Not all ‘self-evident truths’ are created equal. Sleazy propaganda wars on truth.

The debate isn't whether government should deliver “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but which self-selected tribe grabs the spoils and which doesn’t.

Photo Credit: Lightspring/Shutterstock

Without unifying, positive consensual beliefs, the “land of the free” descends to pigs at the trough. 

Pity the misunderstood Founders, invoking Enlightenment Age rationalism with their moral, cultural and political assumptions under the rubric of “self-evident truths.” One huge misreading persists, that the Constitution allows unlimited access to military-style guns. Yes, contradictions, as over slavery, prevailed, but amendments tempered flaws and in ten generations greater freedoms have displaced injustice. 

But “self-evident” to irate Trumpism refutes reason, indeed batters the very idea that truth serves democratic debates. Self-evident by the way doesn’t mean without proof, as explicit progress plays off the better angels of our nature, not the discredited folly of eugenics or relying on random violence as good “problem-solvers.”

Sure, the next election is about preserving democracy, at least since the seven year assault against elections, knowledge and legitimacy. What country (new or after 240 years old) succeeds without agreement on what the government should do and rules of the game, allowing self-government to still actively compete with tyranny? 

“Self-evident” for Founders—and evolved citizens since—endorsed not leaps of religious faith, nor rigid sectarianism (cousin to religion), nor secret, radical cadres demanding unilateral gains. Founders were not acknowledging mere personal opinions, naive optimism or airy-fairy idealism but the compelling necessity that government of the people had to elevate the sovereignty of the people to insure the rights of individual citizens (albeit then white, male and propertied).

Founders knew people were not “created equal” in talents or personality, but all citizens had inherent rights, deserving some measure of justice before the law. They respected the power of reason (set against what they saw as manipulable, unlettered masses) to confirm that central truths were secular and scalable, dependent on careful thinking and methodology. Still early days for modern science, the self-evident truths for 1783 elevated rationality and compromise as important to human insights, creations and operations. 

Call them naive, certainly culture bound, but they fabricated the binding weave of a work in process, stressing open elections, an expanding electorate, and the absolute acceptance (fraud aside) that peaceful transfers of power must honor certified elections. Otherwise, elections were mere scrums, and disgruntled losers could resort to violence to take what majorities denied. That way lies banana republics, chaos and the suspect “self-evident truth” that might makes right (vs. respect for law, still only present in half the planet). 

The engine must work to last

Surprise! Provable, measurable, reality-based truths are the most reliable standards for starting, let alone running a functional, sustainable government. Fake racial distinctions, fake inferior “blood purity,” lawless delusions about secession, even dishonest paternalistic domination—these “false truths” have to be expunged if a diverse culture works together in peace and prosperity. That full equality will never be achieved does not invalidate the ideal. 

What separates science (and close scrutiny) from religion is that one provides a method to confirm consensual truths to people of good will—and one looks to faith and invisibility. Because Trumpism defies facts and evidence, even consensual judgments, they are then “free” to assert non-negotiable, “self-evident” truths—however contrary to the best American values. 

Is it an assumption or just democratic common sense to insist that stable democracies demand, even enforce peaceful transfers of power? When Trump couldn’t unearth voter fraud across 60 court cases, nor prove election irregularity, he substituted bad faith to justify not conceding, rather than trusting to the next election. The sorest loser, like the political assassin who asserts willfulness over the voting majority, will cling to any fiction to avoid the shame of being a loser. That’s like demanding four outs in the bottom of the ninth by throwing a tantrum. Either rules reign or chaos rules. Either the majority rules or a maniacal minority takes over. 

Thus, warring against our Declaration’s “self-evident truths,” MAGA inserts self-serving assumptions at odds with a country of immigrants, positing the racist lie that white “blood lines” are innately superior to darker skinned “newcomers.” Ditto, though the Constitution explicitly separates church from state, MAGA overtly favors Christianity as the winner of some alleged battlefield. Though amendments and judges have ended much discrimination against women, MAGA’s contempt for women’s rights drives them to abortion bans that preclude full procreative freedom. 

Finally, for ultra-MAGAs, what denies their alleged lost freedom are demonic, Democratic oppressors out to steal “their country” from “real Americans.” One can invent a false self-evident stance by refusing (or being disturbed by) America as a diverse, secular, complex world. 

Democracy holding its own?

Of greatest importance, American/western values for tolerance, diversity, and integration have ridden historical trends still winning converts. The whole point about democratic humanism is that universal rights – once recognized and formulated—are not open to veto by a supposedly victimized minority. Birthright citizenship is a special American value that will exist until the Constitution changes. Ditto, three branches of government, the balance of federal and state power, and the integrity of each part. 

Trump wants to destroy checks and balances by asserting total strongman immunity so he can corrupt federalism and commandeer the military to oppress the domestic populace. Because of GOP Senate cowardice, Trump knows that impeachment is a farce, confirming perhaps the first self-evident MAGA truth (so far): no installed president, whatever his crimes, can be held institutionally accountable. The Founders would turn over in their graves.

So, Trumpist fascism does not abandon the idea of self-evident beliefs, just leverages its manic control to fulfill its phony “American first” nationalism (aka protestant, white, Christian domination). Thus does rightwing extremism attempt to displace two plus centuries of hard-won, relative human progress. Whenever one tribe claims to be “more equal than others,” anti-democrats find all sorts of nonsense justifications why top dogs should rule the roost, as with dog or lion packs. With that assumption, forget about “lesser beings” having equal rights, thus justifying whatever it takes to secure an anti-historical idea of law and order. 

Consensus is paramount 

That’s why healthy consensus is the first obstacle in the MAGA divide-and-conquer, takeover mentality. Sovereignty in short doesn’t belong to “we, the people,” only “we, the special, entitled people” whose total control is endorsed by some invisible force (like narrow notions of God). The debate is not whether government should deliver “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but which self-selected tribe deserves to grab the spoils and which doesn’t. If civil, voting or procreative rights for “outsiders” go by the wayside, so much the better.  Slaves are a necessity. Ditto, freedom of assembly, speech, dissent and protest. Remember those Trump rants defending beating up legitimate protesters at his rallies? By the past we know the future. 

MAGA is the political expression of a theological, anti-Constitutional “insurrection” that anoints the very top-down, autocratic structure refuted by the founding of America—and the dream of a more open, freer, tolerant and fairer society. The difference isn’t about making assumptions but which ones favor the minority at the expense of the majority. Finally, the difference is whether one’s assumptions answer to reason, historical fact and democratic principle—or to grievance, anger, and faith-alone assertions of superiority. Now, is this rocket science or what? 


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.