How do we have conversations with people who do not share the same basic facts?

Spoiler: I don’t know the answer to the question I asked in the title of this post.

On Sunday night I watched Chris Krebs on 60 Minutes. Krebs served as the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Donald Trump appointed him to the position. Krebs was tasked with making sure that the 2020 election was secure.

Following the election, Krebs said that the 2020 election was the “most secure in American history.” Trump promptly fired him:

Here is Krebs on 60 Minutes:

For some, it doesn’t really matter what Krebs says. They will not believe him. Why would anyone listen to the cybersecurity expert who spent every day of the last couple of years trying to make sure our election was safe? Why would people believe Krebs when God is telling them Trump won? Why would they believe Krebs when Sean Hannity and Newsmax are telling them that there was massive election fraud? Why would they believe Krebs when he is clearly cooperating with a Satanic plot to steal the election from God’s anointed one?

One of Trump’s lawyers actually said that Krebs should be “taken out at dawn and shot” for defending the integrity of the election. Will Trump terminate Joe DiGenova?

As I watched the news coverage of Krebs’s 60 Minutes appearance and exchanged e-mails with some blog readers concerned about the church and the nation in the wake of the Trump presidency, I thought about veteran evangelical activist Ron Sider’s recent newsletter titled “Could We Just Listen to Each Other?” Here is a taste:

Democracy simply will not work and our country’s future is very bleak, indeed exceedingly dangerous, unless we can start talking and really listening to each other.

I wish I had a good set of solutions. I don’t. So if you have concrete ideas or even successful stories, let me know.

But I intend to pray fervently, and often, that God will show me how to become friends with, and truly listen carefully to the views of those who voted for Donald Trump. We need to pray together. We need to explain respectfully to each other why we think so differently.

That kind of listening does not mean succumbing to relativism. Some statements are true and some are not. I will continue to work hard for the political changes I believe are right.  

For example, I continue to be certain that structural racism continues to exist in education, policing, etc. in ways that benefit white Americans and hurt others, especially African-Americans. I believe that widespread white racism is a terrible sin that makes African-American Christians  and other non-white Christians turn away in disgust. It makes non-Christians refuse even to consider—in fact despise— Christianity. And it is driving many of our younger Christians away from the church and even our Lord. We must speak the full force of truth against the terrible sin of white racism. Furthermore, at the center of any honest conversation on racism must be humble listening to African-Americans tell their experiences of racism. We must listen to them tell us why they are almost ready to totally give up on any relationship with white Christians who do not work to end racism.

At the same time,  I believe that many white Christians with racist ideas truly want to follow Christ. And I want to listen to those who do not believe that structural racism exists and then sit down together and search together to help us all understand and embrace the actual facts.

I simply do not know how to do both honest truth-telling about racism and genuine listening to white Christians who reject even the idea of structural racism. But somehow we must try.

Read the entire piece here.

I am very sympathetic to Sider’s words. But I still wonder how we have conversations with people who do not share the same basic facts about what is happening in the world. How do we have conversations with men and women who do not believe in systemic racism or think such a view of race is undermining the Gospel? How do we have conversations with people who believe Trump actually won this election? How do we have conversations with people who reject science in the midst of a pandemic?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions and I don’t have any advice to give at the moment.

I am not a prophet. But it does look like the fault lines in American evangelicalism are deepening.

I write partially out of experience. As long-time blog readers know, I live in south-central Pennsylvania. This is Trump country. My state senator was at the sham hearing in Gettysburg. Doug Mastriano is the state senator in the neighboring district. Scott Perry, who represents me in U.S. House of Representatives, has been helping the Trump legal team on these election fraud cases. When we are not in the midst of a pandemic I attend an evangelical megachurch. I am the only person in my extended family who did not vote for Trump in 2016 and 2020. I know a lot of people who said they “held their nose” and voted for Trump. I know more people who voted for Trump without holding their nose.

I guess I share one thing with the Trump evangelicals: God sometimes performs miracles. This may be our only hope. I will take Sider’s advice and keep praying.

What happened to the Trump youth vote? Is court evangelical and Liberty University spokesperson Charlie Kirk to blame?

As Gabby Orr at Politico writes, “Nobody involved in Donald Trump’s reelection thought the president would win the youth vote in 2020. But they didn’t think it would be this bad.” Orr interviewed more than 20 people from the Trump campaign. Here is a taste of her piece:

Others faulted the Trump campaign, accusing the president’s top aides of “outsourcing” his youth outreach program to Turning Point Action, the political action arm of the conservative campus group Turning Point USA.

Led by its 26-year-old founder, Charlie Kirk, the group oversaw myriad door-knocking and grassroots get-out-the-vote efforts this cycle, in addition to working with top White House aides like senior adviser Jared Kushner to plan events that put the president and his surrogates in front of young audiences. People involved with Kirk’s operation claimed his “herculean” efforts to boost Trump’s reelection were done without input or resources from the Trump campaign — much to their chagrin in the months leading up to the Nov. 3 election.

But two Trump campaign aides who have worked closely with Kirk said the campaign had its own youth outreach efforts that went beyond voters who are still in college. These aides described Turning Point’s messaging as too sycophantic to bring in young voters who might align more closely with conservatism but remain apprehensive about Trump himself. Kirk was afforded a primetime speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in August and has a close relationship with the president and some of his adult children.

“It’s a mistake to think that groups operating on college campuses alone are going to reach young voters outside of college,” said one of the aides.

Another Trump ally described Turning Point Action as ill-equipped to handle youth outreach for a major party presidential campaign “because it’s a relatively new organization without deeper community ties.”

People close to Kirk rejected these claims, suggesting the young activist and his group did what they could to help the president, and accused the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee of lacking the organizational skills and resources needed to reach broad swaths of young voters in the critical 2020 battlegrounds.

Read the entire piece here.

The court evangelicals and the 5 stages of grief

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Today it appears that Donald Trump has entered the second stage:

It appears that the court evangelicals are all at different stages in the grieving process. Let’s check in on them:

Jenna Ellis, a member of Trump’s legal team and a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, sends Thanksgiving wishes:

Charlie Kirk, the founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, is evangelizing. Anyone who reads his Twitter feed will be led to believe that giving “your life to Christ” and embracing Trumpism are the same thing.

Two “civil wars”:

Wallnau sees the sham hearing at Gettysburg as “turning point.” He suggests that anyone who denies widespread election fraud is speaking-out against God’s prophet. I find it interesting that God only speaks through Donald Trump and the Republican Party. 🙂 If you are looking for a nice example of 7 Mountain Dominionism watch his recent video. Wallnau even finds something in the Bible about Fox News.

Here are a few of the 9.4K comments on Wallnau’s video. (All of them include original spelling):

TRUMP WILL SERVE 4 MORE YEARS AND MANY CORRUPT WILL GO TO JAIL!!! WE WILL WITNESS THE BEST OF THE NEXT 4 YRS WERE TRUMP WILL BE MORE RADICAL AGAIN CORRUPTION BECAUSE HE HAS NOTHING TO LOOSE!!! All of us americans must stand together if we don’t our freedom will be lost forever.

Do not be complacent..call your state legislators to fully disclose this corruption, especially in these key states, Wisconsin., Mich.Nevada, Arizona, PA., GA. God is Truth and must prevail.🙏

I seriously believe Trump won EVERY STATE. ALLLLLL of them.

–(Response to the above comment): Except California.. Gotta be realistic.. CA is the new Sodam & Gomorrah.

It is time for intercessors to come boldly into our father throne room. We need to pray and intercede for our nation and President Trump.

The world is about to see a full blown miracle. This country will be brought back form the brink of darkness

LANCE WALLNAU IS AWESOME TEXAS PROPHET AND HE IS SPOT ON EVERY TIME IN JESUS NAME

YES AND AMEN!!! THEY HAVE MOCKED GOD ALTOGETHER!! CAUSE BOOMERANG CURSES TO COME UOON THEM…AMEN!!

I am really scares Just listening Biden today ! The most progressive agenda ever

We are mighty warriors ready for war!!! God is our leader we have been called for such a time as this! Do not fall asleep for your watch!!!

Court evangelical journalist David Brody writes on Parler: “Seems to me that all of the abuse, threats and hate that @jennaellisesq is receiving is because she’s a conservative Christian woman digging for truth and leftists just can’t handle that.”

Here is another one of the Christian Broadcasting Network journalist’s posts on Parler: “Shame on the national media! They always talk about seeking truth. What a bunch of liars. The Trump campaign is trying to seek the truth and there’s plenty of evidence to investigate and yet the media just blows it all off. SHAMEFUL!”

Jack Hibbs is no longer watching Fox News:

Hibbs also retweeted Sean Hannity tweeting Trump’s outburst from earlier today:

Hibbs still believes the results from California will be overturned:

Jim Garlow has a Ph.D in historical theology from Drew University. Today he posted the following meme and wrote, “Wanna know why you can’t stay in the basement for months on end–yet have confidence u can ‘win.’ Whoever said ‘cheaters never.’ #DRETT (Democrats ruin everything they touch). A student in an 8th-grade civics class knows that elections are decided by votes, not counties.

Eric Metaxas interviews John Zmirak of James Robison’s website The Stream. They play fast and lose with American history and suggest that the Democrats in the South who instituted Jim Crow are the same Democrats today. Any first-year history major would see through these “arguments.” This is so irresponsible. Both Metaxas and Zmirak continue to grossly manipulate the past to promote their election fraud conspiracy theory. And Metaxas says that we should “fight to the death” to overturn this election just like Dietrich Bonhoeffer fought the Nazis.

Robert Jeffress has been pretty quiet of late, but he still loves Trump”

This could be a relevant message:

Interesting:

Does apply to elections?:

Franklin Graham has Michael Flynn‘s back:

Some court evangelicals are still keep pushing the voter fraud narrative. Others are angry with Obama.

It is Thanksgiving. Yesterday Donald Trump’s legal team was in Gettysburg for an election fraud hearing. GOP state legislators hosted the event. The day included testimonies from Pennsylvanians who claimed to have witnessed voter fraud on November 3 and in the days following. Donald Trump called-in to the event. He said the 2020 election was “rigged” and claimed that he “won easily.” During the phone call he repeated false claim after false claim and conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory. He also invited these legislators to drive down to Washington to hang out with him.

Trump also issued his 2020 Thanksgiving Day proclamation. Despite Center for Disease Control recommendations, Trump told Americans to “gather” on Thanksgiving: “I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings.” The proclamation also thanks “first responders, medical professionals, essential workers, [and] neighbors.” In other words, Trump is telling Americans to gather together and spread COVID and let the health care workers deal with it.

Court evangelicals are still complaining about things.

Jenna Ellis, a member of Trump’s legal team and a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, reminds us that Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano quoted Galatians 6:9 at the end of today’s hearing. (Earlier in the day he quoted John 8:36):

Ellis and Giuliani may really believe they are winning:

Ellis is an evangelical Christian and former professor at Colorado Christian University:

Charlie Kirk is Jenna Ellis’s colleague at the Liberty University’s Falkirk Center and a regular weekend speaker at pro-Trump evangelical megachurches:

Eric Metaxas has a radio show, but he is also a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center. Today he is pushing a providential view of American history and his book If You Can Keep It. (I wrote a multiple part review of this problematic book, but if you want the shorter version click here).

Metaxas is also claiming that “people are going to jail” for engaging in supposed election fraud. His online following is growing largely because he is one of the few evangelicals with a platform who is still pushing these election fraud conspiracy theories. Metaxas is still involved with the Jim Garlow “election integrity” prayer meetings where a guy with a red, white, and blue shofar plays “Taps” and “Amazing Grace.

Facebook barred Metaxas today for violating the site’s “community standards.” Apparently he thanked “My Pillow” guy Mike Lindell for bailing-out Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse.

Lance Wallnau is ready for the fight:

Yesterday Barack Obama made a factual statement about why so many Hispanic evangelicals voted for Trump. Obama’s comments were more analysis than condemnation and what is he says here is most likely true. Listen (second tweet in the thread):

Here is how Fox News twisted this statement:

Court evangelical Jim Garlow is also spinning this as some kind of Obama attack on Hispanic evangelicals. Here is what Garlow wrote today at his Facebook page:

Obama slamming Latino evangelicals for their views of pro-life and gay (so called) “marriage.” In other words, they are clinging to “life” and “marriage,” in much the same way we were accused by him of “clinging to our God and guns.” Disgusting comments. Trashing Hispanic God-lovers!

I am confused by this. Wouldn’t court evangelicals be happy that Hispanics are supporting Trump because of his views on abortion? How does this Obama statement “trash” Hispanic evangelicals? Doesn’t Garlow’s criticism here imply that Trump’s treatment of Hispanics at the border is correct? This is how these court evangelicals fire-up their evangelical Christian followers. This is not about logic, it’s about attacking Obama. Here are just a few of the comments Garlow received in response to the aforementioned Facebook post:

–Clearly a racist statement on Obama’s part as well as a blatant lie attributing to Trump the cages for illegal immigrants. Those cages were put there by the Obama/Biden administration.

–Liberals can’t stand anyone who believes God has given us direction on true right and wrong. This gets in the way of their playing ‘god’ and determining their own relativistic morals.

–I have NO respect or honor for that filth. Sorry he deserves nothing.

–I pray for our country- Obama is a Muslim that is only about elevating his evil agenda.

–Obama is a piece of crap. There, I said it and I mean it.

–The most corrupt President in USA 🇺🇸 history / never a friend to us / most of us (Latinos vote for Trump)

I imagine that the people who wrote these comments are also some of the people who are tuning in each night to Garlow’s regular prayer meetings for “election integrity.”

By the way, Jack Graham is also mad about this:

Not sure if John Hagee is talking about election fraud or COVID restrictions here. Probably both:

Fox News and Trumpism

Yes, they are connected. 🙂

A recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute defines a “Fox News Republican” as part of the “40% of Republicans who trust Fox News most among television news sources.”

Here are some of the findings that caught my eye:

Fox News Republicans are whiter, older, and more religious than all Americans.

98% of Fox News Republicans rate Donald Trump favorably.

96% of “Fox News Republicans rate Mike Pence favorably.

70% of Fox News Republicans rate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell favorably.

94% of Fox News Republicans rate Barack Obama unfavorably.

97% of Fox News Republicans rate Joe Biden unfavorably

97% of Fox News Republicans rate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unfavorably.

93% of Fox News Republicans believes Trump is doing a good job handling racial unrest in the country and 94% think he is doing a good job handling the coronavirus pandemic.

32% of Fox News Republicans believe that the coronavirus pandemic is a “critical issue” in the United States.

Fox News Republicans are “nearly all opposed to the goals of racial justice protests.”

92% of Fox News Republicans believe that “Confederate flags” are symbols of Southern pride (and not racist). 94% believe the same thing about Confederate monuments.

73% of Fox News Republicans believe that there is “a lot” of discrimination against American Christians. Only 36% say the same thing about Black people.

27% of Fox News Republicans “say they wish President Trump’s speech and behavior were mot consistent with previous presidents.”

81% of Fox News Republicans believe that coronavirus was “developed intentionally in a lab.”

58% of Fox News Republics believe Donald Trump provides them with “accurate information and advice about the pandemic.”

15% of Fox News Republicans trust state and local health organizations to provide them with accurate information about the coronavirus.

66% of Fox News Republicans believe that America “has become too soft and feminine.” 70% of Fox News Republicans believe that “society seems to punish men just for acting like men.”

60% of Fox News Republicans believe that “it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.”

28% of Fox News Republicans believe that immigrants “make an effort to learn English.”

75% of Fox News Republicans believe that immigrants “increase crime in local communities.”

96% of Fox News Republicans support the building of a border wall.

53% of Fox News Republicans support Trump’s child separation policy.

Read the entire study here.

Trumpism will be the new “lost cause”

Yesterday in my Pennsylvania History class we were talking about the role that monuments have played at the Gettysburg National Military Park. We are reading Jim Weeks’s excellent book Gettysburg: Memory, Market, and an American Shrine.

I gave a brief lecture on the connection between Confederate monuments at Gettysburg (and elsewhere) and the so-called “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy. In her entry in the Encyclopedia of Virginia, University of Virginia Civil War historian Caroline Janney describes six central tenets of the “Lost Cause”:

The Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War typically includes the following six assertions:

1. Secession, not slavery, caused the Civil War.

2. African Americans were “faithful slaves,” loyal to their masters and the Confederate cause and unprepared for the responsibilities of freedom.

3. The Confederacy was defeated militarily only because of the Union’s overwhelming advantages in men and resources.

4. Confederate soldiers were heroic and saintly.

5. The most heroic and saintly of all Confederates, perhaps of all Americans, was Robert E. Lee.

6. Southern women were loyal to the Confederate cause and sanctified by the sacrifice of their loved ones.

She adds:

The Lost Cause is an interpretation of the American Civil War (1861–1865) that seeks to present the war, from the perspective of Confederates, in the best possible terms. Developed by white Southerners, many of them former Confederate generals, in a postwar climate of economic, racial, and social uncertainty, the Lost Cause created and romanticized the “Old South” and the Confederate war effort, often distorting history in the process. For this reason, many historians have labeled the Lost Cause a myth or a legend. It is certainly an important example of public memory, one in which nostalgia for the Confederate past is accompanied by a collective forgetting of the horrors of slavery. Providing a sense of relief to white Southerners who feared being dishonored by defeat, the Lost Cause was largely accepted in the years following the war by white Americans who found it to be a useful tool in reconciling North and South. The Lost Cause has lost much of its academic support but continues to be an important part of how the Civil War is commemorated in the South and remembered in American popular culture.

At the heart of the Lost Cause is the idea that the cause of the Confederacy during the Civil War was just.

As we live through the last days of the Trump presidency, I am wondering if we are going to see something similar to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. Donald Trump won over 70 million votes in 2020. Only Joe Biden has won more votes in an American presidential election. Trump will leave office on January 20, 2021, but he will not go away. He will continue to claim that the Democrats engaged in fraud and thus stole the election. He will claim that he did “make America great again.” His ardent followers will turn him into a martyred hero. They will claim that the “Deep State” conspired against him.

To paraphrase Janney, Trump will provide a sense of relief to white Americans who felt dishonored by his defeat. He will promote his lost cause through rallies and perhaps a cable television station or streaming service. His presidential “library” will be a museum of Trumpism. He will continue to preach nativism, Christian nationalism, xenophobia, and “America First.” Many conservative evangelicals will continue to hail him as messenger of God, a new King Cyrus, an anointed one. Trump will use his Twitter feed to undermine Biden’s call for healing and unity. And in 2024 he may try to “redeem” the “corrupt” 2020 election by running for president again.

While not all 70 million Trump voters will embrace his lost cause, many of them will.

Trump and Trumpism is not going away.

And there will be monuments.

We deserved last night’s debate. We didn’t deserve last night’s debate.

Last night the nation got the debate it deserved.

Last night a nation suffering through coronavirus deserved better.

I think both of these things can be true at the same time.

The first 2020 presidential debate was a disaster. It was a perfect representation of the current state of our political culture. I think theologian Keith Plummer got it right when he tweeted:

Biden’s performance wasn’t great, but he hung in there. Historian Amy Bass nailed it:

Biden didn’t need to kill it last night. He is leading in all the polls. Trump did nothing to widen his base. The debate changed very little.

At one point in the debate Biden told Trump: “You’re the worst president America has ever had.” We will let future historians decide this, but right now it is hard to argue with Biden’s assessment. Here is presidential historian Jon Meacham:

As most of you know by now, Trump refused to condemn “white supremacy” and “racists”:

Here is Christian writer and editor Katelyn Beaty:

And then Trump empowered a neo-Fascist group by telling them to “stand back and stand by.” It is worth noting that the Proud Boys immediately made “Stand Back. Stand By” part of their new logo. Yes the President of the United States told a white supremacist militia group to “stand by.” This implies they he may need them at some point in the immediate future.

Actually, this whole Proud Boys thing sets me up nicely for my Pennsylvania history class today:

This may have been the first presidential debate in American history in which one candidate called another candidate a “racist.”

Trump did nothing to win women voters tonight. Here is historian Heather Cox Richardson:

A few odds and ends:

  1. Trump refused to say that he would concede the election if he loses.
  2. Trump interrupted Biden to attack his son Hunter at the precise moment Biden was talking about his dead son Beau.
  3. In the middle of a discussion on COVID-19, Trump attacked Biden’s intelligence. He also mocked Biden for attending “Delaware State” university. Actually, Biden attended the University of Delaware. Delaware State is a historical black university. One would think Trump would know this since he likes to brag how much he has done for HBCUs.
  4. I don’t want to see another debate. This was a waste of time. Let’s just vote in November and move on as a nation.

A few random tweets from the night:

Before the debate court evangelical Robert Jeffress was praying for unity:

I support national unity. I even support praying for national unity. One of the best speeches on national unity was Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:

Here’s Sean Hannity being Sean Hannity:

CNN commentators saw things differently:

Is this King George or Vladimir Putin?:

Even the Fox News moderator Chris Wallace was having problems making sense of Trump’s words:

I am hearing all kinds of stories about parents letting their kids watch this debacle. Here is Yahoo News writer Jon Ward:

Here is Amy Bass:

Hey, but at least Donald Trump did this:

34 more days.

Barack Obama’s 2020 DNC convention address, democratic virtues, and the failure of Trumpism

Watch Barack Obama speak to the nation on Wednesday night from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia:

Obama’s choice of venues speaks volumes. At a time when many on the Left are disparaging the American Revolution as racist or built upon slavery, Obama chose to give his DNC 2020 convention speech at a museum that commemorates the ideas behind the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution.

Let’s be clear. Obama did not take us on a ride through a rosy and innocent American story in the way Donald Trump did at Mount Rushmore on July 4, 2020. The former president understands the moral complexity of the past. Three sentences into the speech he says:

I’m in Philadelphia, where our Constitution was drafted and signed. It wasn’t a perfect document. It allowed for the inhumanity of slavery and failed to guarantee women — and even men who didn’t own property — the right to participate in the political process. But embedded in this document was a North Star that would guide future generations; a system of representative government — a democracy — through which we could better realize our highest ideals. Through civil war and bitter struggles, we improved this Constitution to include the voices of those who’d once been left out. And gradually, we made this country more just, more equal, and more free.

The American founding was not perfect. But Obama is unwilling to give up on its ideals. This has been a common thread running through Obama’s entire political career. It is also the spirit that motivated the men and women who were part of what Obama called “the early Civil Rights Movement.” These reformers, as Obama put it, “knew how far the daily reality of America strayed from the myth.” They strove to “bring those words, in our founding documents, to life.” They did not abandon the founding ideals, but sought to fulfill them.

Obama painted Donald Trump and his administration as a threat to democracy:

But we should also expect a president to be the custodian of this democracy. We should expect that regardless of ego, ambition, or political beliefs, the president will preserve, protect, and defend the freedoms and ideals that so many Americans marched for and went to jail for; fought for and died for.

I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.

But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.

Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.

What is a “custodian of democracy?

At its most basic level, a custodian of democracy makes it easy for people to vote. Here is Obama:

Well, here’s the point: this president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter. That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.

But a thriving democracy also requires a leader who cultivates and models democratic virtues. For such a modern society to thrive, citizens need to learn how to live together with their differences. But not just any differences. A democratic community must be built upon human dignity, the celebration of truth, a belief in science and facts, and a commitment to empathy and decency.

When a leader of a democratic society weakens or seeks to damage this foundation it is our responsibility as citizens to say something about it–both in the public sphere and through the voting booth. In other words, a citizen is responsible for exposing and calling-out those who fail to exalt human dignity, those who refuse to expose lies, those who reject evidence-based arguments, and those who do not practice basic civility.  Not everyone is required to share the same political views, but we all should be willing to live, work, speak, and think within such a democratic framework.

We need to reclaim such a society. A democracy needs “informed citizens” (as Obama, echoing the founders, called them in his speech).  As Mary Ann Glendon once put it, “A democratic republic needs an adequate supply of citizens who are skilled in the arts of deliberation, compromise, consensus-building, and reason-giving.”

Because we all have our own views and opinions, a civil society requires conversation. We may never come to an agreement on what constitutes the “common good,” but we can all commit ourselves to sustaining democracy by talking to and engaging with one other. As author and activist Parker Palmer puts it, “Democracy gives us the right to disagree and is designed to use the energy of creative conflict to drive positive social change. Partisanship is not a problem. Demonizing the other side is.”

The inner working of this kind of democracy is described best by the late historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch in his book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy. His description of the mechanics of democratic conversation is worth citing in full:

The attempt to bring others around to our point of view carries the risk, of course, that we may adopt their point of view instead. We have to enter imaginatively into our opponents’s arguments, if only for the purpose of refuting them, and we may end up being persuaded by those we sought to persuade. Argument is risky and unpredictable, therefore educational. Most of us tend to think of it…as a clash of rival dogmas, a shouting match in which neither side gives any ground. But argument are not won by shouting down opponents. They are won by changing opponents’ minds–something that can only happen if we give opposing  arguments a respectful hearing and still persuade their advocates that there is something wrong with those arguments. In the course of this activity, we may well decide that there is something wrong with our own.

Writers at the conservative National Review will, inevitably, argue over policy with writers at the progressive at Mother Jones. The editors of The New York Times are going to opine differently than the editors of The Wall Street Journal. These debates are good for democracy. But the failure to have these debates within a framework of evidence, facts, truth, and decency is harmful to our democratic life. Let’s call this failure “Trumpism.” And there are people on both the Left and the Right who deserve the moniker.