Early in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” there’s a scene where filth-spattered villagers gleefully drag a woman to their lord, shouting “We’ve got a witch! Burn her! Burn her!”
“How do you know she is a witch?” trills Sir Bedevere, a particularly dim-witted future knight of the Round Table.
“She looks like one!” the villagers say.
“They dressed me up like this!” the woman objects.
Bedevere tries again.
“What makes you think she is a witch?” he says.
“She turned me into a newt!” exclaims a large peasant, played by John Cleese.
The assembled look at him. Cleese glances down at his shoulders, as if detecting a flaw in this line of reasoning.
“I got better...” he ventures, in a small voice.
Which illustrates a problem with insisting on ludicrous lies. Even in the outrageous world of Monty Python, at some point you may get called on it.
Donald Trump delivered two main messages to the Conservative Political Action Committee in Florida Sunday: The 2020 presidential election was stolen; and his followers must defeat every Republican who spoke out against him. A pair of propositions that scream for somebody to draw a line connecting the two.
The first, a bald lie he has endlessly repeated, his followers gullibly chanting along, since election night, when Joe Biden defeated him by 7 million votes.
The second, a call to action.
But pause to consider. Pretend the lie were true. Say Democrats stole the presidential election in some massive-yet-obscure way that Republicans not only couldn’t support in court with any kind of evidence, but after four months can’t even adequately explain, beyond yawning mouthfuls of random conjecture. It really doesn’t matter how — George Soros spins a dial in Davos, determining the final vote tally.
Were that the case, what’s the point of throwing themselves into election battle? Raising money and making campaign commercials and getting the faithful out to the polls. Won’t the election just be stolen again?
A reminder that the whole “Stop the steal” slogan is mere words, something to say in an attempt to justify overturning our democratic system. They don’t believe it themselves. It’s just words, because bad people seem to believe if they can find a good-sounding phrase to describe the wrongs they are committing then everything’s OK.
That’s where we are now. So how do Democrats address the warped parody of politics in the GOP? What is our role in this charade? Ignore them and do the real work of running a country? Push back? Probably both. I see no reason to sugar-coat.
“Does anyone truly believe that the democratic voting process was endangered by what happened January 6 at the Capitol building?” a reader wrote to me a couple days ago.
I generally shrug off this kind of thing; but couldn’t resist.
“That’s the easiest question ever,” I replied. “Absolutely endangered, then and now. It’s hard for me to believe that people don’t see it.”
He took another swing.
“Thanks for responding, but we need to agree to disagree on this one. I don’t understand your point of view, but don’t think less of you because of it. That points to the problem in the country — thinking less of people because their opinion differs from yours.”
“No. This isn’t an ‘agree-to-disagree’ situation,” I wrote. “It’s as if you were a pedophile, and you’re calling it a lifestyle choice. The man is a traitor, undermining my country, and you support him. Period.”
The next two years are going to snap by, as COVID recedes and the country crawls out of this hole. Meanwhile, the Republicans will speak all sorts of words, attempting to justify past perfidy while plumping pillows for future wrongdoing. They want to burn our democracy down for the same reason the “Holy Grail” villagers want to burn the woman — for the fun of it, to see the flames, to feel better about themselves.
And while there’s little use in arguing, that’s no reason to indulge them, either. Trump lost, committed sedition, and supporting him now is un-American and indefensible. Even in Monty Python, exuberant liars eventually catch themselves.
“Did you dress her like this?” Bedevere asks.
“No! No, no!” objects Eric Idle, leader of the village mob, suddenly grasping the lameness of that. “Yes, yes,” he concedes. “A bit.”
Only in the movies.