Last week, the Capitol was breached by a group of fringe Trump supporters who had bought into a series of lies: the lie that President Donald Trump lost the election due to proven voter fraud and irregularity; the lie that the Electoral College results, legally certified state by state, could be overturned by Congress or the vice president; the lie that Trump would remain in office if only some sort of armed rebellion were to prevent the election certification by Congress.
Those were lies. And those lies had deadly consequences.
Thankfully, the vast majority of Americans don’t believe those lies. Which means we should be able to unify around certain basic truths: that Joe Biden is legally president-elect of the United States; that violence in pursuit of political ends is a deep wrong and those who participate in it should be punished to the full extent of the law; that broad claims regarding invasion of rights ought to be backed by compelling evidence.
But we won’t.
That’s because while the Democratic Party and the political left agree that Joe Biden is president-elect, they absolutely disagree with both the fundamental precept that violence in pursuit of political ends is a deep wrong and the even more fundamental precept that claims require evidence.
We saw that this summer when Democratic Party officials made light of riots spreading across the nation in the name of yet another lie — the lie that America is systemically racist, rooted in slavery and Jim Crow, and replete with bigoted police dedicated to endangering black lives.
Democrats demanded no evidence to support those claims; in knee-jerk fashion, they simply repeated ad nauseam untruths about the existential threat to black Americans in the United States. Which means that for the Democrats and the political left, violence is fine so long as it supports their narrative, and un-evidenced claims are fine so long as they support an agenda.
In order to defend such violence, the political left has mobilized behind another convenient and advantageous lie: the lie that the Capitol riots represent all conservatives and Republicans. Paul Krugman of The New York Times suggested that the “putsch was decades in the making,” chalking up the rioting to “Republican elites” since before Ronald Reagan.
The Washington Post amplified a nutty post from the chairman of the Nye County Republican Party in Nevada into a referendum on a “long-festering struggle within the Republican Party over conspiracy theories, purity tests and fealty to the rule of law.”
Members of the media gleefully hunted for Republicans to blame for the Capitol riots, calling for the deplatforming of brand-name conservatives and cheering on social media crackdowns.
Lies are dangerous.
And double standards are perhaps the most dangerous form of lying: They grant the bravery of purity to those most willing to defy decency, prompting similar spasms of cruelty and malice from the other side. The solution to our national crisis of conscience isn’t bad-faith political purges or repetition of tiresome falsehoods about the nature of the United States. It’s truth.
But truth is more a shield than a sword. And we are now in the age of swords, wielded aggressively by those with little principle but an unending sense of their own moral superiority.