Barr finally met a Trump lie he couldn't swallow. It's a watershed in the 2020 election saga.
Barr gave us a defining moment. It's time to shine sunlight on disinformation and start building a shared reality based on our common love of country.
Under normal circumstances, there would be nothing shocking about Attorney General William Barr's statement that the Department of Justice has found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Indeed, we just witnessed and participated in what’s been termed the most secure contest in modern American history.
Yet given his track record, the three of us — a former high-ranking DOJ official in the Reagan administration, a former state prosecutor and a frequent Barr adversary — find it very welcome that he finally, belatedly, encountered a lie he could not swallow from President Donald Trump.
Coming from the same official who embraced past untruths about the Mueller investigation, the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michael Flynn case, mail-in voting and more, this is a defining development in the saga of the 2020 election. If even Barr is ready to defy the president, if one of Trump’s greatest defenders is prepared to reject the false narratives propagated by the White House, perhaps we can truly start the process of healing the rifts in our democracy that were exposed during this election. Maybe, just maybe, we can stop attacking one another’s beliefs, and start building a shared reality.
State and local election heroes
This isn’t the end of the story. Barr is only one voice guiding the roughly 74 million Americans who voted for Trump and the tens of millions among them who believe his lies about widespread voter fraud.
And we have to keep fighting to show each and every one of them, alongside the 81 million who cast a ballot for President-elect Joe Biden, that while we can debate policies and the role of government all day long, we can all agree that our free and fair elections are sacred. Our democracy, grounded in the will of the American people, is too important, too essential, and too precious to be left in the darkness of disinformation.
For us, this centers around a clear recognition that Barr didn’t come to this conclusion on a whim. He was led there, in many ways, by the strength of our election system: by the work of state governors, attorneys general, election officials, poll workers, and voters who showed up in record numbers to elect leaders from both parties, up and down the ballot.
Bait and switch: Trump-appointed judges tossing out baseless lawsuits, with Republican leaders like Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Doug Ducey of Arizona withstanding an onslaught of pressure from Trump and certifying the will of their constituents, it’s just a matter of time before more of Trump’s allies and supporters will come around.
Fight fog of dishonesty with sunlight
But we can’t just bank on our institutions staying strong without reinforcement.
Just as sunlight is the best disinfectant for corruption, the same is true for disinformation. We have to put in the work to break through that dark cloud of conspiracy and get back to a common ground of love of our democracy. That’s what the three of us are doing at the nonpartisan Voter Protection Program: shining a light on our free and fair elections, each of us bringing viewpoints as diverse as our political backgrounds.
This is a long-term project that’s already begun — and has to kick into overdrive while many would like to just move on. We, and millions more like us, will keep celebrating the sanctity of free and fair elections. We will keep upholding and reinforcing the guardrails of our democracy. And we will keep using that disinfectant of sunlight to burn away the fog of deception, dishonesty, and deceit.
Corruption and election: @GovBillWeld) is a former two-term Republican governor of Massachusetts, a former U.S. Attorney and former head of the DOJ Criminal Division under President Ronald Reagan. Norman Eisen (@NormEisen) served as President Barack Obama's ethics czar and Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and was special impeachment counsel to House Judiciary Committee Democrats from February 2019 to February 2020. Joanna Lydgate is the former Chief Deputy Attorney General for the state of Massachusetts and current National Director of the Voter Protection Program.