To hear Republicans tell it, the 2020 presidential election is effectively a no-brainer: Donald Trump has been a great success, the argument goes, and Joe Biden is a failure pushing ideas that would take the country backward. The choice, from a GOP perspective, couldn't be clearer.
Of course, if this were accurate, all Republicans would need to do is tell the public the truth. There'd be no need to mislead anyone, since the facts would serve as a boon to the incumbent president and his party, and prove devastating to his Democratic rivals.
And yet, on the first night of the Republican National Convention, the party made one thing painfully clear: the truth would not be good enough. The New York Times reported overnight:
President Trump and his political allies mounted a fierce and misleading defense of his political record on the first night of the Republican convention on Monday, while unleashing a barrage of attacks on Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the Democratic Party that were unrelenting in their bleakness.... At times, the speakers and prerecorded videos appeared to be describing an alternate reality....
The exasperated tone of leading fact-checkers helps capture the scope of the problem. A Washington Post report, for example, explained that the first night of the convention featured "a fire hose of false or misleading" claims. CNN's Daniel Dale described the evening as "a parade of dishonesty," adding, "We had false claims. We had misleading claims. We had major strategic omissions. We had up-is-down revisionist history on the coronavirus and other matters. I think it veered at times into the realm of disinformation even more than mere dishonesty."
It's unrealistic to think I could highlight every uttered falsehood in a single blog post, and there are plenty of detailed fact-check reports available from major news organizations, including a gem from NBC News. That said, among the most glaring claims came from several Republicans who insisted that Joe Biden supports defunding the police (that's the opposite of the truth); the idea that Donald Trump is an opponent of "cancel culture" (he actually loves "cancel culture," as evidenced by his Goodyear boycott); and repeated claims that Trump is responsible for having created the strongest economy in U.S. history, which is obviously ridiculous now, and wasn't even true before the coronavirus pandemic.
I also found it extraordinary when Donald Trump Jr. said Biden described riots as "peaceful protests" (that never happened), when Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said the 2017 GOP tax gambit increased government revenue (it didn't), and when former Ambassador Nikki Haley insisted that Trump rejected "weakness" toward North Korea (Trump actually said he "fell in love" with Kim Jong-un).
And I could hardly believe my eyes when Georgia's Vernon Jones said with a straight face that Trump "ended, once and for all, the policy of mass incarceration of Black people."
Perhaps most importantly, Trump Jr. told the public that as the coronavirus "began to spread, the president acted quickly and ensured ventilators got to hospitals that needed them most." He claimed that his father "delivered PP&E to our brave front-line workers" and that "he rallied the mighty American private sector to tackle this new challenge."
Putting aside the fact that he added an unnecessary "and" to "PPE," the truth is that providing medical teams with this equipment has been a problem from the outset -- a problem that still hasn't gone away -- which the president and his team hasn't come close to addressing well.
But as important as the individual falsehoods are, there's a larger arc that voters should recognize: every lie was a subtle concession that the truth about Trump and Biden isn't good enough. The more Republicans found it necessary to mislead, the more they implicitly acknowledged that deceptions are necessary to prevent the president's defeat.