Wissot: Freedom of speech includes the freedom to ignore each other’s speech
My thoughts turned the other day to the question raised by that great ambassador for domestic tranquility, Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”
Sadly, the answer is a resounding no. Given our fact-challenged politics, we might be better off ignoring all the crazy talk and go about our business as if the segment of the electorate who still don’t believe the moon landing was real are on sabbatical for the next four years.
If silence is golden, ignoring the words of those who see conspiratorial footprints in every nook and cranny of society certainly should merit silver consideration. We don’t need a cancel culture; an ignore culture will do. The goal is not to shut the kooks up but to short-circuit their power so that they can’t influence elections and put people in place who will placate their fantasies.
The recent Senate victories on the part of Democrats in Georgia is a case in point. Nobody cares now that one campaign accused the other of skulduggery. The fact that many Republican voters believed the election was rigged is irrelevant, of no importance to anyone but the unhappy losers.
Who cares what they believed? Who cares what they feel now? All that matters is this: Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won and have been sworn in as Georgia’s two new United States Senators replacing their defeated opponents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
We cannot even begin to bridge the chasm dividing the country until we agree upon the existence of one and only one set of facts. As the philosopher Hannah Arendt said, “Freedom of opinion is a farce unless factual information is guaranteed and the facts themselves are not in dispute.”
I look forward to the time when the Republican Party is able to bite the bullet and sever its ties with Donald Trump’s fanatical faithful. In the short term, it will cost Republicans elections and give the Democrats a temporary political advantage.
But once the purge is completed, Republicans will be free to compete on more even terms with Democrats for the independent vote, the suburban women’s vote, the Latino vote, the African-American vote, the Asian-American vote, the millennial vote, the LGBT vote, the votes of people who over the next fifteen years will grow to represent an overwhelming electoral and popular vote majority.
And what about the deceived, duped, disgruntled, rural, white, male Trump voters who have been left for roadkill on the global information highway? What will they do? Where will those voters and votes go?
It depends on how long they wish to be aligned with failure. The great allure of Trump was that he won a presidential election he was predicted to lose and in winning made his base feel like winners, too. Winning sanctifies the bond between a leader and his followers.
But the bond is broken now as Trump’s base have been following a leader who is on a four-year losing streak. Trump is now in the dubious company of Herbert Hoover, who was the last president to lose the House, the Senate and the White House in a single term. He was also the first since Hoover during the Great Depression to leave office with a net loss of jobs, 4 million having been lost since he took office in 2016.
Trump’s boast to his followers in the 2016 campaign that “We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning” seems ludicrous now. If America winning is 435,000 COVID dead and counting, an economy in shambles, insurrectionists storming the Capitol, I would hate to see what America losing looks like.
Joe Biden said in his campaign that he was fighting for “the soul of the nation.” I would argue that Republicans are fighting for the soul of their party.
In 2016 they took a chance on Trump and won. In 2020 they stuck by him and lost. The Tea Party movement begun in 2010 allowed Republicans to win back the House, the Senate and the White House in six years. Donald Trump returned all three to the Democrats in only four.
I am looking forward to the return of a reconstructed Republican Party, one that doesn’t pander to the QAnon crowd, the Boogaloo Boys, the Proud Boys, the believers in conspiracy fables and the supporters of armed insurrection.
When that happens we can stop ignoring each other’s opinions knowing that our arguments will be over different interpretations of the facts and not over facts versus fiction.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at email@example.com.