I like to remind myself that I may be wrong. As a natural born egotist, I think it helps to make me more humble. But I don’t like it so much when I hope I am wrong. When I hope I’m wrong, it’s usually because I don’t like what I’m currently thinking. Today may be one of those times.
No one sees all the reactions my posts provoke, since the posts (and the reactions they provoke) appear in numerous places. A few reactions have appeared on this website, but they’ve been joined by numerous others. And my predictions about the impeachment of President Trump sure did provoke reactions.
“Provoke” does seem the right word here. Judging by comments I’ve received so far, it seems my predictions were taken by a good number of my friends and correspondents as indicating I’ve already made up my mind about impeachment, i.e., that I already think Mr. Trump should be impeached and removed from office. I’m told, for example, that I’ve been “duped” by his opponents.
It’s as if predicting a tornado is the same thing as favoring one.
I said in a recent post that I hoped to keep an open mind on the questions surrounding impeachment. However, I did predict that Mr. Trump would be impeached by the House. I predicted that he would not resign, and so would be tried by the Senate. (By way of contrast, I’ve made no predictions about whether the Senate will remove him from office.) I predicted that we’ll hear much in the coming months about the meaning of the constitutional standard for removal from office, i.e., “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and I hope to add to that discussion.
The problem appears to be that I also predicted my own eventual position: that once all the investigations are finished, once all the charges have been fashioned and all the evidence received, I would support his removal from office.
As I saw it, that prediction was much like my 1978 prediction that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have yet another losing season. And my 1988 prediction that our side would lose our case in the U.S. Supreme Court. And my 1995 prediction that my mother would live to be a hundred. In none of these cases was I predicting my hope, only my expectation. Two of these predictions proved true, and one did not. A prediction is no more than that, a guess about a future state of affairs. Of course the outcome of the Buc’s 1978 season would depend on a lot of things not yet known when the prediction was made. All my predictions would depend on things unknown when I made them, including my prediction about how I’d eventually feel on the matter of Donald Trump’s possible removal from office. It’s all those things yet unknown that make a prediction a prediction.
I struggled with whether to include a prediction of where I guess (now) that I’ll end up on the matter of Donald Trump and his presidency (many months from now). There were several reasons I did so, but it now seems that the prediction was taken by many as an announcement that I’ve already made up my mind. In addition to the accusation of being “duped,” I’ve been asked several times why I think Mr. Trump should be impeached. The answer is that (present tense) I don’t. I simply predicted that, eventually, he will. In the meantime, I am undecided. And as I said in the earlier post, I will strive to remain undecided until the House has brought its charges and all the evidence is in.
I’m not sure what to make of those who act as if they already have their minds made up. Because they feel a certain way today, can they say, with confidence, that they’ll feel the same way tomorrow? If so, what distinguishes that stance from the very definition of close-mindedness?
I think those are legitimate questions. But those are not the current thoughts that I said, at the outset here, that I dislike, and wish I was wrong about. What I don’t like about my current thinking is that I think others may have reacted as they did not only because I didn’t express myself well enough, but also because we’ve become so jaded. Do we believe that anyone who writes a blog must have already made up his mind? Do we ask, “If not, why on earth would he be blogging?” Have we got to the point that genuine open-mindedness has gone the way of the dinosaurs? That it’s not possible for a blogger’s agenda to be, simply, that he wants to “think out loud” publicly, in an effort to foster a dialogue that will help us learn from each other? Put selfishly, to help him make up his own mind?
I hope not. I hope I’m wrong about the way people think these days. And I hope this post will help clarify where I’m coming from. I hope that there are others who, like me, have not already made up their minds. I hope we can talk, can learn from each other, and maybe even learn from those who have already made up their minds, regardless of which “side” they’ve taken.
But I’ll make another prediction: that upon reading this post, some will dismiss my claim of undecidedness. Some will think I’ve made up my mind already, whether I realize it or not. I predict they’ll draw this conclusion because my prediction reveals an anti-Trump bias. And I predict that some will think me a hypocrite for denying that bias.
If so, let me answer that charge now.
Of course my prediction reveals a bias.
I’ve already written in this space that I didn’t vote for Mr. Trump. That alone reflects a bias. On the other hand, I’ve voted mostly Republican in my life – does that mean I’m biased in Mr. Trump’s favor? What about the fact that I spent a career defending clients accused of wrongdoing? Of pointing out all the reasons that accusations alone do not prove guilt? Of believing that people are innocent until proven guilty? What about the fact that I think the media has often been unfair in its reporting about Mr. Trump? Which way do those beliefs and experiences bias me?
Here’s what I think about bias: Every experience we’ve ever had helps shape our interpretation of everything yet to come. In other words, our experiences inevitably create biases. In fact, I believe, it is these experiences and the biases they cause that define who we are (or at least the way we think about the world around us). The same, I believe, is true for every one of us. The way I see it, we can try to guard against and compensate for the biases we recognize in ourselves – but those we don’t recognize, we’re helpless to overcome.
Those who read my earlier post, “Asking the Ad Hominem Question,” may remember my thinking on this point. If all our opinions are a reflection of our biases, it’s good to identify and acknowledge why we think the way we do. I wonder which of the people who read this would claim that they are not already biased by the things they’ve heard and seen and experienced.
I intend to follow developments as they occur. Now, even before the new Congress is sworn in, I’m trying to take stock of my biases. Acknowledging my predictions for the end game is in part an effort to help clear the way for the desired objectivity of my own future thinking.
I do have initial thoughts about the impeachment proceedings I predict will come. But I hope they are not set in stone. I expect to be giving a lot more thought to them in the weeks to come. And I hope that my eventual views will be informed by the wisdom and perspectives of those who visit WMBW in the months to come – whether you agree with the thoughts I share or not.