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Referencing President Joe Biden’s inaugural address, CNN’s Jake Tapper spoke about “a cancer” affecting America, and described it as “an inability of people to come together around a set of established facts.”

Biden himself said this: “We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured ... There is truth, and there are lies. We are called to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”

Those lines may have been the most important passage in Biden’s speech.

Unquestionably a falsehood was propagated that the 2020 election “was rigged” and that significant fraud in balloting and the counting of ballots in five states “robbed” Donald Trump of being reelected for a second four-year term.

This version of events was ballyhooed constantly by Trump himself, his allies, and pro-Trump media, broadcast, print and digital. Responding to this distorted propaganda, militant “true believers” stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a veritable insurrection, provoking death, destruction and terror.

What has sadly gone missing among Trump supporters is skill in critical thinking while deciding upon a course of action.

Critical thinking is often cited as a national educational need, especially as regards politics, science and sometimes religion. Explaining this process in concrete, graspable terms, however, happens all too rarely.

Analysis must start with demonstrable facts. What is real and provable? What is not? What is not real falls into the category of hypothesis or supposition.

The ability to distinguish between a fact and a supposition, therefore, is essential. Beyond supposition are other elements which can be said to be purely imaginary — “fantasies” or “unrealities.” Or, indeed, “illusions.”

To confuse a supposition with a fact is already a bad first step. To confuse a fantasy or an unreality with a fact is to deviate fatally away from any hope of arriving at a defensible conclusion.

And this, from my observation, is the deviation that occurred when Trump supporters blatantly put aside the judgments of 60 courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, in the matter of what, after all, was simply a supposition. That guesswork led millions of Trump supporters to believe that fraud in the five states had compromised the election in which Biden defeated Trump 306 to 232 in the Electoral College tallies.

The court decisions that turned aside the Trump suits challenging the electoral process, finding them “without merit,” moved the Trump claims of election fraud from a supposition to a fantasy or an unreality. Not recognizing this, Trump’s supporters refused the clarity of the courts. Instead, they embraced their own emotional need to believe that Trump — and they — had been cheated.

Upon that rationale a number, including at least two West Virginians, took part in mob violence that led to five deaths and the trashing of what some legislators called “the Temple of our Democracy”: the U.S. Capitol. Some rioters could now face federal charges up to and including sedition — and homicide in the death of a Capitol police officer.

Basing one’s judgment on identifiable evidence — proven facts — means rejecting one thing and accepting another. Votes for Biden and Trump were counted and recounted. Trump kept coming up short, again and again and again.

Logical conclusion: Biden is president; Trump goes home.

John Patrick Grace is a former Associated Press reporter, editor and foreign correspondent. He lives in eastern Cabell County.

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