A Shared Understanding of Reality

For probably twenty years, I have written about the growing gulf between libertarian and “country club” Republicans, on the one hand, and the Evangelical/social conservative/white nationalists who make up an ever-growing percentage of the party, on the other.

I think it is safe to say that the “Never Trumpers” come disproportionately from the ranks of the (increasingly endangered) libertarians.

While I have significant differences with libertarians on economic policy, they tend to be educated and thoughtful proponents of a particular worldview, not– like so many on both the far Right and far Left–emotional and tribal “my way or the highway” extremists.

Trump’s assault on norms of democratic governance has deepened the rift between libertarian Republicans and the others– a rift underscored by a recent article from Reason Magazine,titled “Trump’s Congressional Defenders Deny Reality.” (Reason is a premier publication of libertarianism.)

During Monday’s impeachment hearing, Republican lawyer Stephen Castor denied that Donald Trump had asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender to oppose Trump in next year’s election. “I don’t think the record supports that,” Castor said.

That jaw-dropping moment starkly illustrated the lengths to which Republicans have gone in rebutting the charge that Trump abused his powers for personal gain. The president’s defenders have repeatedly contested well-established facts in a way that makes fair-minded nonpartisans despair of having an impeachment debate based on a shared understanding of reality.

According to the White House’s own transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump asked Zelenskiy to look into the claim that Biden pressed the Ukrainian government to replace Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin with the aim of thwarting an investigation of Burisma, an energy company that employed Biden’s son Hunter as a board member. “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution,” Trump said, adding that “it sounds horrible to me.”

Trump asked Zelenskiy to “look into it,” and Zelenskiy agreed, saying his new prosecutor general “will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned” (i.e., Burisma). Trump himself has said what he wanted from Zelenskiy was “very simple”—”a major investigation into the Bidens.”

You can argue, as Republicans have, that there was nothing improper about that request. But you cannot credibly deny that Trump made it.

This, in a nutshell, is America’s current dilemma: We do not have a shared understanding of reality. There are multiple reasons for this state of affairs: increasing tribalism, a media environment that encourages confirmation bias and discourages a shared recognition of fact, a widening divide between educated and uneducated Americans, and the cynical manipulation of persistent racial and religious resentment by people who profit from that manipulation.

Thoughtful individuals who disagree about politics and policy can nevertheless come to satisfactory resolutions–they can engage in the scorned but utterly necessary process of compromise. Ideologues and members of a cult–inhabitants of alternate realities–can neither participate in a legitimate conversation (defined as one in which the parties actually hear what the others are saying) nor reach an accommodation that requires them to relinquish even a small part of whatever it is they are demanding.

In the real world, it has been conclusively proven that Russia–and not Ukraine–meddled in our 2016 election. In the real world, Trump withheld desperately needed and congressionally approved military aid in order to get Ukraine’s President to announce an investigation into his (Trump’s) political rival.

But that’s in the real world, and elected Republicans don’t live there anymore.


25 thoughts on “A Shared Understanding of Reality

  1. Putin has played Trump and his ilk like a fiddle. Same for Boris Johnson and his group. Free trade to/from the US strenghens our global standing. Because of Trump, that’s gone. And now China is buying grains from Russia. Way to go, Donnie!

  2. I have witnessed so many “jaw dropping” moments from the Republicans over the past Impeachment Inquiry month that I no longer watch reports at length but check in repeatedly in case there is something new to report. I am embarrassed for the likes of McConnell, Barr, Graham, Collins and others but remind myself that the Trump supporters are believing every lying word. The majority, as Sheila so often reminds us, have never taken a civics class and have no understanding of the proposed workings of government and the people together to seek a balanced solution to issues. There is also little understanding of the primary two parties working together at the bargaining table to resolve problems; President Obama’s “Audacity Of Hope”.

    We needed a “Shared Understanding of Reality” in 2016; sad as the reality of that election situation was, had the Bernie Bots, Green Party and Libertarians come together to prevent Trump from his Electoral College appointment to the presidency, there could very well have been a different outcome. Their total of more than 10 MILLION votes could have swayed the Electoral College. We are facing harsher and much more dangerous circumstances in 2020 and the PROBABILITY of a Trump 2nd term which this nation may not survive. We are barely hanging on at this time and that is the Reality.

  3. Lying, cheating, purging voter rolls, denying facts, committing treasonous behavior…. Just another day in the land of the Republican party. It’s what they do. It’s who they are.

  4. Lying, cheating, denying the facts, arrogance, committing treasonous acts, admitting to crimes but not caring… Just another day in Republican land.

  5. They practice the Roy Cohn defense, never admit to anything and lie about it all. The prospect of absolute power is so completely intoxicating, it’s damn the torpedoes full speed ahead.

    So you have the corrupt leadership that readily admits to their alternate facts and alternate reality, and then you have the willfully ignorant followers who hope to be a part of this absolute power. The true nature of people comes to the fore when they are given permission to act on, and believe in, something that is perverse, evil, and detrimental to democratic values.

    There is absolutely no way the founding fathers of this country could have foreseen the forces that have been brought to bear that created this present situation. if they could have peered into the future, they probably would not have believed what they saw. We are definitely in the middle of a revolution, and there’s going to be costs to pay for many people in this country you still believe in decency and Truth.

    A word to the evangelicals, if you think you can play with fire and not get burned, look at India, Myanmar, and China, and let’s not forget Russia! They are all rounding up religious minorities and putting them in prison by the millions. You all should know better, and you will end up paying the price for eating from two tables.

    When truth, honesty, liberty and justice no longer matter, you have the USSR, not the USA. What Lester alluded to the other day was absolutely correct, when they come for you, there will be no one left.

  6. The astonishing comment from the Republican council makes rhetorical sense. The time delay between the release of the transcript and the hearing in which he made the comment was such that he could be certain that the people he was targeting would have forgotten what was in the transcript. And, of course, many of them would not have read the transcript, so they would take his word for what it said.

    His audience was not people who wanted to learn what happened. They just wanted to be reassured that their choice was not a mistake.

  7. Anybody who supports Trump and his party at this point are, like the characters in Orwell’s 1984, either Party leaders (who benefit by consciously manipulating the system for total control over their sheeplike followers) or helpless mental drones like the ideal Party follower that O’Bryan describes. The moment the Party decrees that 2+2 =5, or 6, or 3, they wholeheartedly believe it and, with no conscious thought, flush all previous concepts that 2+2 = anything else out of their mind.

    We have always been at war with Eastasia. (Notice arrives from Party propaganda headquarters.) We have always been allied with Eastasia.

    I don’t have time to find the exact quote, but Orwell through one of his characters describes this as the ultimate victory of the Party: to remake reality in the image of whatever it wants reality to be, by simply decreeing it so.

  8. Those in the House and Senate know what reality is, but they also know that in admitting to it, they concede some power to the other side. They are reprehensible for their outright lies. Those who put on their MAGA hats and go to rallies might suspect that things aren’t just as they seem, but to admit it would damage their view of what is right and just in this country. They are reprehensible for their refusal to know better.

    On the other hand some of us only see the reprehensible in the followers of the other side. We don’t see the abject fear that motivates them. That fear makes it impossible for anyone to communicate the truth to them.

    Step back. Take a deep breath and reset your outrage to simmer. We still have 11.5 months until the election.

  9. bring a stark reason,we are going to be formed into a putin style state. the facts lay there,and lets call it what it is, the people,have little power to change it,the rich have bought and sold our democracy,and hung it out to dry. the republicans are the band leaders here. we still seem to bury our heads in the sand at the outcome. this is the new norm.and were a stones throw away from a total collapse of out former selves. the names are on the manifesto, they all signed it, and we still relect them..single point of talk is a main driver, not the issue i bring up, its never talked about, though the last 40 years says its next to being our next goverment,by the rich,for the rich,and only for the rich..the working class has been driven into the concrete.
    a recent article by bob mathis-lilley, warren off the mat… theres a eye opening statement about the profit margin of a company/corp and the wages, seems back in the 70s 50% of the profit supported the wages to an employee, while the rest went to investors return… in2018 its 92% goes to the investors,while 8% goes to wages…seems we have a very overpriced economy,and main street hasnt a chance of ever become a economic street again.likewise,our power to voice is long gone also. its all in the-republicans court. the propaganda of a single entity like fox and murdoch,is now is the tass news reporting service, for trump/putin change..theres your future,,, and its been under our noses for decades…i paid attention,seems others were too pacified to care.. pelosi/schumer wasted their time on impeachment, they already knew the ideals of mcconnel, and should have made a point to the public,before the impeachment was even started about mcconnel plan,,if anyone should be impeached,it should be mcconnel,and his mob…at least we have the signatures,for what its worth

  10. John Sorg’s and Peggy Hannon’s observations today are on the mark. I have been writing elsewhere that Trump lives in a narcissistic Otherworld where he manipulates his own facts to suit his demented purposes and the danger that an expanding cult could put an end to our democracy if we somehow agree with the Big Brotherism that two and two are five and join a cheering cult who agree. I think the phrase “shared reality” may itself be askance since there can only be one reality though there may be a sharing of just what that reality is, and I for one will not exchange a reality hatched from science and experience for a demented view hatched over a pool with Narcissus.

    So what to do about this collective escape from reality? Tell the truth, resist tyranny both political and economic, remain rational during this attack on reason and our democratic values, vote, and persevere. Let’s not throw in the towel and succumb to autocratic rule just yet since, after all, we are still in the majority and, in words of the street, it’s time to throw our weight around. We have powerful allies on our side – reason and the Constitution – so let’s use them.

  11. With the release of documents regarding the War in Afghanistan, we learned that the American people were lied to. We’ve also learned the same about Iraq and WMD. We’ve also learned that international organizations lied about Assad using chemical weapons on his own people.

    So, what exactly is “reality”?

    I don’t care how many “intelligence agencies” in the USA say Russia hacked the DNC, I don’t believe it to be so. Former intelligence officers discredit the findings and the man who knows the truth is rotting in a U.K. prison.

    The State Department and our “intelligence agencies” lie to us frequently and the media twists the stories to fit their targeted market of viewership.

    So, once again, how can we say with conviction, what reality truly is in this country?

    I find it absolutely ironic that this impeachment inquiry and proceedings involve Ukraine — a country which had a duly elected president, but he was too sympathetic toward Russia/Russians which accounts for roughly a third of their population.

    What did the Western Imperialists do?

    They staged a coup and ousted the former president causing Crimea (mostly Russian) to hold elections and side with Russia. Yet, we are being told that Russia had to invade Ukraine illegally.

    Why wouldn’t Trump try to leverage a president the USA installed in Ukraine? “The new president in Ukraine owed us!”

    Our government relies on its citizens to blindly follow our chosen cable news outlet for truth-telling and manufacturing reality, yet it is all fiction. Nevertheless, the masses fall for the lies over and over again. It’s insanity.

  12. “Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war.” George Orwell -1984.

    If you have watched a rally for President Agent Orange you will see and hear the “credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph” as Orwell described in his book 1984.

    The Elected Reactionary Republicans have the “mentality appropriate to a state of war”, as written by Orwell. There is no compromise.

    The Democratic Party should have learned during Clinton’s impeachment and Obama’s terms, the Reactionary Republicans take no prisoners.

    The Wall Street Corporate Democratic Party and the big donors are terrified of a Progressive Candidates and Platforms for their own greedy reasons.

  13. There is one way to force the GOP in Congress to “truth” – stop the impeachment now and go to the Supreme Court and demand an expedited decision on the refusal of the Executive Branch to provide documents and allow testimony from those who were there in the inner circle and talking with the Duck. The bored public could care less at this point…As I wrote last week in the Washington Post:

    “OK. The House passes the articles and sends them to the Senate trial. Trial ends; Trump exonerated. America moves on. Or does it? Voters are left with the impression that this was more partisan wrangling. And…the bar for future presidents’ actions slide; the understanding of and respect for the Constitutional balances continues to fade.

    ALTERNATIVE 1: Stop now. Ask SCOTUS to rule ASAP on the President’s ban on documents and testimony related to the Articles. If the Executive can ask SCOTUS for immediate rulings, so can Congress. Surely, potential impeachment/removal of the President is a national/legal issue of urgency.

    1. SCOTUS refuses. Not a great sign for America, but “we tried”.
    2. SCOTUS rules (say, within a month) against Congress. Well, we worried that the majority might support mega Executive power; now we would know.
    3. SCOTUS rules for Congress. Worst case, Mulvaney, Pompeo, etc. lie or “can’t recall” and/or documents do not add to the case. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    ALTERNATIVE 2: Stop now. Wait for the current cases to get settled. President loses his chance for “reality TV trial” starring Graham, etc. which will convince public that the impeachment is just more partisan stuff and of little historic consequence. Democratic senators running for President are free to campaign. House gets back to full schedule of governing.

    1. SCOTUS doesn’t rule until near/after the election. If Trump loses the election, he cannot be removed from office – he has been – done. If Trump wins the election, see #’s 2 and 3 above.
    What is the downside of the above? Changing your mind? “

  14. Here’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth of, by and for Republicans. They alone are entitled to power, real power, not democracy’s power lite.

    The press doesn’t get that right, the Constitution neither, the rest of the world neither and the majority of Americans most of all.

    The source of that unlimited power comes from the ghost of Roy Cohen, Father Supreme of Leader Donnie and by default Father Supreme of all of the Republicans and all of the other Donnie Drones. Fear me, not because of the truth, but the opposite, my ability to breath life into lies.

    The preach the gospel of Imelda, “truth is not reality, perception is”.

    Revolution is democracy’s only hope. We have one shot at doing it peacefully.

  15. Todd, right on the money with your post @ 9:18 am. What we should have learned with the Pentagon Papers is for various reasons the American people are lied to.

    We knew rather quickly that the WMD’s in Iraq did not exist. Now we know Afghanistan like Vietnam is not “Winnable”. The lack of results allowed any sentient being to surmise that fact a long time ago.

    Bush the Younger and Obama produced one General and expert after another to tell us a false story.

    All the hair pulling and shrieking about Putin interfering in our election. The USA since even before 1945 has had one operation after another to stage coups in Latin America and World Wide.

    This Impeachment like the Mueller Report will fall flat on it’s face. At the end of it all President Agent Orange will be acquitted by the Senate. Then what????

  16. Lester Lavine, Thanks for those thoughts. I have wondered why there is a rush to impeachment.

  17. Lester Levine,

    There is historic evidence to support your proposal for an expedited Supreme Court hearing on the Congressional subpoenas and testimony. In the Nixon tapes case of 1974, the subpoena for the tapes etc was served by a District Court attorney on the President on April 18, was argued before the Supreme Court on July 8, and decided July 24th.


  18. John,
    “There is absolutely no way the founding fathers of this country could have foreseen the forces that have been brought to bear that created this present situation.”

    So ends the myth that the authors of the Constitution were “inspired”. Inspired, in this case, means that the mind guiding their pen was not their mind but God’s mind.

    Exhibit A:
    Trump’s impulsive lawlessness seems to have triumphed over “inspired” Constitutional law. On that, some disagree.

    Regardless, the Constitution either contains divinely inspired means to end the present national affliction, or it doesn’t. In which case, the indefectibility of the Constitution is dead.

    On second thought, maybe we are just too UNinspired to see and/or understand the Constitution’s magic words. Or we understand but lack the will to enforce them.

    Both possibilities are material data regarding the practicality of our Constitution. And they are enough to inspire my new belief that the Constitution is fatally flawed and that it is not only permissible but necessary to have another go at writing a new one.

  19. There is no way the founding fathers could have foreseen this Trump presidency and no way they could possibly believe the Senate and House would totally ignore the Constitution they created. Of course; foremost, they could not have imagined voters would elect any of them and maintain support as they destroyed the government and their own future.

  20. I have been under the impression that as soon as the full House votes for impeachment, tRump is and forever more will have been impeached! The trial has been completed. Then it moves to the Senate for the sentencing phase, where he ‘can’ be removed, or not. There will be no exoneration at that point! For instance, Clinton was and is an impeached president, but never removed. (He did apologize, and the country [mostly] forgave him.) And the way my father-in-law said it: “Never admit, deny, or explain anything, your friends don’t need it, and your enemies don’t want it!” Just one of the many things we disagreed about.

  21. Thanks Gerald

    That makes sense Lester,

    And Larry, very interesting! I myself, enjoy the study of Scripture. And, to me anyway, you struck a positive chord.

    “I shall certainly bring you against my land, for the purpose that the nations may know me when I sanctify myself in you before their eyes, O Gog.” (​Ezekiel. 38:16.)

    Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor from the world’s standpoint to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom, which he promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you and drag you before law courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fine name by which you were called? 8 If, now, you carry out the royal law according to the scripture, “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing quite well. 9 But if you continue showing favoritism, you are committing sin, and you are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:5-9)

    10 For if anyone obeys all the Law but makes a false step in one point, he has become an offender against all of it. 11 For the one who said, “You must not commit adultery,”also said, “You must not murder.” If, now, you do not commit adultery but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of law. 12 Keep on speaking and behaving in such a way as those do who are going to be judged by the law of a free people. 13 For the one who does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

    14 Of what benefit is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but he does not have works? That faith cannot save him, can it? 15 If any brothers or sisters are lacking clothing* and enough food for the day, 16 yet one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but you do not give them what they need for their body, of what benefit is it? 17 So, too, faith by itself, without works, is dead.

    18 Nevertheless, someone will say: “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder. 20 But do you care to know, O empty man, that faith without works is useless?

    Several of the founding fathers were very knowledgeable about Scripture. There were certain things that they wrote into the Constitution that contained a certain scriptural morality. They also knew, that they could not Appoint a state-sponsored church in a secularist society, where all religions would be equal and none above the other. They made an assumption that people’s intentions would always be decent, they also made an assumption that there could be problems. They tried to head off future problems by splitting the government into 3 coequal branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. One could not take precedent over the other. They are all supposed to work together for the common good of all men, all citizens!

    But as you said, where they speaking with their own minds? Or were they speaking of another mind? The mind of God? Or the mind of his arch enemy?

    Let every soul be submissive to superior authorities; for there is no authority except by God, and those that there are are given their positions by God, 2 so that he who sets himself against authority is opposing God’s institution; and those who oppose it will have judgment passed on them. 3 For rulers are not a terror to the good deed but to the bad; and you want not to be afraid of the authority? do the good, and you will have praise from it, 4 for it is to you an agent of God’s for the good. But if you do the bad, do be afraid, for it is not for nothing he wears his sword; for he is an avenging agent of God’s for anger to him who commits the bad deed; 5* for which reason it is necessary to be submissive not only on account of his anger but also on account of your conscience. 6 For this is why you pay taxes too; for they are servitors of God’s steadily at work for that very purpose. 7 Pay everybody what is due him: for whom it is the tax, the tax; for whom the tariff, the tariff; for whom fear, fear; for whom honor, honor. 8 Do not owe anybody anything, except to love each other; for he who loves the other has fulfilled the law. 9 For “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does not do anything bad to a neighbor; so love is fulfillment of the law.

    Eventually, these superior authorities will eat themselves, they will attempt assertion of their will over that of God’s. Now, I don’t pretend to know everything, but in the 45 years or so that I have been reading Scripture, I know that there is more to the Bible than just an old storybook. Nostradamus was always extremely vague and yet people put a lot of faith in his quatrains. After all, a lot of us put faith in the Constitution, but we never saw it written, and, it was like nothing penned before concerning the direction of a nation. This country’s founders, I believe, had faith in their faith of Scripture, they tried their best concerning the times they lived in. Or, was all of that history made up? My faith says this is our country’s history, but others might not be as cocksure. That goes along with intense reading and study, and, also, not worrying about others opinions. A lot of people in the world at the time of this country’s inception thought the founders were crazy, but I guess they were proved wrong.

    Concerning myself, I can listen, I can comprehend, I can agree with or disagree with others opinions. But, I will not, absolutely not, agree with someone else’s reality! This is meant to confuse and abuse the psyche of most of mankind, to paralyze some towards inaction and others towards fear. Of course, there are several types of fear, the fear of man, and the fear of God!

    “Let us continue to have undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably render God sacred service with godly fear and awe.” (Hebrews 12:28)

    Jesus Christ aptly explained the difference between the fear of men and godly fear, he stated; “do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Hebrews 12: 28)

    The apostle Paul explains: “For God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.”(2nd Timothy 1:7)

    The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole obligation of man. 14 For the true God will judge every deed, including every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14)

    As Jesus Christ spoke; “I tell you that men will render an account on Judgment Day for every unprofitable saying that they speak; 37 for by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.”(Matthew 12:36, 37)

    As the apostle Paul spoke; ” For we must all appear before the judgment seat of the Christ, so that each one may be repaid according to the things he has practiced while in the body, whether good or bad.”

    So, I suppose we could believe what the Grecian Epicureans who were a house of philosophers, they had no hope for anything except death, and I think everyone will recognize one of their famous phrases, “eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”
    that train of thought has never turned out well at any time in history. That is stunningly bleak, and, I don’t believe it for one SECOND.

    The words of the apostle Paul are comforting, and I absolutely have seen the truth in this Scripture.

    Therefore, now that we have been declared righteous as a result of faith, let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we also have obtained access by faith into this undeserved kindness in which we now stand; and let us rejoice, based on hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but let us rejoice while in tribulations, since we know that tribulation produces endurance; 4 endurance, in turn, an approved condition; the approved condition, in turn, hope, 5 and the hope does not lead to disappointment;because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit, which was given to us.

    One last word, the evangelicals have proven false to any of this comment, and I believe, they will definitely pay the price, as they claim to believe but actually do not.

  22. Lester – In normal times I would agree with you, but these are not normal times. If Papa Bush’s Supremes could annoint his son by stopping the Florida recount (Bush lost by the most widely used standards of “chad counting”), then the McConnell Supremes will back Trump to the hilt.

    So, in one version, the court simply delays, Trump loses, and posterity learns the lesson that there is no such thing as an impeachable offense except for a Democrat lying about his sex life. Some latter day Trump comes along and rightly says “it has been done before and deemed OK”.

    Version two, the Blue Wave that came out in 2018 decides that it doesn’t make a difference who wins, stay home, and Trump proceeds to turn this country into a banana republic with China and Russia fighting to become the next single superpower – China wins, but so does Putin and his cronies who just become super rich.

    Besides being the biggest liar, narcissist, bigot, and misogynist; besides harming America’s position in the world, in the future, and the nature of our country; he has violated his oath of office, turned the government into a subsidiary of Trump, Inc, and abused his power on the grandest scale we have seen — not for ideology, but for self.

    At some point, this country has to stand up and shout “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

    That’s called impeachment.

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