One reason we have Trump is that we toss citizens onto the battlefield of democracy without giving them the weapons they need to defend themselves. We call it freedom, but it’s the freedom to choose among different ways of losing.
For example, a citizen should know how to have a useful debate. But few people ever learn the basic skills — as we see endlessly demonstrated on social media.
A useful debate is a joint attempt to prove or disprove a statement based on valid evidence and logic. It’s impossible to lose a useful debate. If I have to yield to the other person’s point, it means I’ve learned something. That’s a win. Losing is stubbornly sticking with being wrong.
But we seldom have useful debates. What we get instead is a series of infinitely branching assertions or insults, leading nowhere except to exhaustion and settled entrenchment in existing opinions. Neither side seems to realize they’re just doing it wrong.
And both sides lose.
There are winners, though: unscrupulous leaders who profit when citizens lose track of the thread. Nothing better for a demagogue than to distract and divide the citizenry with squabbling over anything and everything except what actually matters.
See my guide to the Hallmarks of a Bad Argument.