Jim Crawford: We are facing an American crisis

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 11, 2023

The United States faces a democratic crisis as the nation divides over a fact-based society and a floating-based society. 

And the more historic fact-based society is in a great struggle to survive the tempting influences of a social fabric shaped less by science, logic, reason and knowledge and more influenced by opinions paraded as truth. 

It is a struggle faced around the globe, but nowhere more visibly than here. It remains unclear which communication structure will prevail.

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 The fact-based society is powered by a free press with self-imposed rules over the publication of verified facts, using multiple sources and offering retractions when facts are misrepresented.

In the fact-based world, the rule of law is a fundamental linchpin, binding us together with agreed-upon rules of conduct. 

The fact-based world is challenging those who, in the election of 2020, acted in ways that refuted the law, seemingly uncaring about legal boundaries. 

Fact-based Americans thought the wheels of justice were broken when the slow pace of justice faltered at the prosecution of the Jan. 6 violence in the Capitol and appeared to ignore that a sitting president led what can only reasonably be described as an insurrection. 

Today, in light of many prosecutions, investigations and indictments, the fact-based world attempts to demonstrate that these values, notably the rule of law, still stand. 

Our courts may represent the Alamo of fact-based America.

 But the fact-based society faces challenges beyond enforcing social rules and law-based agreements. 

As a society, we are overwhelmed by an onslaught of technological advances, multiple media outlets offering various truths, the ongoing residue of the pandemic, population migration, rapid climate change and worldwide inflation and its related challenges to the cost of living. 

All of these issues are interpreted by both the fact-based society and the floating-based society to differing meanings.

 The floating-based society has advanced in the last three decades as the most significant challenge to Western democracies. The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance reports that democracies have stagnated, and even declined since the 1990s, due to the rise of more authoritarian means of governing,“ amid worsening civil liberties and the rule of law.” 

Recent attacks in the U.S. on women’s reproductive rights, sexual expression and book bannings are expressions of the strength of the floating-based progress. The floating-based approach to Jan. 6 is either to ignore the laws broken or to exonerate those who broke the laws.

Donald Trump did not invent the floating-based social concept, but he did demonstrate a mastery of gaining public support for himself and the idea of a floating structure of truth and meaning. 

His public speaking skills combined with several personal traits to advance his arguments against the fact-based social construction. 

Trump’s foundational three concepts are: One, always attack, never defend; Two, make any claim, let others defend its veracity; And three, truth is ultimately meaningless. If you recite a false claim enough, it becomes seen as truth.

The roots of a floating-based society are authoritarianism and oligarchy — where freedoms are restricted for certain groups, the free press is derided as “fake news” and the benefits of society are best endowed upon its wealthiest members. 

In the floating-based society, facts are sublimated to feelings, and feelings are guided by leaders who demonize adversaries, suggesting “bad things” could happen to these adversaries. And leaders then encourage supporters to act against the adversaries, whether judges, juries or corporate entities.

It is too soon to argue that our fact-based society will fall to the floating-based society that Trump and his associates envisioned? Once a key Trump advisor, Steve Bannon, said all of Trump’s cabinet were “selected for a reason…deconstruction of the administrative (fact-based) state.”

Only voters can save the fact-based state.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.