It's one of the oldest tricks in the political playbook, accuse the other side of the acts you intend to perform yourself.
Don't like the result of the election? Just claim the other side illegally stole it as you set about quietly calling up governors in battleground states to ask them to simply “find” the necessary votes to put you over the top.
Or failing that, ask for endless recounts in the hope of invalidating the Electoral College votes of certain states that went for your opponent, in the hope of throwing the election to a vote in the House.
The Big Lie, or Donald Trump's baseless theory that he won the election he actually lost, doesn't have much support among the general public here, but fully 56 percent of Republicans now believe Biden’s win was the result of “illegal voting or election rigging,” an extraordinary mass delusion that chooses dreams over reality.
But pay close attention to the dangerous game that's afoot. Lying that the other side stole the votes to place a usurper in the White House isn't just a play for this election cycle, it's a dress rehearsal for what the GOP plan to do with the next one.
The Big Lie was a clumsy and unprecedented attempt to overthrow democracy in 2020, and it's also a dress rehearsal to do it again with a more sympathetic (and hopefully Republican-controlled) Congress in 2024.
So if you thought surviving a global pandemic and the near overthrow of a presidential election in an armed insurrection were alarming life experiences, wait till you see what happens in 2025 when Republicans vote to confirm their own choice for president, irrespective of who actually gained the sufficient winning votes.
The danger has not passed in other words, the political instability is not contained, they are both intensifying. Trump has made endorsing The Big Lie a blunt loyalty test, so Republican leaders must now accept it (although privately scoffing) or face his wrath and the wrath of his supporters.
Look what happened to Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming after she spoke up in favor of the truth about the election, overnight she was removed from her leadership position and exiled to the outer rim of the party. Look what happened to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is still getting death threats after her tireless work to protect her state's election integrity.
Then last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cynically filibustered the very bipartisan commission that his party had asked for investigating the Capitol insurrection, the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.
If you want to understand how broken our national politics are now, you could do no better than to ask why Republicans now refuse to permit the bipartisan investigation to occur?
The answer is that the commission would likely have found Donald Trump and some Republicans responsible for the insurrection. That finding would obviously damage the GOP's standing ahead of the midterms and would torpedo McConnell's efforts to regain the majority in Congress.
So party over country, power over principle. The Capitol Insurrection was not the “tourist event” one Republican leader tried to paint it as recently. Seven people died (two of suicide later on) after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and sought to hang the Vice President Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi.
It turns out losing democracy to a creeping autocracy is far easier done than we ever imagined. Republican leaders are increasingly determining that since their party will fare poorly in an honest democratic match-up, so they are increasingly embracing the unthinkable, setting the groundwork to curtail and overturn elections that don't go their way.
The language of the new and narrowly defeated Texas Republican voter suppression bill SB7, the most suppressive voter bill in the nation, spells it out for you. The bill included a new provision to allow judges to overturn an election “without determining how individual voters voted.”
What that means is that hand-picked judges could simply decide who won themselves, votes be-damned. You can call that a lot of things, but democracy isn't one of them. The danger has not passed, it's growing.