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Trump's 'Big Lie' endures and poses a threat to U.S. democracy : NPR

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His supporters gathered in the nation's capital to protest the ratification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.It's been nearly a year since the United States suffered an unprecedented attack on constitutional democracy.When a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the goal was to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and install Donald Trump to a second term.Call it an insurrection or a coup attempt, it was fueled by what's known as the "Big Lie": the verifiably false assertion that Trump won. In the popular vote, Biden won by more than 7 million votes.Many are warning that over the past year, that "big lie" of a stolen election has grown more entrenched and more dangerous."I've never been more scared about American democracy than I am right now, because of the metastasizing of the 'big lie,' " says election law expert Rick Hasen, co-director of the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center at the University of California, Irvine. Among Republicans, that number leaps to 78%.In an NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll conducted in October, just 34% of Republicans say they trust that elections are fair, while 75% of Republicans say Trump has a legitimate claim that there were "real cases of fraud that changed the results." Just 2% of Democrats agreed with that statement.What's more, says Timothy Snyder, "the 'big lie' is not just in people's minds. These are candidates who are endorsed by Trump, because they've embraced his lie that he won the 2020 election.And some Republican-controlled state legislatures have moved to seize power over elections, opening a path where they could overrule voters and substitute their own slate of electors to choose the winner.All of it, Snyder says, is a direct outcome of Trump's "big lie" and is deeply troubling for the future."All of those things set us up for a scenario where the candidate who loses by every measure, not just by the popular vote, but by the Electoral College, the candidate who loses by every measure will nevertheless be installed as president of the United States," Snyder says. We can lose it, and we're losing it right now."As of yet, the Democratic-led Congress has been unable to pass legislation to protect voting rights, a fact that Carol Anderson, professor of African-American Studies at Emory University, finds appalling.She argues that passing voting rights laws would "short-circuit the damage that the 'big lie' is doing and will do."Anderson sees "a Democratic Party that does not understand that American democracy is hanging by a thread, and does not grapple with the fierce urgency of now."We have been, in her words, "baptized in American exceptionalism" — the naive belief that the demise of democracy can't happen here."Even after you have had the insurrection," Anderson says, "even after you have had these legislatures write these laws figuring out not only how to stop Black people, brown people, indigenous people from voting, but also how to lower the guardrails of democracy that prevented Trump from being able to overturn the results in these states; so even after seeing this, to not move and do what needs to be done to protect this nation?" Anderson sighs. For Anderson, author of the books White Rage and One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy, Trump's lie about the election sprouts from the same twisted roots as his birtherism lie, which is the conspiracy theory Trump peddled, falsely claiming that Barack Obama was born outside the U.S. and therefore ineligible to serve as president.Linking both, she says, is a clear racist throughline."Foundational to that is the devaluation and the dismissing of American citizenship for Black people," Anderson says.

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