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Rep. Doug LaMalfa and the Big Lie

Cartoon by Phil Fountain.

It can’t be easy being California’s 1st Congressional District Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R). The cognitive dissonance alone must be intense, like tinnitus from attending too many Grateful Dead concerts.

After almost two decades in public service, LaMalfa’s still best known for the $5.5 million in rice and wheat subsidies his family’s farming conglomerate leached from the federal government between 1995 and 2020.

At the same time, this supposedly Christian congressman voted to cut food stamps and other financial assistance for the poor every chance he got, because “socialism.”

LaMalfa is fortunate enough to live in rural Northern California, where his pro-God, pro-gun and anti-gay policies play well with the region’s majority right-wing religious voters. They’ve cheerfully elected him to state Assembly District 1 three times and California’s 1st Congressional District four times.

After each election, LaMalfa disappears into the parliamentary woodwork like a chameleon, rarely seen or heard from except for slip-ups such as the aforementioned food stamps fiasco.

Then along came President Donald J. Trump. In four short years, Trump has fulfilled the wildest fever dreams of the religious right, including the installation of a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court majority. The Trump court may very well overturn a woman’s right to choose and further erode the Constitutional wall separating church and state, and that’s just hunky dory by LaMalfa.

Civil rights hard-gained by the LGBTQ community have already been rolled back, and no president has more fully embraced the National Rifle Association and its agenda than Trump.

In short, Trump and LaMalfa share the same base. It’s the God, guns and no gays crew, and for four years they’ve been winning bigly. What we saw Jan. 6 at the Capitol in D.C. was the vanguard of the White Christian Nationalism they have wrought.

Fascism, carrying the cross and wrapped in Old Glory, has gained a foothold once again in these United States.

So, imagine the fascists’ disappointment when der Führer, I mean der Donald, lost his bid for a second term last November 3 to former Vice President and now President-Elect Joseph R. Biden.

Actually, you don’t have to imagine their disappointment, we’ve all just lived through it.

We’re still living through it.

That’s because long before the election, Trump primed his supporters to accept the big lie: If he lost, it would only be because the election was rigged.

The phrase big lie was coined by Adolph Hitler in “Mein Kampf”, his autobiography written in jail and published in the 1920s. The blueprint for Nazism. You can still get it for free on the internet.

The big lie’s basic idea was that some falsehoods are so audacious, so over-the-top, the average rube will figure it has to be true, because no one could dream up such a whopper and expect people to actually believe it.

Repeat the big lie often enough and eventually everyone who hears it believes it’s the truth.

So, it came as no surprise to me, in early December, that Rep. LaMalfa was one of the first Republican politicians to endorse Trump’s unproven claims of widespread election fraud. Along with 105 fellow Republican House members, he signed on to an amicus brief endorsing Texas’s evidence-free bid to overturn the presidential election results. Some 17 Republican State Attorneys General signed it as well.

Keep in mind that by then, more than a month had passed since the election and scores of Trump’s conspiratorial, fact-free lawsuits had been thrown out of court, even courts with hand-picked Trump judges, including the Supreme Court. It was plainly obvious to objective observers that Biden had defeated Trump, albeit narrowly.

Thanks to having 42,844 more votes in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin, Biden snatched a 306 to 232 electoral college victory from Trump. Trump beat Hillary Clinton by the same electoral college margin in 2016, thanks to receiving 77,744 more votes from the swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Both candidates, Trump and Biden, won by small margins in the electoral college vote. The difference is Hillary Clinton, who beat Trump by 3 million votes in the popular vote in 2016, conceded victory to Trump the next morning.

Trump still hasn’t conceded to Biden, who won the popular vote by 7 million votes, and it’s been two-and-a-half months.

BFF!

Neither has LaMalfa conceded the presidential election results, even though he was reelected handily in the same supposedly corrupt election. He has made himself useful to Trump during these dark days for American democracy.

On Dec. 1, LaMalfa introduced the Election Uncertainty Act to the House, a bill he’s cosponsoring that according to him is, “[A] response to widespread distrust of voting systems among many Americans. Recent polls continue to show that everyday Americans are losing trust in the electoral system, especially mailed ballots, and need to see that elections are fair and transparent.”

Mind you, the only reason everyday Americans tell pollsters they don’t trust voting systems is that Trump and his enablers, including LaMalfa, have been telling anyone within earshot the election was rigged 24/7 since Nov. 4.

LaMalfa’s proposed legislation would limit the counting of California ballots to those received by the election date, instead of counting all the ballots postmarked by the election date as the state does presently.

See what he did there? LaMalfa, formerly a staunch state’s rights activist, sponsored federal legislation limiting his state’s voting rights without batting an eye. He has a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance, the easy lie. The best thing about his Election Uncertainty Act is it was never intended to be passed. It was just an attack signal for the Trumpian proletariat.

On Dec. 12, when apparently no other Republican Party member was willing to go on air and promote Trump’s ongoing efforts to steal the election, LaMalfa appeared on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

Anchor Chris Cuomo’s eyes practically popped out of his noggin when LaMalfa compared doubts about the election’s outcome to quack theories the moon landings never happened.

“You know, I don’t have proof that men landed on the moon in 1969 because I wasn’t there,” LaMalfa insisted.

“Really?” an incredulous Cuomo winced.

“Yeah,” LaMalfa shrugged.

“Do you believe the world is round?” Cuomo pressed.

“I think we’ve proven that,” LaMalfa conceded.

Can we take LaMalfa at his word, that he believes the world is round, that he’s not some tin-foil-hat-wearing flat-earther?

I’m not so sure we can. As mentioned, LaMalfa seems to have a large capacity for cognitive dissonance along with a disinterest in empirical evidence.

On Jan. 5, the day before a White Christian Nationalist mob bore down on the U.S. Capitol, LaMalfa was still beating the dead horse theory of the stolen election, despite all evidence to the contrary.

“There has been an endless dripping of reports of mishandled ballots, numbers not adding up and outright violations of the U.S. Constitution’s clear direction for setting election rules,” LaMalfa posted on Facebook unironically. “These questions must be answered and no amount of media spin or declarations of ‘nothing to see here, move along’ will change the concerns that many of us share.”

LOL, because truly there’s nothing to see here! Biden won, fair and square.

Not mentioned was LaMalfa’s own substantial role in facilitating the drip, drip, drip of disinformation to the contrary that riled up Trump’s base for the Jan. 6 protest at the Capitol Building.

When Trump told his supporters at the rally, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore!” there’s no doubt many of them literally believed it, because that’s exactly what they’ve been told, over and over again: the big lie, as President-Elect Biden rightly pointed out.

LaMalfa’s Facebook post from inside a barricaded safe space inside the Capitol Building betrayed no hint of his responsibility for the thronging hordes beating on the doors and windows outside.

A Capitol Police officer was killed by a protestor. A protestor was killed by a Capitol Police officer. Some old dude protestor tasered his testicles, had a heart attack and keeled over. All because the mob believed the election was rigged, because politicians like Trump and LaMalfa told them so, over and over and over again.

“The actions at the Capitol today hurt our country,” LaMalfa posted. “We intend to resume our duties soon. The voice of the House of the People will not be silenced for long by a small group that violates the goodwill of all Americans to the right to redress their grievances.”

LaMalfa might have added, “A small group that I regret fostering,” but he didn’t, because he doesn’t regret it.

That much was pretty clear on Wednesday, when President Donald J. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for the second time in less than a year. LaMalfa’s terse one-minute speech at the event sounded like the squeaky wheel of White Christian Nationalist resentment.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the second annual impeachment show extravaganza, brought to you by the censors and left-wing media, the fact-check ministers of shut down and big tech and the Democrat Party!” LaMalfa said, minus the gravitas of the carnival show barker he was imitating.

“Today the second annual impeachment of President Trump isn’t about actual words spoken at a rally,” he lied. “No! This is all about the unbridled hatred of this president. You use any extreme language and any process to oppose the core of what he has really fought for.”

See what LaMalfa did there? He changed the subject from Trump inciting a riot in the nation’s Capitol to Trump’s opponents hating him for the policies he has implemented—or not implemented.

“You hate him because he is pro-life, strongest ever,” the squeaky wheel screeched on, grievance upon grievance. “You hate him for fighting for the freedom of religion to not be persecuted by unfair mandates and limitations on speech.”

Oh brother! It’s the persecuted Christian routine, followed by a tantrum over gender pronouns.

“You hate him for not subscribing and shackling us to the religion of climate change and one-sided Paris accords,” LaMalfa continued, picking up speed and non sequiturs. “You hate him for Israel. You hate him for defending our borders.”

So much to unpack! People hate Trump because he doesn’t believe in climate change, i.e., science? I’ll buy that. As far as Israel goes, I’ve never seen an Antifa member wearing a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt at a demonstration like Trump supporters. Rep. LaMalfa, you might want to check out White Christian Nationalism’s anti-Semitic roots.

“You hate him for letting families and small businesses keep what they earn, for trying to keep the government agents off their back,” said LaMalfa, apparently forgetting the Trumpian tax cut for the rich hurt non-billionaire families and small businesses alike.

“You hate him for putting America first, which is what I thought we do when we swear the oath,” he practically sneered.

Aviation hero and infamous fascist Charles Lindberg, a member of the America First Committee which opposed the U.S. entering WW II against Hitler, would no doubt concur: America First!

“No, this shabby show isn’t about a threat to our republic,” LaMalfa concluded. “This is the impeachment and the muting of at least half the American people.”

No, not really, Rep. LaMalfa. Actually, it was the impeachment of one man, President Donald J. Trump, for the second time, for an alleged crime committed in plain sight in front of the entire world. At any rate, it’s far less than half the American people, as Trump’s approval rating has cratered to 34 percent.

LaMalfa didn’t do his own approval rating any favors when he was one of a half-dozen Republican representatives caught on video refusing to wear protective facemasks in the safe room they were whisked away to during the Capitol riot.

As this is being written, it appears Trump’s impeachment trial will occur after Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. I’m fine with that. Let’s sift through all the dirt. Let’s have a real trial this time and see who participated in what many people are calling an attempted coup on the United States government.

If the participants in the Washington D.C. coup are not appropriately punished—as LaMalfa has called for!— we can surely expect the aggressive activities of our local tough-talking reactionaries and anti-maskers at County Supervisor meetings and beyond to continue.

They’ve promised to storm all 50 state capitols and Washington D.C. before Jan. 20 and Biden’s inauguration. Perhaps we should believe them.

In fact, at this point, I’d say it’s more likely than not. Trump and LaMalfa are not alone. The right-wing talk radio hosts and their listeners are still backing Trump. Right-wing evangelical pastors such as Bethel’s Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton are asserting, without evidence, that God told them Trump won.

George Orwell famously wrote in 1984, “Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.”

With soon-to-be President Joseph R. Biden handling the historical controls, we will arguably be in far better hands than Trump’s.

But no one should underestimate the precarious time we’re living through. White Christian Nationalists—Bethel’s Bill Johnson has fashioned himself as a Christian Nationalist—are waiting in the wings for the secular world to show weakness. It’s time to stand up and hold them accountable, or our democracy is doomed.

I emailed questions to Rep. LaMalfa about his accountability for the Washington D.C. insurrection and his future plans. I have so far received no reply.

Editor’s note, Jan. 18 2021: Revisions have been made for clarification.   

R.V. Scheide

R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas. He can be emailed at RVScheide@anewscafe.com.

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