INDIANAPOLIS — So, the unqualified Arizona election auditors that former President Donald Trump and his amen chorus pinned their hopes on came up with a surprising result.

They found that Trump lost the state by even more votes than the official count said.

Did that persuade the former president and his cult to dial down their rhetoric about last year’s “stolen election?”

Did it convince them to do what adults do when they experience a setback — pick themselves back up and start figuring out ways to do better in the future?

Nope.

Not a bit.

Trump did what he almost always does.

He lied.

Even though the Cyber Ninjas found that President Joe Biden won Arizona by 350 votes more than previously thought, Trump said the audit revealed he actually won the state. He also demanded initiatives to overturn the election results in other states, including at least one where he came out on top, Texas.

And there were people who believed him.

This idiocy stopped being about Donald Trump a long time ago. He is what he always has been, a real estate hustler and scam artist who takes as gospel P.T. Barnum’s observation about a sucker being born every minute. He doesn’t believe he has to fool all the people all the time, just enough of them to get what he wants when he wants it.

Right now, what he wants is to escape the truth that he’s a loser and find a way to keep the cash registers ringing so he can continue to prop up the house of cards that is his supposed business empire.

His cons and delusions would be of interest only to him and the team of psychiatrists that would be necessary to retether him to reality if it weren’t for one thing.

A lot of people have swallowed his nonsense. Polls show that upwards of 70% of Republicans believe Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was “stolen.”

Even worse, there are many people who ought to know better — who, in fact, privately doubtless do know better — who aid and abet Trump’s shams and frauds.

In doing so, they wage war on the idea of America itself.

Our nation is a product of the Age of Reason. Our founders’ faith was less in any specific religious tradition than it was in the firm belief that truth and truth alone mattered.

At least part of their rationale for defending freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and freedom of the press sprang from their faith that only by preserving such values could human beings pursue truth.

And thus arrive at policies and positions that were both just and wise.

Not surprisingly, Thomas Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence and possessor of the most graceful pen among the founders — gave the fullest voice to this core conviction.

“No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth,” Jefferson wrote midway through his presidency.

Jefferson’s sexism, along with his several other prejudices, is more than regrettable. But it is worth noting that he was setting forth a standard by which he and all other American leaders could be indicted.

And he was smart enough to realize that.

He and the other founders believed that facts mattered — that the truth was more than important.

That it was essential.

When Donald Trump and his millions of enablers contend that facts have no weight and the truth no value, they’re doing more than engaging in political gamesmanship.

They’re attacking the very idea of America itself. They’re waging war on the belief that free people can be wise and discerning enough to govern themselves.

The question is no longer about who Donald Trump is.

He is what he is — a con man and a fast-buck artist who always looks out for number one.

No, the question now is about something bigger.

It’s about who we are, as a nation and as a people.

At the moment, the answers to that question aren’t encouraging.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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