What to Do About the Other? | A Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Trumpism | By Garrett Garnos
Midday on November 7th, after three excruciating days, the Associated Press and all the major network and cable news channels called the 2020 election for Joe Biden. Across the nation, the majority of Americans released a collective sigh of relief, dropped to their knees, thanked their God or capricious chance, popped champagne bottles, and took to the streets, dancing and chanting in unison. Their cause for celebration was less Biden’s victory than the realization that Donald Trump, destroyer of sacred values, would no longer reign supreme over the American conscience.
Once the champagne wore off, however, a melancholy mood returned. After all, 73 million American’s voted for Trump, the second most votes for any politician in US history, second only to Joe Biden’s 78.5 million votes.[i] How could a man, Trump, who (on the most cursory examination) is categorically vile, garner so much support?
Over the last four years, the world has borne witness to Trump’s violations of the most basic political norms and the rule of law. For Biden supporters, those 73 million minority votes were like a barrage of gut punches, each transmitting a message – loud and clear – “We don’t care about the rules or treating you, the Other, with respect!” This is, of course, an oversimplification, but the reaction is real and rational. The practical effect of those 73 million votes, whatever motivated them, is inescapable: 73 million Americans, for one reason or another, have, to a large extent, abandoned American political norms and the rule of law.
Political norms are the basic standards of behavior in political culture.[ii] They are tacit agreements of conduct.[iii] They are essential to any healthy society.[iv] Institutions do not run themselves; people do.[v] As the observance of political norms declines in a people, so to, inevitably, go the institutions.[vi] Prior to the rise of Nazi Germany, the Weimer Republic had one of the most enlightened Constitutions in the world, but, in a short period, it morphed into a fascist regime.[vii] Trump’s willingness to lie compulsively, his refusal to release his tax returns, his politicization of the Department of Justice (DOJ), and now, most brazenly, his refusal to accept Joe Biden’s clear victory, are examples, among many, of his complete and utter disregard for political norms.[viii]
The rule of law is a set of principles essential to any orderly and just society.[ix] Among the chief principles of the rule of law are all persons are treated equal under the law, and no person is above the law.[x] Trump’s daily violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses, his violations of campaign finance law, his refusal to comply with executive oversight and Congressional subpoenas, his willingness to circumvent Congress’s war and spending powers, and the fact that he actually bribed a foreign government with taxpayer money to interfere in a US election are startling examples of his complete and utter disregard for the rule of law.[xi]
Given Trump’s zealous dissembling of our most sacred values, it is fair to ask: Why do people support him? Do the people that support him have certain dispositions that explain their explicit or implicit willingness to violate political norms and the rule of law? Is there anything that can be done to prevent them from prolonging or - God forbid - escalating this current, terrible moment in American history? As Sun Tzu says in The Art of War, “Know thy enemy….”
Dispositions Violative of Political Norms and the Rule of Law
Analyzing a group of people is common in the ordinary usage of language. Nouns descriptive of specific groups of people presuppose an underlying analysis. For instance, the word European is shorthand for a host of characteristics which the speaker takes to be constitutive of someone’s Europeanness. The same goes for liberal, conservative, or any noun descriptive of a specific group of people. The goal here is to drag the presuppositions attached to Trumpites into the light of reason.
Any analysis that pretends to encapsulate a group of people is likely deluded, there are bound to be outliers and exceptions in any group. With this important caveat in mind, Trumpites who are explicitly or implicitly tolerant of behavior violative of political norms and the rule of law can be viewed as an inter-mixture of three primary dispositions: depraved, ignorant, and apologetic. Dozens of other dispositions (such as cowardice, loyalty, apathy, and bitterness) may be involved, but depravity, ignorance, and apology appear to be the primary dispositions, or at least those dispositions capable of being logically addressed. While none of these primary dispositions are mutually exclusive (i.e. Trumpites can be depraved, ignorant, and apologetic all at once), at least one of the primary dispositions must be present. If the Trumpite is neither depraved, nor apologetic, they must be ignorant, and so on. The presence of these primary dispositions is further complicated by the degree to which an individual identifies with Trumpism.
The disposition of depravity is marked with a kind of anti-social cruelty the Trumpite shares with Trump himself, in which political norms and the rule of law are simply not an issue; all that matters is winning. These Trumpites are willing to destroy the cornerstone of society to implement their will. The disposition of ignorance manifests in three forms: a lack of information, adherence to false information, and logical errors in processing information. The disposition of apologetic is expressed in Trumpites who value political norms and the rule of law but maintain there are positive values of Trumpism that outweigh those concerns.
These primary dispositions, it should be strenuously noted, do not define Trumpites in terms of who they are as people generally. Again, they define them only in as far as they are members of a group of people explicitly or implicitly violative of political norms and the rule of law. The ignorance a Trumpite displays is not synonymous with stupidity in all areas of life for they may be knowledgeable experts in other fields. Likewise, the depravity the Trumpite displays is not synonymous with amorality in all areas of life for they may be generally moral within the confines of Trumpism. However, if someone exhibits certain dispositions in one realm of life – especially a realm as important as their relation to political norms and the rule of law – it stands to reason they are more likely to exhibit those dispositions in other realms of life.
Another important consideration is that group identity is not all or nothing. There are degrees to which people identify as Trumpites, from decidedly not a member, to sympathetic, to full-fledged identification. The degree of group identification determines how strongly an individual expresses the inter-mixture of their primary group dispositions. If someone who is expressive of depravity strongly identifies with Trumpism, they will be more depraved than a person who only marginally identifies with Trumpism.
It should also be noted that the term “disposition” is being used here in a broad manner. When pressed upon to explain their tolerance for the degradation of political norms and the rule of law, a Trumpite is not necessarily revealing an inherent disposition constitutive of his/her personality. More often than not, the Trumpite is merely rationalizing, post hoc, the consequences of Trumpism.
It is no surprise when a person from the Bible Belt becomes a Christian Conservative. Their membership is not reflective of some inherent disposition they possess, but merely an acquiescence to their social environment. However, their membership will, over time, no doubt shape and deepen their internal dispositions to all manner of situations. The term disposition, therefore, is being used here in its widest possible meaning, ranging from an inherent personality trait to a fleeting belief, including post hoc rationalizations.
With these elaborations in mind, our analytic framework bears repeating: a Trumpite’s primary dispositions in relation to their implicit or explicit support for violating political norms and the rule of law takes three primary forms: depraved, ignorant, and/or apologetic; at least one of these dispositions must be present at all times, but all can be present at the same time; finally, these dispositions manifest proportionally to the degree to which the individual identifies with Trumpism.
As a demonstration, consider Trump’s insistence that he, despite the official vote count and all the evidence, was in fact the winner of the Presidential election. Trumpites with the characteristic of depravity simply do not care whether Trump legitimately won the election. They understand the evidence of fraud or counting abnormalities will never change the true outcome, but they are on board with Trump’s claims solely because they want to win, whatever the cost. Trumpites more expressive of ignorance may not have the information necessary to know that Trump in fact lost; they may actively believe false claims of voter fraud; or they may have drawn logically faulty conclusions from the information they possess. Trumpites expressive of the apologetic disposition know Trump is violating an important norm, but they maintain that other benefits of Trumpism outweigh the harm of wrongly claiming victory.
The Primary Disposition of Depravity
We are all familiar with the Trumpite on the internet whose entire modus operendi is “trolling the libtards.” They post one thoughtless meme after another. They engage people outside of their group with an illogical, vitriolic fervor mirroring Trump’s behavior on Twitter. They act like cruel children, and though in the aggregate their behavior matters, they are, generally, individually impotent. These are the common exemplars expressive of the disposition of depravity; they are also often expressive of ignorance, but rarely, if ever, expressive of the apologetic. Their capacity for self-reflection is almost non-existent. Other than publicly acknowledging their depravity and exposing them to socially moral, sound, and cogent points of view, as well as fact based information, there is not much that can be done to influence them directly and not much time should be wasted on them. Because they often feed off negative attention, their depravity should not be met in kind.
The depraved Trumpites that are the true threat are elite political operatives. They come in two forms: Republican Party leaders who have capitulated to and support Trump, and right-wing media elites who refuse to report Trump’s destructive behavior, repeat Trump’s talking points, and actively create false narratives to further Trumpism. As will be shown, these two groups are rapidly fusing into a single entity.
The depraved political operatives’ identification with Trumpism – at least publicly – is generally strong. They are also in the know and so rarely expressive of the disposition of ignorance, though they do employ logical fallacies and false information to manipulate the masses. A degree of apologetic is present in some, but, given their understanding of the primacy of political norms and the rule of law, they must, deep down, be predominantly depraved. As such a small, elite group, they make for an easy target and should be the lions share of the effort to combat Trumpism. As the adage says, when confronted with a dangerous snake, cut off its head. It is no coincidence that these elite Trumpites focus most of their energy on taking down the elites of competing political factions.
Throughout most of the modern era, news sources, whether they leaned conservative or liberal, maintained a semblance of journalistic integrity.[xii] The inception of right-wing media (as distinguished from conservative journalism) occurred in the late 1980’s with the immense popularity and profitability of the Rush Limbaugh Show.[xiii] In the mid 90’s, conservative Fox News was launched.[xiv] Fox News mixed straight, though conservative leaning, journalistic reporting from mid-day to early afternoon with highly polemical opinion shows featuring extreme right-wing guests spouting political propaganda in the morning and evening programs.[xv] The flood gates opened. Fox was followed by their self-styled competitor Newsmax, the Alt-Right news outlet Breitbart, the conspiracy theory website Infowars, and the far-right cable channel One America News Network (OANN). Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor, openly and proudly describes the ethos of the right-wing media as antagonistic to the very idea of objectivity in reporting.[xvi] Shapiro’s dream is a world in which people get their news directly from nakedly ideological and political institutions, rather than, in his words, people masquerading as the “grand arbiters of truth and falsity.”[xvii]
After Trump’s election to the Presidency, Mr. Shapiro’s horrific dream became a reality for half of America and a nightmare for the other half. The union between America’s political right and the right-wing media was sealed. Steve Bannon, head of Breitbart news, ran Trump’s campaign and would become his first White House chief strategist.[xviii] Bill Shine, former producer of Hannity and then co-President of Fox News, became Trump’s director of communications and deputy chief of staff.[xix] While working in the White House, Fox News was still paying Shine millions as part of his severance package.[xx] Other Trump Administration employees, from Ben Carson, to KT McFarland, to John Bolton, were longtime Fox News contributors.[xxi] Right-wing personalities Lou Dobbs and Pete Hegseth have been included in official White House meetings.[xxii] Trump gave Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom and made him his featured guest at a State of the Union Address where Limbaugh sat next to the First Lady.[xxiii] Sean Hannity speaks on the phone with the President almost nightly and has backstage access to Trump rallies and press conferences.[xxiv] OANN openly tweets that it is one of Trump’s “GREATEST supporters.”[xxv] There are reports the President watches four to eight hours of TV a day, predominantly Fox News.[xxvi] New right-wing web pages and YouTube channels spring up daily, producing content not intended to inform but to affirm what Trumpites already believe without regard for truth.[xxvii] The right-wing media does not report the news of the day, they are, plain and simple, political propagandists, producing a twisted house of mirrors effect, sometimes creating and sometimes repeating Trump’s talking points.[xxviii]
The most direct way to undermine the depraved right-wing media is to inform Trumpites of their true nature. This, however, is not as simple as it sounds. The success of right-wing media is predicated on telling Trumpites what they want to hear, and it is extremely hard to get people to listen to things that undermine their world view. Regardless, the opposition should never miss an opportunity to undermine the right-wing media’s credibility, which – given they have none – is not hard so long as there is a receptive audience. The opposition should also create and further empower existing organizations whose sole purpose is to promote journalistic integrity. It is essential that these organizations communicate directly with Trumpites.
Perhaps the best way to cripple the right-wing media is to hit them where their hearts are – that is, their wallets. Numerous companies have already refused to advertise on right-wing media.[xxix] The opposition should refuse to patronize businesses that still do. They should also avoid clicking on right-wing links, streaming right-wing clips, or watching right-wing programming. Conservative outlets with journalistic integrity, such as the Wall Street Journal, the Drudge Report, and the National Review, still exist and can provide an honest conservative outlook.
The leaders of the Republican Party who have clearly demonstrated depravity include the likes of Bill Barr, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnel. These leaders are aware Trump is breaking norm after norm of acceptable political behavior, as well as undermining the rule of law, but remain silent and/or aid and abet Trump’s destructive behavior. For instance, Attorney General Bill Barr has repeatedly acted like the President’s personal defense attorney, rather than the official responsible for defending “the interests of the United States according to the law.”[xxx] When Barr withdrew charges against Michael Flynn (Trump’s former National Security Advisor), despite Flynn having already twice pled guilty in a court of law, 2,000 former Justice Department officials signed an open letter stating Barr interfered with the “fair administration of justice” and should resign.[xxxi]
In the Senate trial for impeachment, Republicans (led by Mitch McConnel) allowed no witnesses and no evidence, making a mockery of the concept of a trial.[xxxii] Prior to the Senate trial, McConnell even had the audacity to say, “I’m not an impartial juror … I’m not impartial about this at all.”[xxxiii] Only days later, McConnell put his hand on a Bible and took an oath: “to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws of the United States, so help me God.”[xxxiv] On February 6th, 2020, the Republican Senate, despite overwhelming evidence probative of Trump’s guilt, voted to acquit Trump, rendering useless the only mechanism in the US Constitution capable of imposing the rule of law on a sitting President.[xxxv]
Attempts to neutralize depraved Republican leaders are, of course, on-going. Each election cycle, Democrats pour their energy into removing these Republicans from their positions of power and casting them back into the pit with the rest of the impotent depraved. Though election efforts are obviously essential, they have not been sufficient. The opposition should establish organizations whose sole purpose is to expose politicians who express and, via force of their power, create depraved dispositions. Again, these organizations should make it part of their mission to directly interact with Trumpites. Organizations, such as the Center for Public Integrity, do already exist, but their lack of influence in public discourse demonstrates the need to double down efforts and expand their sphere of influence.
Furthermore, Republican leaders whose depraved actions violate criminal or civil law, as well as institutional ethical codes of conduct, should be held accountable. Trump, once he is no longer in office, should, excepting persuasive political reasons to the contrary, be indicted for all his crimes for which there is sufficient evidence. A host of reforms are also needed, from insulating the DOJ from political pressure, to statutes preventing Presidents from soliciting election interference from foreign countries, to procedural rules for impeachment proceedings.
When confronted with a bully, such as a Trumpite with a depraved disposition, it is tempting to just head butt them without thinking. Perhaps Trumpism’s opposition is justified in widening the scope of their response some. Trumpism’s depraved political operatives, after all, do not engage the Other ethically, and so it is hard to understand how they could be entitled to ethical treatment in return. However, the depravity of these political operatives is exactly why the opposition objects to them. Lest the opposition become what they despise, they are wise to operate within the bounds of their own values – most notably, established political norms and the rule of law. However, the more Trumpism succeeds in destroying political norms and the rule of law, the more the opposition is justified in developing a new calculous of what constitutes an appropriate response.
The Primary Disposition of Ignorance
The Trumpite who acquiesces to the destruction of political norms and the rule of law based on a lack of sound and cogent knowledge has the primary disposition of ignorance. The disposition of ignorance takes three sub-forms: lacking necessary information; relying on false information, and drawing illogical conclusions. The three sub-forms of ignorance bleed together seamlessly in that they often coexist in a single individual and are caused by common factors. The common factors are: reliance on depraved right-wing media, disregard for mainstream media, influence from depraved Republican leaders, and lack of understanding of basic principles of logic.
Without a basic understanding of logic, it does not matter what information an individual possesses; they will be unable to effectively process that information and will make determinations based on emotion, rather than reason. In a nut shell, logic is the correct method whereby the mind, or reason, infers conclusions from premises.[xxxvi] Stated differently, logic is the input of premises (facts, data, information, states of affairs) and the output of conclusions drawn therefrom.[xxxvii] There are two primary forms of logic: inductive and deductive.[xxxviii]
Inductive logic involves inferring probable, rather than necessary, conclusions from premises.[xxxix] It uses specific statements to draw general conclusions.[xl] As such, it relies on evidentiary support.[xli] For instance, twenty-six human beings have accused Trump of sexual misconduct; Trump admitted to sexual misconduct on tape, and said he gets away with it; therefore, it is likely Trump has engaged in sexual misconduct. The strength of an inductive argument depends upon the degree to which the premises support the conclusion; scientists and philosophers refer to this degree of support as the criterion of adequacy.[xlii] They have developed several methods for quantifying the criterion of adequacy.[xliii] If the criterion of adequacy is sufficient to justify a conclusion, the argument is deemed cogent. However, it is not necessary to understand these methods of quantification to see that some arguments have a higher degree of certainty (i.e. are more cogent) than others.[xliv] For instance, the argument, One human being has accused Joe Biden of sexual misconduct; Joe Biden has not admitted to sexual misconduct on tape; and, therefore, it is likely Joe Biden has engaged in sexual misconduct, is an argument with a far lower degree of certainty (i.e. criterion of adequacy), as compared to the original example and is, therefore, less cogent.
Deductive logic involves premises that are purported to necessitate a conclusion.[xlv] It makes specific inferences from more general statements.[xlvi] For example: Conceding an election is an important political norm; Trump refused to concede the election; therefore, Trump violated an important political norm. If a conclusion follows logically from the premises, as in the example above, the argument is valid, regardless of whether the premises are in fact true.[xlvii] If the conclusion does not follow from the premises, the argument is invalid.[xlviii] If an argument is either invalid or the premises untrue, the argument is unsound.[xlix] If an argument is valid and the premises are true, the argument is sound. Since it is almost certain conceding an election is an important political norm, and Trump did refuse to concede the election, it follows – via deductive logic – that Trump did, in fact, violate an important political norm; and, therefore, the argument is sound.[l]
Logicians refer to common errors in reasoning as logical fallacies.[li] Many arguments presented in right-wing media and forwarded by Republican leaders are blatantly fallacious. The Trumpite expressive of the primary disposition of ignorance absorbs these fallacious arguments and uses them as fodder to protect their fragile world view, often regurgitating them on social media, creating a fallacious feedback loop.
Because it would take volumes to consider all examples of fallacious Trumpite reasoning, only the most blatant can be considered here. Perhaps the two most impactful fallacies in American political history are “fake news” and the “deep state.” These are examples of ad hominem attacks, or attacks against the person.[lii] An ad hominem attack diverts people from considering the evidence by attacking the source of the evidence.[liii] In this case, the mainstream media and professional civil servants. For instance, some ignorant Trumpites do not register that Trump has, as a matter of fact, been accused of sexual misconduct by 26 separate human beings. This is because they consider the mainstream media “fake;” and the right-wing media, upon which they rely for their information, simply does not report these facts. Of course, this is true of all kinds of facts about Trump, from paying off a porn star in violation of campaign finance law, to six bankruptcies, to having the personality of a perverted used Pinto salesman. The ad hominem attack of the “deep state” works in a similar manner. For instance, though the ignorant Trumpite may be aware of the official vote count in the 2020 election, they categorically dismiss the count, because, in their view, the crooked “deep state” conducted it. Of course, and it is amazing this needs to be said, but there are professional journalists who are reporting the facts in the mainstream media, and there is no such thing as a “deep state.”[liv] These concepts are not only fallacious but the product of inductive inferences with inadequate evidentiary support.
Hasty generalization is another common Trumpite fallacy. Hasty generalizations are inferences about a general group of cases drawn from an inadequate sample.[lv] Throughout the 116th Congress, 4 progressive, minority, female Democratic House members from the inner city, out of 282 total Democratic Congresspeople from all over the United States, were held up as exemplars of the Democratic Party to create a false impression of Democrats generally.[lvi] After the social unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death, these same elites tirelessly worked to tie Democrats to the riots.[lvii] Ignorant Trumpites took to social media and posted millions of memes decrying the “liberal riots.”[lviii] Of course, there is no data to support the generalization that anything but a minuscule amount of Democrats participated in or supported riots; in fact, only 29% of Democrats think peaceful protests are effective.[lix] Trumpites would benefit from a simple maxim: the chosen leadership of a group of people is more representative than small, aberrant minorities.
Compounding the ignorant Trumpites' faulty reasoning is a breathtaking lack of information coupled with outright lies. Consider the impeachment proceedings; it is hard to imagine a more clear-cut demonstration of guilt.[lx] The evidence presented to the American public was voluminous, highly credible, and crystal clear.[lxi] Only the barest recounting of it will be attempted here, but there was a reconstructed transcript of a phone conversation in which Trump clearly tried to leverage President Zelensky with taxpayer money to investigate the Bidens; Trump admitted he did it on live TV; Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, admitted Trump did it on live TV; and the entire diplomatic core to the Ukraine (including life-long civil servants, decorated war heroes, and even Trump appointees and campaign donors) unequivocally testified under oath as to it on live TV.[lxii]
Regardless, at the close of the impeachment trial, 56% of Republicans believed Trump did “nothing wrong,” and 36% believed his actions were “improper but not impeachable.”[lxiii] Even more astounding, Republican support for impeachment dropped as more evidence of Trump’s guilt came to light, from 15% when the whistle blower report was released, to 9% at the close of the Senate trial.[lxiv]
As amazing as it is, this discrepancy between reality and Republican opinion is not an inexplicable anomaly. Right-wing media, throughout the impeachment trial, presented an alternate universe in which Trump was the victim of a “witch hunt” and “hoax.”[lxv] As usual, the logical fallacies of the “deep state” and “fake news” were essential to stopping the Trumpite masses from engaging with facts. Fox News hosts Jeanine Pirro and Lou Dobbs called impeachment – which is in the Constitution – “lawless” and “illegal.”[lxvi] Breitbart ran an article entitled “Hoaxblower Madness.”[lxvii] Some conservative pundits completely skipped over the substance behind impeachment to attack it as “boring” television, as though it were a low scoring sporting event, or a badly produced reality TV show.[lxviii]
The impeachment talking points of Republican leaders were equally absurd. Trump, like a broken record, referred to his phone conversation with Zelensky – in which he clearly attempted to leverage US aid – as a “perfect call.”[lxix] He told reporters to “read the transcript” so often Trumpites had the phrase printed on T-shirts, turning themselves into walking billboards for the evidence against their own false beliefs.[lxx] Republican Congresspeople went through a string of ad hoc defenses, adopting and abandoning flimsy talking points as one after another was discredited[lxxi] Throughout the House proceedings, Republican leaders made a stink about the unfairness of the process only to turn around and hold a Senate trial with zero witnesses and no evidence in perhaps the single greatest act of public hypocrisy in modern American history since Jim Crow.”[lxxii]
Of course, Trumpites ignored the one American institution, journalism, that could undermine the false claims of right-wing political operatives and provide logically sound factual analysis. For decades, right-wing political elites have been conditioning their followers to do just that. In 1964, Barry Goldwater’s Press Secretary gave journalists covering the Goldwater campaign pins that read, “Eastern Liberal Press.”[lxxiii] By the time of the 2016 Presidential election, the mantra of “liberally biased media” in Republican circles was more common than the Lord’s Prayer.[lxxiv] Trump has doggedly cast mainstreams journalists as “the enemy of the people.”[lxxv] At rallies, he led his followers in ritualistic castigation of the press who were relegated to small metal cages at the edge of the crowd.[lxxvi] In his standard stump speech, Trump, referring to the journalists present, said, “Absolute scum. Remember that. Scum. Scum. Totally dishonest people.”[lxxvii] The right-wing media has been equally antagonistic, creating an echo chamber of vitriol, surrounding the Trumpite on all sides. John Nolte, a writer for the right-wing rag the Daily Wire, heralded Trump’s 2016 victory, not as a victory for conservatism, but as a death blow to the influence of mainstream media.[lxxviii]
The ignorant Trumpites' susceptibility to false information and their propensity to discredit facts can be further understood when it is considered that their leader, Trump himself, is a shameless, compulsive liar.[lxxix] In a televised Presidential debate on October of 2016, Trump, referring to Russia, said, “I don’t deal there.”[lxxx] He made similar comments earlier in his campaign.[lxxxi] The truth was he had signed a letter-of-intent to build a Trump Tower Moscow a year earlier and was, while running for President of the United States, negotiating with the Kremlin.[lxxxii] After the 2016 election, in which Clinton won the popular vote, Trump tweeted that he actually won it “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”[lxxxiii] A special Presidential commission on voting integrity, which included Vice President Pence, was established to dig up evidence to support Trump’s unsubstantiated claim.[lxxxiv] The commission met only twice but disbanded without issuing a report; a subsequent lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act forced them to turn over all the documents they considered and produced.[lxxxv] These documents showed no evidence of even marginal voter fraud, let alone millions of fraudulent votes.[lxxxvi] Not one to be deterred by being caught in a blatant lie, Trump renewed his false claims of voter fraud prior to and after the 2020 election.[lxxxvii] Of course, these are just Trump’s greatest hits; the Washington Post has recorded over twenty thousand false or misleading claims Trump has made since becoming President; that is nearly fifteen false or misleading claims a day, including weekends, golf outings, and holidays.[lxxxviii]
Conspiracy theories have always seethed under the surface of respectable public life in America, but Trumpism is a conspiracy culture stranger than fiction.[lxxxix] Trying to get a handle on all trending conspiracy-theories is like playing a game of wack-a-mole in which, if you lose, you might go crazy. Two-thirds of the American population believe in some form of the deep state.[xc] In the midst of the pandemic, 8 million Americans viewed a conspiratorial documentary that claimed Dr. Fauci and other public health officials were actually responsible for, rather than fighting against, the coronavirus pandemic.[xci] Perhaps the most bizarre conspiracy-theory today is QAnon. It consists of a vast array of beliefs that can only be characterized as insane. The core beliefs of QAnon followers are that a cabal of leftist, Satanist pedophiles in mainstream media, the entertainment industry, and government work together to form a “deep state” that controls American life.[xcii] In their prophecy of “the Storm,” Trump, along with the masked patriot Q, will bring the leftist Satanists to justice and a “Great Awakening” will occur, in which the rest of America will learn the truth.[xciii] Even Scientologists are like, “Huh! Are you nuts?” A recent Pew Research poll found that 43% of Republicans who were aware of the QAnon conspiracy viewed it in a positive light.[xciv] Trump repeatedly retweets twitter accounts associated with QAnon and refuses to denounce the group, while referring to QAnon followers as people who “love America.”[xcv] This past election there were 24 individuals on ballots for Congressional districts across the United States who expressed at least some level of sympathy for QAnon, 22 of them were Republicans.[xcvi] 2 of those QAnon sympathizers, both Republicans, were elected and will be members of the 117th Congress.[xcvii]
Given that ignorant Trumpites live in a social environment that refuses to acknowledge facts, promotes illogical thought, and pulsates with conspiracies and lies, it is hard to know where to begin to solve the crisis. The defining characteristic of ignorance, after all, is that it knows no better. Engaging in political discussion has long been verboten in polite American society, but, given the reality of the poisonous conservative social environment and the existential threat Trumpism poses to democracy, such pleasantries can no longer be observed. Of course, ignorant Trumpite masses should not be approached with hostility. To the extent they are inexpressive of the primary disposition of depravity, they are victims of relentless propaganda who will not respond well to antagonism. Hard as it may be given their absurdity, they should be approached gently.
As a long-term solution, primary schools need to prioritize teaching the basics of logic and journalism. Logic is a prerequisite to clear thought. Journalism is the method whereby individuals strive to provide information to the masses in an objective manner. Philosophers have long noted that pure objectivity is a fantasy, but that in no way undermines the reality that some sources of information are more objective than others. Journalists, like all people, are not free of bias, but they are experts in limiting bias. Journalism is essential to an informed public and a healthy democracy - especially in the digital age - and citizens need to be made aware of this.[xcviii] It is no coincidence that authoritarian regimes do not allow journalists to operate independent of the State, and that Trump, as a wanna’ be authoritarian, attacks journalists relentlessly.[xcix]
Another potential solution would be to create a civil cause of action whereby any US citizen could sue political operatives (media elites and/or political leaders) for spreading false propaganda. Such a cause of action could be modeled after existing civil laws prohibiting defamation but would expand the base of potential plaintiffs to include the entire citizenry, as well as organizations established to promote journalistic integrity. Of course, 1st Amendment protections would apply, and so a plaintiff would have to prove a defendant knowingly lied with actual malice.[c] Such a cause of action would allow for the public regulation of political operatives via the apolitical courts, rather than executive bureaucracy, and would apply equally to political operatives on the Right and Left.
The Primary Disposition of Apologetic
Trumpites who express the primary disposition of apologetic are, to one degree or another, aware of and concerned with Trump’s destruction of political norms and the rule of law. However, they ultimately think Trumpism’s positive aspects, or the opposition's negative aspects, outweigh those concerns. Apologetic Trumpites may also, to varying degrees, be expressive of the primary dispositions of depravity and ignorance. The less they are concerned with Trumpism’s destructive consequences, the more depraved. The less aware they are of Trumpism’s destructive acts, the more ignorant. The apologetic Trumpite, as more or less ethical and knowledgeable, is perhaps the easiest disposition type to persuade. There are three primary methods for doing so: elucidating a natural hierarchy of principles in American democracy, exposing the deluded nature of the Trumpite identity, and revealing the true nature of the opposition.
There is a natural hierarchy of principles in any just and orderly society, which the apologetic Trumpite has failed to grasp. Systematic principles are of a higher order than content-based principles. Universal health care or a wall along the southern border are content-based principles expressive of policy preferences. Systematic principles relate to the basic structure and procedures of government. Political norms and the rule of law are the bedrock of systematic principles. Systematic principles allow Americans to interact civilly and freely choose their content-based principles. What the apologetic Trumpite has failed to understand is that without systematic principles content-based principles are determined solely through the application of power. In other words, unless systematic principles are made primary, there is no civil society. Purely depraved Trumpites understand this and do not care; it is their intention to simply cease observing systematic principles to maintain a monopoly of power. Ignorant Trumpites do not have a clue what is really happening. And the apologetic Trumpite, as more or less knowledgeable and ethical, should be made to fully understand the primacy and importance of maintaining systematic principles in a free society.
Trumpites are highly deluded as to the true dispositions of their group. This is largely due to the lack of information, false information, and logical errors their elite political operatives foist upon them. In general, Trumpites view themselves as an inter-mixture of the following dispositions: nativist, anit-globalist, socially conservative, anti-elitist, patriotic, and politically conservative. In actuality though, Trumpism fails to live up to or is the antithesis of most of these dispositions.
Raging against elites is an old Republican past time, from Eugene McCarthy’s anti-communism crusades that targeted civil servants and Hollywood, to Nixon’s silent majority.[ci] Draining the swamp, the deep state, and fake news are the current, ugly expressions of phony, Republican anti-elitism. The hypocrisy of these current trends is stunning. As has been noted, Trump’s inner circle is filled with right-wing media elites. Trump, of course, is one of the self-proclaimed richest men in the world, who owns New York city skyscrapers and elite golf clubs scattered across the globe.[cii] He is also a former reality TV star. Though Trump promised to self-fund his 2016 campaign to avoid being beholden to special interests and lobbyists, that was a lie.[ciii] By 2020, Trump was receiving financial support from 80 separate billionaires.[civ] Trump’s cabinet has been the richest in American history.[cv] He installed corporate cronies with massive conflicts of interest to run multiple government agencies.[cvi] No administration in US history has been more elite than Trump’s.
Just because people surround themselves with patriotic paraphernalia and hump the American flag, does not mean they are patriots. Regardless of whether Trump criminally conspired with Russia to influence a US election, every American saw him accept and encourage that interference, then, four years later, they saw him cajole the Ukraine and request China to do so. Trump’s inner circle was indicted, and most convicted, for lying to FBI investigators about their contacts with the Russian government, as well as acting as unregistered foreign lobbyists, including Paul Manafort (Trump’s campaign manager), Michael Flynn (Trump’s National Security Advisor), Rick Gates (top Trump campaign aide), Michael Cohen (Trump’s longtime personal lawyer), and George Papadopoulos (Trump foreign policy advisor).[cvii] Roger Stone, long-time Trump confidant, acted as a go between for the Trump campaign and Wiki-leaks, which released Democratic e-mails illegally hacked by the Russian Government.[cviii] He was convicted in a court of law of 7 felonies, including witness tampering and lying to Congress, which, according to the presiding Judge, he did to cover “up for the President.”[cix] Before serving a single day in prison, Trump used the power of his Presidency to commute Stone’s sentence.[cx]
When asked about the Russian Government’s practice of assassinating political rivals, Trump responded, “You think our country’s so innocent?”[cxi] When Trump was asked about Russian interference in the 2016 election at the Helsinki summit, he accepted Putin’s version of events over that of all US intelligence, defense, and law enforcement agencies.[cxii] When US intelligence revealed Putin offered bounties on US soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Trump labeled it “fake news” and refused to confront Putin on the issue.[cxiii] Numerous high-ranking officials reported Trump repeatedly called military service members who have died overseas “suckers” and “losers.”[cxiv] On live TV, Trump called John McCain (US Senator, war hero, and Vietnam POW) a “loser,” because he was captured. Throughout his Presidency, Trump has cozied up to dictators – whether they are poisoning political rivals or chopping up journalists with a bone saw – all while treating other constitutional democracies as the enemy.[cxv] Trumpism – comrades – is not American patriotism by any stretch of the imagination.
Social conservatism focuses on traditional views of family, sexuality, marriage, religion, and life generally.[cxvi] Trump has, of course, championed religious liberty and pro-life positions, and that’s not nothing to a social conservative, but the remainder of their tenuous relationship is as sticky as a video booth in the red light district. There are even reports that Trump, behind closed doors, mocks evangelical leaders as “full of shit” and “hustlers.”[cxvii] A rift has formed in the evangelical community, with some – as they are want to do – maintaining the faith despite all evidence, and others having a come to Jesus moment as to Trump’s true nature. Christianity Today, an evangelical periodical founded by Billy Graham, referred to the lies and vitriolic attacks of Trump’s Twitter feed alone as “a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.”[cxviii]
Trump is also a renowned playboy and philanderer who has been married three times.[cxix] He referred to his youthful battle to avoid sexually transmitted disease as his “personal Vietnam.”[cxx] He was a long-time acquaintance of indicted child-sex-traffickers Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.[cxxi] When asked about Maxwell’s case, Trump even had the audacity to “wish her well,” leaving many to legitimately question if Maxwell had compromising information on the President.[cxxii] In the Stormy Daniels fiasco, Trump, as a matter of fact, payed hush money to prevent Daniels’ from discussing an alleged sexual encounter they had just four months after Melania Trump gave birth to their first child.[cxxiii]
Beyond Trump’s grotesquely amoral personal traits and history are his dehumanizing policies, unbecoming of any traditional view of morality. As only one example, consider Trump’s policy of removing children from their families at the border: what could be more violative of traditional morality?[cxxiv] Trumpites should ask themselves, even if Trump does champion some of their policy initiatives, can he be trusted to stay the course when political winds shift? A statement from a former Bush aid best sums up Trump’s juxtaposition with social conservatism: “Asking Trump to understand morality is like asking a person born blind to understand color.”[cxxv]
As the leading movement in the Republican Party, Trumpism casts itself in the lineage of political conservatism, but nothing could be further from the truth. Political conservatism, at its core, stands for the observance of long-standing systematic principles. As has been shown in detail, Trumpism is the destroyer of systematic principles.
On a content-based level, political conservatism stands for fiscal responsibility, stable and strong foreign policy, and limited government. Though Trump has rolled back regulations on polluters and big business, he has also – without a lawful basis – threatened to simply shut down entire companies that do not serve his interests, claiming his “authority is total.”[cxxvi] Trump’s praise of dictators and criticism of other constitutional democracies has resulted in a seismic shift in US foreign policy.[cxxvii]
Business, for Trump, has always been a reckless endeavor, resulting in 6 bankruptcies.[cxxviii] He has even referred to himself as the “King of Debt.”[cxxix] His businesses are more leveraged than a suspension bridge.[cxxx] The Federal Debt, under the Trump Administration, has grown from 19.9 to 26.5 trillion.[cxxxi] Trumpism has nothing to do with political conservatism; it is, in fact, the most radical and dangerous mass political movement since the Confederacy in United States’ history.
Trumpites not only have an extremely distorted view of Trumpism; they also have an extremely distorted view of the opposition. This, again, is due to the faulty logic and fallacious arguments of depraved political operatives. Any news organization that reports Trump’s crimes is labeled fake. Any civil servant who stands up to Trump is part of the deep state. Any policy intended to solve a societal issue proposed by a Democrat is deemed socialist.[cxxxii] Groups such as the Squad are made into exemplars of the entire Democratic Party. All liberals are cast as the “radical left.” Ad hominem attacks and hasty generalizations are repeated again and again and again. Riots, occurring during the Trump Administration, become a vision of the future under Biden. Right-wing media elites, such as Tucker Carlson, spend night after night stoking a culture war that has almost nothing to do with sound government policy.[cxxxiii]
It is essential that the opposition develop a coherent strategy for apprising apologetic Trumpites of real information and fighting the misinformation of right-wing political operatives. The opposition must also take their image back. Trumpites need to be told that even the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party can be distinguished from Trumpism in that it respects systematic principles and will, through checks and balances, remain accountable to other Americans. The opposition also needs to explain that many who stand against Trumpism are moderate and willing to compromise. It is, again, essential that the opposition reach out to and communicate with apologetic Trumpites where they live and breathe
Issues Related to Group Identification
As previously noted, the strength of a Trumpite’s primary dispositions of depravity, ignorance, and/or apologetic are directly proportional to the strength of their identification with Trumpism. If a Trumpite expressive of the disposition of depravity strongly identifies with Trumpism, they will be more depraved; if they identify with Trumpism only marginally, they will be less depraved. Undermining a Trumpite’s group identity, therefore, is an important part of defeating Trumpism.
Group formation is essential to our species – an inherent instinct.[cxxxiv] Groups give us a sense of belonging; they help mold our self-identity; and they allow us to achieve goals that could not be achieved individually.[cxxxv] The simplest form of group membership is the family, but there are many forms of group membership of greater complexity. Some of the most loving and hateful human experiences are derived from group membership, from the affection shared with family and friends, to the aggression and violence of the battlefield.
Though group membership is essential to healthy individuals and a properly functioning society, it can result in distortions of rational thought. If these distortions are to be overcome, they must be understood. 4 of these distortions will be considered here: group polarization, group think, confirmation bias, and prejudice against the Other.
Group polarization is the phenomenon whereby a majority opinion in a group will become more predominant in individual members after group discussion. The opposite occurs with minority opinions; that is, after group discussion, they become less predominant in individual members.[cxxxvi] In other words, group polarization causes group members to drift toward beliefs held by a majority and away from beliefs held by a minority regardless of a change in evidentiary support for the beliefs in question. This is precisely what happened in relation to Republican support for Trump’s impeachment; it started as a minority opinion and the longer it was discussed the less widely it was held despite clear evidence.
Group think occurs when group members refuse to consider some aspect of reality because it conflicts with group beliefs.[cxxxvii] It maintains group cohesion but renders group members susceptible to error, and, in extreme cases, outright delusion. Republican Senators refusal to consider the relevant facts during impeachment, and the resultant phenomenon of denial throughout the Trumpite masses, is one of the most astounding examples of group think in American history.
Confirmaiton bias is related to group think but occurs on an individual, rather than group level. It is the tendency of an individual to seek out and pay attention to information that supports their beliefs, as well as to not seek out and ignore information that stands in opposition to their beliefs.[cxxxviii] For example, a Trumpite who believes Biden is a bad man and Trump a good man is more likely to spend time seeking out and focusing on news about the 1 allegation of sexual misconduct against Biden, but to not seek out and ignore news about the 26 allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump.
Since social media platforms (such as Twitter and Facebook) have started to label false and misleading information, there has been an exodus of Trumpites to competitors, such as Parler and Rumble, which allow such information to go unchecked.[cxxxix] This is group think and confirmation bias on steroids in real time. Parler alone has experienced more than 4 million downloads since election day and is a cesspool teaming with unproven claims of voter fraud and conspiracy theories.[cxl] Republican leaders and right-wing media elites, sensing an opportunity to seal the bubble once and for all, are encouraging their followers to abandon mainstream social media for these bizarro digital worlds where false information and conspiracy reign supreme.[cxli]
As though the ability to choose a world of unchallenged ignorance were not enough, the “attention economy” of mainstream digital technology already exacerbates group think and confirmation bias.”[cxlii] Companies (such as Facebook, Google, and Apple) make money through monopolizing user’s attention and then selling that attention to advertisers.[cxliii] Of course, this is how radio and TV work as well, but as technology gets better, its ability to demand an individual’s attention increases.[cxliv] One study found the average person checks their phone 150 times a day.[cxlv] Individuals, as it turns out, like to be in echo chambers with like-minded people.[cxlvi] This can take the form of positive information related to an individual’s group identity, but, more often than not, it takes the form of negative information about an individual’s perceived enemies.[cxlvii] While comradery is a good way to get someone’s attention, hatred, it seems, is even better.[cxlviii] Thus, like group think and confirmation bias, technology, rather than opening individual mind’s to a vast array of information, is providing them information that fits into their existing world view, further locking them into their political group of choice.
A group necessitates the existence of non-group members, or the Other.[cxlix] Social identity theory posits that group members are prone to stress positive aspects of their group while emphasizing negative aspects of the Other.[cl] This is part of a natural instinct to create a positive self-image.[cli] If taken too far, however, this process results in prejudice against the Other.[clii] All groups are not created equal; some groups, such as Trumpism, put a premium on group membership and are more prone to prejudice.[cliii] As has been discussed, Trumpism relentlessly labels and attacks the Other: fake media, deep state, radical left, etc.
Trumpism’s vilification of the Other has often been overtly racist.[cliv] Trump entered into the political arena as the primary advocate for the absurd birtherism movement that claimed President Obama was born in Kenya and, therefore, ineligible to be President.[clv] Trump launched his 2016 Presidential campaign with a harangue of Mexican immigrants, calling them drug smugglers, criminals, and “rapists.”[clvi] Referring to the Squad just prior to the 2020 election, Trump said they should “go back [to] the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”[clvii]
Not only does the Trumpite contend with distortions of thought natural to group membership and digital culture, but they have the added distinction of a world view replete with prejudice, including, for many, racism. This prejudice and racism inherent to Trumpism is a big part of why Trumpites, as compared to other groups, are willing to violate political norms and the rule of law.
If the Trumpite’s group identity is to be dissolved and/or tamed, they must become aware of and able to recognize group membership’s natural distortions of reason, the inherent prejudice of Trumpism, and the information bubble fostered by technology. Again, this requires the opposition to reach out to Trumpites directly. It is a statistical fact that Trumpites have little contact with members of competing political groups, most notably, with minorities.[clviii] An important method of informing Trumpites of the forces that influence them, as well decreasing their prejudice, is “intergroup contact.”[clix] Of course, no one likes to be psychoanalyzed, so the opposition, when they reach out, should do so with caution and empathy.
Groups, outside of cults, are not closed systems. Individuals are members of multiple, competing groups simultaneously. Trumpites must be reminded of their membership in a family, a circle of friends, a profession, a Nation, and a species. The opposition must inform them that their implicit or explicit support for the degradation of political norms and the rule of law is destroying the integrity of these other groups to which they belong. Perhaps the most compelling approach is to remind Trumpites of their Americanness. After all, to be an American is nothing more, and nothing less, than to be a citizen who honors American political norms and the rule of law.
This essay began with a quote from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: “Know thy enemy. . . .”, but that is not the full quote. The full quote is:
Know thy enemy and know thy self; in a hundred battles, you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.[clx]
Trumpites are some inter-mixture of the primary dispositions of depravity, ignorance, and apologetic, and right-wing political operatives are largely responsible for creating those dispositions. But the opposition must realize those dispositions are not limited to Trumpism; those dispositions belong to humanity generally. Who cannot see that cancel culture is expressive of some degree of depravity? Are Trumpites the only people woefully ignorant of political realities? Does not the opposition too often dismiss the depraved actions of their leadership with lame apology? Are not all groups subject to distortions of reason and the technology bubble?
What is most lacking in the Trumpite is self-reflection. Do not compound that error. Use the information herein to examine thyself. As this world gets more populated and complicated, people generally must confront their limitations as human beings. Old divisions and ways of thinking must be left behind. What is needed is a fresh start, a fresh view, fresh solutions.
Of course, a false equivalency is not what is recommended here. It is, currently, Trumpism which is the destroyer of the sacred principles of political norms and the rule of law, and it is Trumpism that must be stopped to protect those sacred principles. The opposition must, through whatever means available, take on depraved right-wing political operatives. The opposition must, though it be uncomfortable and difficult, communicate respectfully with Trumpites.
It is possible Trumpism, as a political movement, is coming to an end. It is, after all, a movement driven largely by winning that just suffered the mother of all loses. Perhaps the wind has been taken from Trumpism’s sails, and it will drift out to sea as a strange, isolated anomaly in American history. But this kind of speculation misses the point. Trumpism did happen, and the depraved right-wing media and Republican leaders, as well as the 73 million people who voted for Trump, are still here; and we – the Other – must find a way to live with them and stop history from repeating itself.
[i] Presdidential Election Results: Biden Wins; The New York Times; available at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/11/03/us/elections/results-president.html; last visited November 14, 2020.
[ii] See Lexico, Norm, available at https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/norm; last visited November 14, 2020 (defining norm as “a standard or pattern, especially of social behavior, that is typical or expected of a group.”)
[iii] Donnie Jr., E.J.; Ornstein, Norm; Mann, Thomas E.; How the GOP Prompted the Decay of Political Norms; The Atlantic; September 19, 2017; available at https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/09/gop-decay-of-political-norms/540165/; last visited November 14, 2020.
[iv] Seitz, Sam; Why Norms are More Important than Institutions in Guaranteeing Effective Democracy; Politics in Theory and Practice: Analyzing International Relations and American Politics; available at https://politicstheorypractice.com/2017/01/05/why-norms-are-more-important-than-institutions-in-guaranteeing-effective-democracy/; last visited November 14, 2020.
[viii] Montgomery, David; The Abnormal Presidency; The Washington Post Magazine; November 10, 2020; available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/lifestyle/magazine/trump-presidential-norm-breaking-list/; last visited November 14, 2020.
[ix] American Bar Association; Rule of Law; available at https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/rule-of-law/; available at November 14, 2020.
[xi] See Kumar, Anita; How Trump fused his business empire to his Presidency; Politico; January 20th, 2020; available at https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/20/trump-businesses-empire-tied-presidency-100496; last visited May 27th, 2020. See also Bump, Phillip; The evidence that Trump broke campaign finance law; The Washington Post; December 14th, 2018; available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/14/evidence-that-trump-broke-campaign-finance-laws/; last visited November 24th, 2020. See also Sanger, David E; Savage, Charlie; Trump Takes Aim at Watergate Reform: The Independent Inspector General; The New York Times; May 22nd, 2020; available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/22/us/politics/trump-inspectors-general.html; last visited June 3rd, 2020. See also Gorod, Brianne; The Need for Congressional Oversight Goes Far Beyond Impeachment; The Atlantic; September 30th, 2019; available at www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/future-congressional-oversight-risk/598996/; last visited June 3rd, 2020. See also Report of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Pursuant to H. Res. 660 in Consultation with House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report; December 2019; available at https://intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/the_trump-ukraine_impeachment_inquiry_report.pdf; last visited June 3rd, 2020.
[xii] Coppins, McKay; What if the right-wing media wins; Columbia Journalism Review; Fall 2017; available at https://www.cjr.org/special_report/right-wing-media-breitbart-fox-bannon-carlson-hannity-coulter-trump.php; last visited November 15, 2020
[xv] Mayer, Jane; Making of the Fox News White House; The New Yorker; March 11, 2019; available at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/03/11/the-making-of-the-fox-news-white-house; last visited November 15, 2020.
[xvi] Coppins, McKay; What if the right-wing media wins; Columbia Journalism Review; Fall 2017; available at https://www.cjr.org/special_report/right-wing-media-breitbart-fox-bannon-carlson-hannity-coulter-trump.php; last visited November 15, 2020.
[xviii] Smith, David; Steve Bannon: rise and fall of the Trump aide who preached “American Carnage”; The Guardian; August 20th, 2020; available at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/20/steve-bannon-profile-donald-trump-breitbart; last visited November 15, 2020.
[xix] Mayer, Jane; Making of the Fox News White House; The New Yorker; March 11, 2019; available at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/03/11/the-making-of-the-fox-news-white-house; last visited November 15, 2020.
[xxiii] Vigdor, Neil; Rush Limbaugh Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom at the State of the Union; The New York Times; February 4th, 2020; available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/04/us/politics/rush-limbaugh-medal-of-freedom.html?auth=login-email&login=email; last visited November 15, 2020.
[xxv] Axelrod, Tal; Conservative outlet complains about lack of Trump shout-out at rally; The Hill; March 29th, 2019; available at https://thehill.com/homenews/media/436553-conservative-outlet-complains-about-lack-of-trump-shout-out-at-rally; last visited November 15th, 2020.
[xxvi] Carter, Brandon; Trump watches up to 8 hours of TV per day: report; The Hill; December 9th, 2017; available at https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/364094-trump-watches-at-least-four-hours-of-tv-per-day-report; last visited November 15th, 2020.
[xxvii] Coppins, McKay; What if the right-wing media wins; Columbia Journalism Review; Fall 2017; available at https://www.cjr.org/special_report/right-wing-media-breitbart-fox-bannon-carlson-hannity-coulter-trump.php; last visited November 15, 2020.
[xxviii] See Mayer, Jane; Making of the Fox News White House; The New Yorker; March 11, 2019; available at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/03/11/the-making-of-the-fox-news-white-house; last visited November 15, 2020 (claiming that Fox News, in particular, either creates or repeats Trump’s talking points).
[xxix] McGregor, Jena; Boycotts. Backlash. Breitbart: U.S. companies confront a volatile political climate; Washington Post; December 2nd, 2016; available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2016/12/02/boycotts-backlash-breitbart-u-s-companies-get-dragged-into-a-volatile-political-climate/; last visited November 24th, 2020.
[xxx] The United States Department of Justice; History & Art of the Department of Justice; available at https://www.justice.gov/about; last visited May 30th, 2020.
[xxxi] Goldman, Adam; Ex-Justice Department Officials Lash Out at Barr Over Flynn and Stone Cases; The New York Times; May 18th, 2020; available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/11/us/politics/mccord-kravis-barr.html; last visited June 2nd, 2020.
[xxxii] Allyn, Bobby; White House Says President Trump Won’t Participate in Wednesday Impeachment Hearing; NPR News; December 1st, 2019; available at https://www.npr.org/2019/12/01/783989343/as-impeachment-inquiry-moves-to-judiciary-committee-republicans-attack-the-proce; last visited June 5th, 2020. See also Melton, Buckner F; Impeachment Wasn’t Always This Fair; The Atlantic; October 31st, 2019; available at https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/impeachment-process/601189/; last visited June 5th, 2020 (arguing House of Impeachment of Trump was the most fair in history). See also Subramanium, Tara; Fact-checking Republican complaints about the impeachment inquiry; CNN; October 24th, 2019; available at https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/24/politics/impeachment-republican-complaints-fact-check/index.html; last visited June 5th, 2020 (fact checking Republican claims of procedural unfairness). See also Buckner, Melton F.; A Trial Without Witnesses is no Trial at All; The Atlantic; February 1st, 2020; available at https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/02/trial-without-witnesses-no-trial-all/605869/; last visited June 5th, 2020.
[xxxiii] Snell, Kelsey; McConnell: ‘I’m Not Impartial’ about Impeachment; NPR News; December 17th, 2019; available at https://www.npr.org/2019/12/17/788924966/mcconnell-i-m-not-impartial-about-impeachment; last visited June 5th, 2020.
[xxxiv] Carney, Jordaine; Senators take oath for impeachment trial; The Hill; January 16th, 2020; available at https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/478639-senators-take-oath-for-impeachment-trial; last visited June 5th, 2020.
[xxxv] Baker, Peter; Impeachment Trial Updates: Senate Acquits Trump, Ending Historic Trial; The New York Times; February 6th, 2020; available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/05/us/politics/impeachment-vote.html; last visited June 5th, 2020.
[xxxvi] Hardegree, Gary M.; Symbolic Logic: A First Course; Ingram Publishing; January 28th, 1994; available at https://courses.umass.edu/phil110-gmh/text/c01.pdf; last visited November 17, 2020.
[xl] Bradford, Alina; Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning; Live Science; July 25th, 2017; available at https://www.livescience.com/21569-deduction-vs-induction.html; last visited November 17, 2020.
[xli] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Inductive Logic; updated March 19th, 2018; available at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-inductive/; last visited November 17, 2020.
[xlv] Hardegree, Gary M.; Symbolic Logic: A First Course; Ingram Publishing; January 28th, 1994; available at https://courses.umass.edu/phil110-gmh/text/c01.pdf; last visited November 17, 2020.
[xlvi] Bradford, Alina; Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning; Live Science; July 25th, 2017; available at https://www.livescience.com/21569-deduction-vs-induction.html; last visited November 17, 2020.
[xlviii] Hardegree, Gary M.; Symbolic Logic: A First Course; Ingram Publishing; January 28th, 1994; available at https://courses.umass.edu/phil110-gmh/text/c01.pdf; last visited November 17, 2020.
[l] It should be noted that the truth of all premises involving facts, data, or states of affairs in the world, are dependent on inductive logic; and as such, though some conclusions are reached through deductive reasoning, they are subject to probability.
[li] Staff, Fallacies; The Writing Center – University of North Carolina Chapel Hill; available at https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/fallacies/ last visited November 17, 2020.
[liv] Rhode, David; How America Escapes its Conspiracy-Theory Crisis; October 29th, 2020; The New Yorker; available at https://www.newyorker.com/news/the-future-of-democracy/how-america-escapes-its-conspiracy-theory-crisis; last visited November 18th, 2020.
[lv] Staff, Fallacies; The Writing Center – University of North Carolina Chapel Hill; available at https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/fallacies/ last visited November 17, 2020.
[lvi] Zaru, Deena; ‘Squad’ member, who drew relentless attacks from Trump, coast to victory in 2020 election; November 4th, 2020; available at https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/squad-members-drew-relentless-attacks-trump-coast-victory/story?id=74022409; last visited November 17th, 2020. See also Peters, Jeremy W.; Pelosi. Clinton. Obama. Now ‘the Squad’ Is the Target for the Right; The New York Times; July 27th, 2019; available at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/27/us/politics/ocasio-cortez-republicans.html; last visited November 17th, 2020.
[lvii] Martin, Jonathen; Burns, Alexander; With Wisconsin Unrest as a Backdrop, Republicans Intensify Law-and-Order Message; The New York Times ;August 26th, 2020; available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/26/us/politics/republican-national-convention-recap.html?auth=login-email&login=email; last visited November 17th, 2020. See also Sexton, Buck; Democrats are now the riot party; The Hill; July 23rd 2020; available at https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/508687-democrats-are-now-the-riot-party; last visited November 17th, 2020.
[lviii] See https://www.google.com/search?q=conservative+memes+about+riots&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=xkHuiewy6NMtKM%252CrLKCA8cJhOhsUM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kQU8CSqGecGigh_p0c6Mw7pQIbUVQ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiW7oiFvIrtAhWBAp0JHZ7cB9IQ9QF6BAgFEA0#imgrc=xkHuiewy6NMtKM
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