One of the many things that have been lost in the Trump years, E.J. Dionne writes, is the art of persuasion:
One of the most debilitating aspects of our politics is the assumption that nobody can be persuaded of anything anymore. We are said to be locked into our identities, our media bubbles, our religious beliefs (or nonbelief), our homogeneous neighborhoods and our online friend groups.
Elections are not simply census-like head counts, and political arguments are about more than marshaling talking points to solidify the views of those who are already on your side. The advantage of democratic republics is that they foster a free exchange of opinions. This makes it possible for all of us to learn things we didn’t know before, and even change our minds. This process, in turn, allows for national self-correction.
That's why Nancy Pelosi's answer to the reporter who asked her, "Do you hate the president, Madame Speaker?" was so important:
Her answer brought cheers from her admirers, especially from liberal Catholics who were buoyed by her insistence that “as a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone.” It was bracing to see Catholicism invoked as a call to Christian love and prayer — especially for Trump.
She knows that Trump’s apologists want to keep the focus on the motives of the president’s opponents and to make this battle about nothing more than partisanship. Those who would let Trump get away with anything want us to talk as little as possible about his own behavior. Their claim is that it’s all about identity — the president’s big-city, liberal, Christian-hating, elitist, immigrant-loving, politically correct enemies vs. his hardworking, religious, gun-rights-defending, taxpaying friends who live in small towns and the countryside.
Pelosi’s invocation of her faith was one way to blow up this narrative, but her care in separating out her political disagreements with Trump (on immigration, guns and climate change) from the reasons for impeachment (his abuse of power and constitutional violations) reflected an awareness that opinion about impeachment is still fluid. Yes, there is room for persuasion.
But persuasion requires an ability to make distinctions. The political pundit Mark Shields pointed out last week that Pelosi was channelling St. Augustine: hate the sin but love the sinner.
How many of us are able to do that?