“If a lie is only printed often enough, it becomes a quasi-truth, and if such a truth is repeated often enough, it becomes an article of belief, a dogma, and men will die for it,” according to 19th century novelist Isa Blagden. Some variation of this quote has, in many ways, become a cornerstone of propaganda machines employed across the globe to achieve various ends.

Oppressive regimes have sadly wielded it with great aplomb. Likewise, even liberal democracies and republics, including the United States, are sometimes dishonest with their people, and the “illusion of truth” can be a powerful tool. In fact, former President Donald J. Trump and some of his acolytes seem to be relying on it, and the results are concerning.

On a recent trip to Commerce, Ga., Trump held a rally in support of some of his hand-picked candidates. Just as he normally does, he spent excess time relitigating his losing political campaign and honed in on one of his favorite scapegoats—Georgia’s governor. “Brian Kemp is a turncoat, he’s a coward, and he’s a complete and total disaster,” Trump exclaimed. As he regurgitated claims that the election was stolen from him, he added that Kemp “paved the way for a massive election fraud.”

Love Gov. Brian Kemp or hate him, it’s impossible to blame the man for the alleged “massive election fraud” that we are told cost Trump the election. Three different Georgia election audits “ruled out the allegations of fraud or rigging levelled by President Donald Trump, confirming Joe Biden’s victory,” wrote The Independent. Moreover, in more than 60 elections lawsuits, the courts found no merit in claims that there was widespread fraud that swayed the election’s outcome. Trump just lost. It happens.

Despite this, Trump and company have continually repeated assertions that he won and the election was fraudulent. Now, either wanting to believe falsehoods or actually believing them, some Georgians inexplicably want to throw Kemp in jail. At the Commerce rally, when one of the speakers bemoaned Kemp’s supposed involvement in the election, attendees began chanting “lock him up, lock him up!” which closely resembles a favorite catchphrase about Hillary Clinton heard at Trump’s early rallies.

But what do they want to lock Kemp up for? It’s hard to decipher the crowd’s justifications. They either believe that Kemp engineered a path to widespread election fraud, a claim that’s been thoroughly debunked; they wanted him to overturn a legal election, which would have been massively unconstitutional and undermined our republic’s very foundations; or some are just angry that Trump lost and want to punish a fall guy, while exalting the person who ran a losing campaign—Trump. However, none of these possible explanations form the basis for jailing Georgia’s governor.

This was only the latest salvo in a series of bizarre responses to Trump’s disinformation campaign. It’s impossible to forget how, on Jan. 6, 2021, protestors stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress was certifying the election—a shameful chapter in American history. Despite losing fair and square, protesters interrupted proceedings that normally begin the vaunted peaceful transfer of presidential power, and sullied the revered Capitol grounds.

In a different response to election-related falsehoods, lawmakers from across the country introduced legislation to curtail voting options and availability. Some bills aimed to abolish drop boxes, eliminate no-excuse absentee voting and limit early voting. Thankfully, the most pernicious of election reform proposals failed, which should be cause for celebration.

Our form of government depends on an informed and engaged electorate, but making it harder to vote works against this goal. We have a duty to ensure the integrity of the vote, but that can be done without unreasonably curtailing voting access. To quote Gov. Kemp, it’s important to make it “easy to vote and hard to cheat,” but reasonable access to voting nearly became a casualty of Trump’s disinformation.

I believe there is some truth in the saying that if you repeat a lie enough, there are some who will accept it as fact. Those lies risk taking root, metastasizing and becoming dangerous. As Americans have seen, election disinformation has consequences, which have not been productive, and now it’s past time to put those lies to bed.

If Trump’s supporters wish him to run and secure the presidency again, I’d suggest that they focus on cobbling together a campaign that unites Americans. Instead, some seem intent on stewing at rallies and demanding a sitting governor be sent to jail. That won’t do much for their cause.

Image: melinda nagy

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