those lies must be reversed, or America is over.

*I lay this all out in The Hidden History of Monoplanes: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream

America’s #1 progressive talk show host & NY Times bestselling author. Thom’s latest project is the “Hidden History” series of books.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store