We were taught as children that lying had consequences. Is that still true? The jury is still out. Events last week serve as a reminder that an epic political struggle is underway in this country between forces defending the rule of law and the integrity of elections and those who would subvert it.

That’s why voters should regard the casting of ballots on Nov. 8 as something more than a midterm election. It’s also a referendum on core American values, notably the integrity of state and national elections, and the ability to uphold criminal and civil laws when public figures are caught lying.

It is an unassailable fact that Joe Biden won and Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. Voter fraud played no role in the outcome in any of the 50 states. More than 60 state and federal court judges rejected claims by Trump and his circle of fringe supporters that the election was stolen.

Yet many Republican officeholders and candidates in Texas and across the country continue to support Trump’s Big Lie. Evidence gathered by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, most of it provided by Republicans who served in the Trump administration, shows that Trump, his family and his senior advisors all knew he lost to Biden by more than 4 million votes.

Yet the Big Lie persists. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was front and center in the many unsuccessful efforts to take the Big Lie into federal court and overturn the election. He did so even as he remained under criminal indictment on two securities fraud counts, charges that are now seven years old.

Will Paxton be held accountable?

Paxton’s political power in this red state has enabled him to evade trial on the charges. In his case, allegedly lying about his own business affairs and lying on behalf of Trump has not resulted in any consequences, at least not yet. Voters can send a message and strip Paxton from his apparent legal immunity by voting him out of office on Nov. 8.

Republican voters should set aside party loyalty and vote against any candidate who supports Trump’s Big Lie. Consider it a vote for an enduring democracy.

A rambling 14-page letter Trump released Friday following his subpoena by the Jan. 6 House committee repeats his false claims that he won the election. Trump openly brags about the size of the mob that came to hear him speak before marching on the Capitol, and he dismisses the House committee work as a political witch hunt.

Will Trump be held accountable?

It’s now up to the Justice Department to take the committee’s work and its own investigative findings and decide if Trump is fit to run for office again or whether, as the evidence shows, he was party to insurrection against the U.S. government and is therefore disqualified from holding office.

Voters, meanwhile, continue to be fed lies by right-wing fringe media figures and social media feeds, including lies delivered in Spanish and intended to suppress or mislead Latino voters. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro joined other Latino leaders last week in calling out the disinformation campaigns spread via Youtube, Facebook and other channels.

Will conspiracy theorist Alex Jones be held accountable?

Juries have delivered damning verdicts against the Austin-based Jones and his Infowars podcast and website, and last week a Connecticut jury returned a stunning $965 million judgment against Jones. Will the courts ultimately require Jones to surrender his fortune, estimated to be $270 million, to financially compensate the families who lost children in the Sandy Hook school shooting and then were victimized again by Jones and his Infowars broadcasts and postings claiming the school massacre was a government-staged hoax?

For me, the Nov. 8 midterm election is both the first opportunity to hold a free and fair election after 2020 and a prelude to the 2024 presidential election and the ability of the nation to continue to select a president without powerful political forces seeking to undermine the vote.

As early voting polls open eight days from now, election integrity should be on the minds of voters who can send a message that telling the truth and not spreading lies still matter.

This season’s vote is all about accountability.

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.