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May 9, 2021, 1:51 p.m. EDT

‘Big Lie’ allegiance dividing Republicans into Trump loyalists and a Cheney-Romney-Kinzinger wing

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Allegiance to a lie has become a test of loyalty to Donald Trump and a means of self-preservation for Republicans.

Trump’s discredited allegations about a stolen election did nothing to save his presidency when courtrooms high and low, state governments and ultimately Congress — meeting in the chaos of an insurrection powered by his grievances — affirmed the legitimacy of his defeat and the honesty of the process that led to it.Now those “Big Lie” allegations, no closer to true than before, are getting a second, howling wind.

Republicans are expected to believe the falsehoods, pretend they do or at bare minimum not let it be known that they don’t. State Republican leaders from Georgia to Arizona have been flamed by Trump or his followers for standing against the lies.Only a select few Republicans in Washington are defying him, for they, too, know that doing so comes with a cost.

Liz Cheney, lifelong conservative and daughter of a vice president once loved by the Republican right while earning the nickname Darth Vader, was willing to pay it.

“History is watching,” the Wyoming congresswoman wrote as House Republicans prepared to strip her of her No. 3 leadership position this coming week over her confrontation with Trump. “Republicans need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.”

Everyone enmeshed in Trump’s relentless election claims agrees a “Big Lie” is at the heart of the matter. President Joe Biden says so. Cheney said so. Dominion Voting Systems alleges in a massive lawsuit that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani “manufactured and disseminated the ‘Big Lie.’ “

Trump, apparently concerned over the traction the phrase “Big Lie,” with its roots in the Nazi era (as große Lüge ), had gained, made a play to appropriate the phrase by turning it against his accusers, a pattern from early in his presidency when he railed against “fake news,” seeking to apply the term to critical coverage from mainstream media rather than, as in its original meaning, intentionally false information such as that created and amplified to Trump’s advantage during the 2016 campaign.

Key Words (October 2017): Trump takes credit for coining the term ‘fake’ — at least in regard to the media

Key Words (December 2018): Political-communication scholar has a catchy new name for fake news: V.D.

Key Words (May 2019): Facebook executive defends company’s approach to doctored Pelosi video: ‘We have acted’

“The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!” he said in a statement last week, delivered as if by force of proclamation.

Trump led his party in an election that cost Republicans the presidency and their Senate majority while leaving them short of taking over in the House. For all that, the party’s brute-force Trump faction is ascendant as Republicans place their bets on the energy and passions of his core supporters in the approach to the midterm elections next year.

See: ‘Do you miss me yet?’ At CPAC, Trump repeats election lies, says he won’t start third party

That bet requires a suspension of disbelief when Trump makes his fantastical claims about a rigged election.

“This message is working,” said former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman, driven from Congress by a Trump-aligned opponent in the party’s nomination race in his Virginia district last year. Riggleman pointed to strong local fund-raising success and poll numbers for Trump loyalists.

“If you’ve got to say things you don’t believe in, as long as that leads to a win, that’s what’s most important,” he told MSNBC. “If you think you can win by fanning these flames of disinformation, why wouldn’t you do that?” He added: “If you have no integrity.”

In the running to replace Cheney in the House GOP leadership, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York in recent days endorsed Trump’s false claims of voting fraud and of a ballot recount being conducted in Arizona’s Maricopa County by a company whose leader has shared unfounded conspiracy theories about the election. The Justice Department and other critics have expressed grave concern about the unorthodox and duplicative process , even as Trump has been reported to be riveted to its progress.

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