A Perspective on the Moment

It’s all over the news this week that the Colorado judges who released their ruling that Trump should not be on the ballot for this election are receiving death threats. Of course I’m not surprised about that. Teri Kanefield offers some musings about the current situation in a Mastodon thread. (That’s a link to her blog and not to these comments; I’m linking to it because it is well worth reading.) Her observation on Mastodon about the response of many MAGA folks to the Colorado ruling is that it’s yet another indication that they find rulings like the one in Colorado as irrelevant. A quote from her thread:

The reality is that Trump has been found to have engaged in an insurrection and he still has the full support of the Republican Party. He now has findings of fraud, rape, and inciting an insurrection, and the Republican Party still loves him. It isn’t that they are closing their eyes to lawbreaking. It’s more than that. They are glorifying lawbreaking, which is what people do when they believe the government is not legitimate.

How do we move forward as a county when so many people in the country think that the government is illegitimate? I can imagine a one-on-one conversation involving two people with radical disagreements who are nonetheless interested in figuring out where the truth is. They articulate a particular point on which they disagree, and each of them lays out a position. Then each challenges the other to provide evidence for the position that they’re taking. So each provides evidence. Then each person asks how and why what the other person is offering as evidence is relevant. As the discussion continues (in this idealized realm), the two parties continue moving “behind” a particular claim to show what they think supports that claim. And, in an ideal realm, they eventually reach a point on which they agree. Then, standing on that point of agreement, they move back through the chain of claims, warrants, and backing, attempting to reach some agreement at each stage.

Some might recognize that I’m drawing here on Stephen Toulmin’s argumentation model.

This is both abstract and, even in the simplistic scenario I’ve described, overly optimistic, and I don’t expect to see it happening on anything approaching the scale on which it would have to happen to make any difference. I fear that unless we can somehow reach a common ground on which we can stand while making crucial decisions as a community, then we have little future as a country and culture.

In an ideal world, the press could provide some basis for a common ground. I think there have been times when they’ve done that at least to a small extent. But the public media space has fractured.

We need to have conversations in which people engage meaningfully and authentically. We need to be willing to respond to others’ challenges to our claims by offering evidence for our claims and we need to be willing to question that evidence. A conversation is not going to be very helpful if either responds “because I like what they say.” But I fear that that’s where we are.