Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a 2016 campaign rally at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Futile Dialogue: What Would Socrates Do?

I am committed to remaining optimistic (at least somewhat), to looking for the best in people.

Camillo Mac Bica

Despite years of Donald Trump's un-presidential, perhaps even criminal behavior, many, if not most of his supporters remain unable and/or unwilling to recognize and condemn his flawed character and incompetence while continuing to maintain their "justifiable outrage" at being deemed "deplorables" by Hillary Clinton. Yet, though I have to admit moments of profound frustration and disillusionment, I am committed to remaining optimistic (at least somewhat), to looking for the best in people, and embracing the Socratic thesis that no human being does wrong intentionally but rather, as a consequence of ignorance or misinformation. 

As a philosopher in the Socratic tradition and educator, I recognize and accept my responsibility to engage in discussion with people of diverse social and political positions, the purpose of which is not to win arguments or to persuade others of my point of view, but rather, through give and take—dialectic—to seek truth from which we all can benefit. Such a process, to be successful, requires that interlocutors have an open mind, that they be free (as much as humanly possible) of bias and prejudice, that they be willing to LISTEN, to use and to follow reason, and, most importantly, to go wherever the argument leads.

Sadly, in political discussions with ardent Trump supporters, I have, in the vast majority of cases, found them unwilling and/or incapable, for whatever the reason, of engaging honestly and sincerely in such a process. When presented with information substantiating Donald Trump's incompetent, vile, and erratic behavior, a common reaction has been to dismiss such occurrences as "fake news." Even when confronted with Trump's own words and video of his actions ("pussy" talk, demeaning the disabledengaging prostitutes, making unsubstantiated accusations against victims of police brutality, etc.), they ignore it completely, characterize it as "a regurgitation of ad hominem attacks," something of which I have been personally accused, and/or excuse it by claiming that no one is perfect. Trump himself has arrogantly boasted about his Svengali influence over, and hence the "loyalty" of his supporters, when he noted that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose voters.

These "supporters," while claiming to be patriots and good Christians, are so stubbornly committed to Trump, that they are quick to demean any government/military official or religious leader, even former Trump officials and the Pope, who felt morally and patriotically compelled to speak truth to power. Even what has traditionally been regarded as the most sacrosanct of government agencies such as the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies, in doing their job, have been discredited as agents of the deep state engaged in some conspiracy to "dethrone" him from power. 

I am confident that these observations regarding Trump supporters are not, as some have accused me, the consequence of political bias or an academic elitism. Nor am I trying to convince those who may have a different political/moral opinion that mine is the only correct way of thinking. Rather, my argument expresses my disappointment and dismay that otherwise seemingly intelligent and sincere individuals have, at least in the vast majority of cases, for reasons I have yet to understand, been so mesmerized by Trump and rendered incapable of critical thought, that they continue to enthusiastically support him even as he continues to make scientifically unsubstantiated claims about the deadly pandemic or boasts about shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue.

While I will not allow our differences and my frustration to morph into disgust even hatred, sadly, my philosophical patience has been depleted, and I will no longer engage such individuals as continued dialogue is futile. As a consequence of this experience, however, I am inclined, sadly, to question the validity of Socrates' intuition about humankind, possibly even my decision to dismiss Clinton's characterization of Trump's supporters.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Camillo Mac Bica

Camillo Mac Bica

Camillo “Mac” Bica, Ph.D., is an author, activist, and Professor of Philosophy at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His focus is in Social and Political Philosophy and Ethics particularly as it applies to war. Mac is former Marine Corps Officer, Vietnam Veteran, long time activist for peace and social justice and coordinator of Veterans For Peace Long Island. He can be contacted through his website at

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

400+ Economists Press Congress to Permanently Expand Child Tax Credit

Such an expansion would "dramatically reduce childhood poverty in the United States," they said.

Andrea Germanos ·

Biden Admin. Sued for Letting Big Oil Harass 'Imperiled' Polar Bears

"We're hopeful the court will overturn this dangerous rule that puts polar bears in the crosshairs."

Jessica Corbett ·

Indian Civil Society Groups to Biden: Force J&J to Share Vaccine Recipe With the World

"His administration has the moral, legal, and if necessary, financial power to lift intellectual property barriers and persuade J&J to license its vaccine."

Jake Johnson ·

Dems Call Fossil Fuel CEOs, Lobbyists to Testify About Climate Disinformation

"Oil and gas executives have lied to the American people for decades about their industry's role in causing climate change. It's time they were held accountable."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Grim and Alarming' UN Report Details 'Catastrophic' Global Failure on Climate

"We are not going in the right direction," warns the head of the World Meteorological Organization.

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo