Just this weekend, the falsehood of widespread electoral fraud – which led to the terrifying assault by Trump supporters on the Capitol – defined Republican primary battles in Michigan and Georgia. It’s also at work nationwide in other races, fueled by Trump’s determination to turn the midterms into a theater of vengeance and a platform to win back power in 2024.
And the messages underscore how the most important divide in modern politics is not the age old struggle between liberalism and conservatism – a legitimate ideological duel over the meaning and direction of America. Instead, the great struggle of the early 21st century is among those in the Republican Party who are prepared to reject democracy and everyone else.
The text messages sent or received by Meadows between Election Day 2020 and Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021, were obtained and reported by CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart.
They show how Trump’s most fervent and unhinged supporters desperately looked to overturn a free and fair election, indulged in absurd fantasies about voter fraud that did not happen and plotted to deny Biden his presidency.
Meadows turned the texts over to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection before he stopped cooperating with the panel. Apart from anything else, they show a White House chief of staff facilitating an attack on democracy rather than acting in any conventional and accepted definition of that critical government post.
She’s been among the many House Republicans who denied the truth of the insurrection and who have tried to prevent efforts to find the truth. But on January 6, the texts show, Greene was among the Republicans pleading with Meadows to get Trump to calm his marauding supporters, who smashed their way into the Capitol.
New questions for January 6 committee
The texts also suggest that the committee’s final report, after public hearings expected to take place within weeks, will embroider a devastating picture of Trump’s efforts to subvert the election and cling to power.
But while they are stunning to read, they are unlikely to settle the most vital emerging question about the House committee’s work. However damning the findings, which are likely to leave a valuable legacy, will anyone face true accountability for the worst attack on American democracy in modern history?
For many Americans, struggling against high inflation that has caused rocketing prices of basic goods and gasoline, the question of pressing accountability for the January 6 insurrection may be backward looking more than a year on. And despite the lie about a stolen election dominating Republican primary duels, many elections in November may turn most on the inability of Biden and Democrats to project a winning narrative, even though the economy is improving in many ways.
But it is becoming increasingly clear that the lack of consequences for those who helped Trump in his pernicious attempt to steal a legitimate election is having a dangerous effect in emboldening fresh assaults on democracy. The core national principle that the people get the right to choose their leaders – not a ragtag band of conspiracists and power-hungry supporters of a strongman – appears more under threat than ever.
Multiple GOP primary campaigns are rooted in the lie that Trump won the 2020 election. The former President is wielding his considerable power in the party to promote candidates who deny the truth. And he is also seeking to leverage supporters who of the falsehood that there was massive fraud in 2020 into key state posts administering elections.
“The 2020 election was rigged and stolen,” Perdue said in his opening statement on Sunday, striking a theme to which he frequently returned.
It’s too early to say whether such campaigns will electrify the conservative base at the expense of more moderate voters, potentially backfiring on the GOP. But it is already obvious that the mendacious battle to steal power, which reverberates through the Meadows texts, still threatens the right of American voters to choose their own leaders.