This is a short follow-up to the last blog post. Yesterday (1/6/2024), the NYTimes ran an article with this headline: “Clashing Over Jan. 6, Trump and Biden Show Reality Is at Stake in 2024. The focus on “reality” is critical because reality shapes the outcome of our actions. The MAGA movement and its leader have been trying to re-create the realities that determine the way our lives will unfold. Two realities, but one much more important than the other.
As I wrote, one is the natural world which operates according to a set of rules that have been in place since the Cosmos was formed. Nothing can be done to change these rules other than to deny that they exist. Denying or contravening them, as in the case of the MAGA position on vaccination and mask-wearing, is likely to produce failures and unintended consequences. The other reality is the institutional structure that guides normal behaviors, the actions that we undertake every day. Its rules are created in language by human beings, but have the same impact on determining the outcome of our actions as do natural laws.
For example, courts have the authority to determine the “reality” of Trump as a candidate. Under our Constitution (the highest level of such rules), the President has much authority, shared in some cases with the Courts and the Congress, to set the rules that create or constitute the way life is to be led. Those rules become the new reality. Even the same old words that form the Constitution can be given new meaning and impact by the Supreme Court and thereby create a new reality, as has been done by this Court in a number of cases.
Unlike the process of discovering or uncovering truths about the natural world by observing how it works, institutional truths are invented, ex nihilo, by the declarations of those who hold the power to do so. Courts, by custom, accompany their declarations or opinions by a recounting of the arguments that have been followed, presumably lending a kind of rationality to them. But, these are only a custom, the declarations stand for themselves; they produce the new reality and its resulting outcomes simply from the authority of the Jurists. The President has little in the way of criteria for constraining the declarations that also change the reality and determine the objective structures and behaviors that will ensue. The same is true for the Congress, limited only by the Constitution.
Trump has already announced that he intends to be a Dictator, even just for a day. Ha. Dictators abide by no criteria for the realities they create other than the enormous power of their own words. The present reality of our democracy and the body of laws and normative rules has not and cannot produce a world that everyone would find perfect. But a new one, created by the whims of a President, is certain to throw the present one into chaos, with little or no way of knowing how the dust will settle. Caveat emptor!!!!