(CNN)Here’s a real exchange this week between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin about President Donald Trump’s ongoing falsehoods regarding the outcome of the 2020 election:
Martin: “Doesn’t [Joe] Biden cool the country’s political temperatures, at least at first?”McCarthy: “It depends how it turns out. If you have 70% of Republicans who thought he cheated, he’s still going to have a hard time.”Martin: “He didn’t, of course. But the reason they believe that is because it’s being stoked every day.”McCarthy: “But remember when he was running. He was appeasing the left. And then he was going back from his old self to his new self, right? So if he’s fortunate enough to win the election he’s probably sitting back, saying, “I’m glad the Republicans won because I don’t have to. …”Read MoreOK, so let’s just walk through McCarthy’s logic here.He says that President-elect Joe Biden might not be able to take the partisan temperature down a few notches “if you have 70% of Republicans who thought he cheated.” (That number is, presumably, from a Monmouth University poll released on Wednesday that showed 70% of Republicans believe Biden won because of “voter fraud.”)When Martin notes that Biden didn’t cheat and that the reason Republicans believe he did is “because it’s being stoked every day” by Trump and his allies, McCarthy’s response is that Biden was “appeasing the left” during the course of the campaign. Huh? What does Biden’s “appeasing” (or not) of the left have to do with the President making a series of demonstrably false claims about election interference and voter fraud? Or with the fact that 7 in 10 Republicans seem to believe these claims despite the fact that there is simply zero evidence of their veracity?I’ll answer those questions for you: It has NOTHING to do with the voter fraud beliefs held by many Republicans. Literally zero.
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And by the way, there’s ample evidence that Biden is not in fact taking his orders from the liberal left of his party — as Trump insisted during the campaign and McCarthy argues (admittedly in a massive non sequitur) here.”I beat the socialist,” Biden told a Wisconsin crowd at a September campaign rally. “That’s how I got elected. That’s how I got the nomination. Do I look like a socialist? Look at my career — my whole career. I am not a socialist.”And the early returns on his picks for his senior staff in the White House have signaled a desire to return to the deal-making pragmatism that has defined Biden’s entire political career.But honestly, that’s beside the point here. The point is that McCarthy — like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and virtually every other elected Republican leader — is trying to change the subject when it comes to a) Trump’s wildly untruthful claims about the election and b) the impact those claims are quite clearly having on Republican base voters.The response from the top Republican in the House to a factual assertion that GOP voters believe the election was rigged because the President keeps saying it was can’t be: Well, liberals really have their claws into Joe Biden!Because whether or not that’s accurate — and there’s some proof it is not — doesn’t change the fact that what Trump is doing is dangerous to our democracy. Purposely misleading people about the election and its results solely because you don’t like to lose isn’t the sort of thing that responsible leaders do. McCarthy (and the rest of his Republican colleagues) know that. But they’re afraid to say anything — still — that might make Trump mad or negatively impact their political careers. Party over country. Period.