The election: seeing is believing — or believing is seeing

A guy interviewed on NPR hoped his candidate would win in a landslide, fearing a close result would mean turmoil. His man: Trump. He worried about Democrats stealing the election.

With the election machinery in most swing states controlled by Republicans? And all signs showing Trump consistently far behind. Having totally repelled sane people, already voting in record-shattering numbers, which favors Democrats. Trump’s asinine campaign isn’t helping. Conceivably he might still eke out a squeaker. But a landslide??

The local paper recently profiled Edwin Lawson, 21, president of his college Republican club. Saying what he heard from “liberal media” and left-leaning professors didn’t match what he knew from experience or what a “reasonable careful accounting of the facts led him to.” Lawson saw a “mob mentality” on campus shutting down debate and making him “extra cautious when reading the news,” seeking a variety of sources across the political spectrum, being skeptical about bias or slant.

Sounds admirably sensible. I myself have assailed the left’s intolerance of divergent views. And Lawson was critical of Trump’s “unbecoming behavior.” Yet he supports Trump — citing “Biden’s occasional gaffes and misstatements.”

This is where Lawson’s professions of objectivity foundered. Yes, Biden occasionally misspeaks. Who doesn’t? But  Trump is a monster liar. That’s a much bigger deal.

So is the pandemic. Saying Trump did a good job defies reality. It’s hard to imagine worse. With this disaster still unfolding, to re-elect him would be insane. Lawson doesn’t even mention this elephant in the room.

Yet another pachyderm is spotlighted by that clueless NPR interviewee: the danger to democracy. No, it’s not Democrats who will try to blow up the country if they lose. Trump has virtually said he will. This too should be a deal-breaker for Republicans who actually care about America. But this too they choose to ignore.

The syndrome is epidemic in comments on my blog. Eagerness to believe almost anything negative about Democrats, while blind to every Trump horror. It’s not defending the indefensible, they don’t even try. Instead typically deflecting to attacks on Trump’s opponents. (“Whataboutism.”)

This reality disconnect is what’s so disturbing about Trump supporters. Like that guy hoping for a landslide; and actually Lawson too. Especially Lawson — a person who otherwise seems so intelligent and reasonable.

I was struck by a non-political remark the same day on NPR, by a contestant in its weekend puzzle segment, involving anagrams. He explained his difficulty: once you start to see something in a certain way it’s hard to unsee it.” 

Trumpers see things in a certain way and seem incapable of unseeing it. I see things a certain way too. How do I know mine is true and theirs is not?

Many, like Lawson, have a lot of information; often spouting fountains of it. Some is even true. But it’s all in service to their seeing things that certain way, to sustain and bolster it. Confirmation bias: welcoming information that supports a belief (or what you wish to believe), and rejecting discordant information. Most of us do this, and smarter people are actually better at it, better at coming up with rationalizations for how they curate information.

I’ve written (in 2013) of my ideology of realityRather than letting my beliefs shape the facts I see, I shape my beliefs upon the facts I see. That is my core belief; my ideology. It trumped my half a century as a Republican, enabling me to see Trump’s ghastly reality. A reality I’m thus sure is real, while the one inhabited by Trump cult devotees is not.

The big question is what happens after Trump’s defeat. How many of his suckers will finally wake up, their heads exploding, realizing they’ve been conned? How many will burrow deeper into rabbit holes of unreality, believing Trump the victim of some vast conspiracy of fraud? This will determine whether America has a future.

Marriage counselors know that an attitude of contempt between partners dooms a marriage. We Americans are perilously close to that point of no return. I for one, understanding this, am prepared to forgive, and reconcile with, Trump supporters. They’re not evil; just misguided. I believe — based on long experience and observation — thus a belief shaped by reality — that most people are good at heart. But it remains to be seen whether enough Americans share that belief, to overcome our divisions.

One Response to “The election: seeing is believing — or believing is seeing”

  1. Lee Says:

    > They’re not evil; just misguided.

    No, they’re not evil. Although you are a lot more rational than multitudes of people, I am not so sure you have the “misguided” part right. When it comes to people I disagree with, I think the biggest difference between me and them is a different prioritization among shared ideals.

    “Trump is a monster liar” means a low score in the honesty category. But if Trump scores highly in another category that is given more importance by someone then that tips the scales the other way for that someone. The best shot at winning over that person is persuading them that you have a better approach in the category that they consider more important. If you don’t offer a better approach, but instead try to change the order of their priorities, your odds are much steeper.

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