Final Essay Assignment

In the aftermath of the US presidential election, Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that his defeat was the result of widespread voter fraud by the Democratic Party.  He has offered no evidence to back up his claims.  In fact, Federal courts are routinely dismissing the White House’s legal suits. And, the attorneys general of swing states, like Georgia, have defended the integrity of their respective elections.

Here, we would seem to have a case in which truth clearly lies on the side of those who defend the fairness of the elections.  Nevertheless, in a poll conducted by Politico/Morning Consult between November 6-9, 70 percent of Republican respondents said that the outcome “wasn’t free and fair; 78 percent believed that mail-in voting led to widespread voter fraud and 72 percent believed that ballots were tampered with—both claims that have made a constant appearance on the president’s Twitter thread.  Like Donald Trump, a majority of people that thought the election was unfair, 84 percent, said it benefitted Biden.”

Michaelangelo’s “Conversion of St. Paul.” A classic explanation of significant political change.

These are disturbing findings.  Democracy cannot survive unless voters have trust in their electoral system.  However, if voters refuse to accept the facts for what they are—i.e., truth—how can we maintain hope that democracy will survive?

Throughout our course, we have examined contrasting explanations for why people refuse to accept the truth—even when it stares them in their eyes.  In the process, we have broached another issue for which there are contrasting explanations: political change.  People who refuse to accept the truth at one point in their lives are not fated to live in a state of “nonage” forever.  Either gradually or suddenly, many awaken from their state of denial and affirm what is true. In troubled times, this fact gives us hope that all is not lost!

Implicitly or explicitly, Vaclav Havel, the founders of Wikipedia, and Emily Scott provide us with contrasting explanations for why people go from denying the truth to accepting it.  What are their respective explanations for this change in thinking? Of the three, which argument offers the most realistic grounds for hope that many of the Republicans who currently deny the fairness of the election will accept the truth of Trump’s defeat?


Please write a coherent essay in which you respond to each of these interrelated questions.  Your response should be no more than five (5) double-spaced pages.

Note:  An explanation is not the same thing as a recommendation or a proposed solution.  For our purposes, an explanation is an argument about what causes changes in political views.  Havel, Wikipedia’s founders, and Scott all make assumptions that amount to offering explanations of change; however, they are not necessarily advocating particular remedies. Still, one can—and arguably should—take explanations into account in advocating any kind of political change.

As always, I have designed this question to be an educational exercise.  My aim is to have you “learn by doing.” For this reason, I recommend that you begin your essay immediately. In particular, you will need to take the time to examine the readings closely to identify their differences.

Also, as always, I will evaluate your essay according to four criteria: 1) Your understanding of the arguments and counterarguments in support of one position over the other two; 2) The clarity and consistency of your response; 3) Your explicit use of readings to back up your points concretely; and 4) Your demonstrated ability to think for yourself.

Please be sure to reread my Google document “Tips for Great Writing.”  I expect you to adhere to my rules.  In particular, “On the other hand,” does not mean “In contrast”!  Also, reread my comments on your previous essays.  To quote one of the founders of modern sociology:  you have nothing to lose—and a world to gain!

Remember:  My expectations are not unreasonable.  I merely expect you to write the best essay you have ever written.

Your assignment is due by Noon, next Thursday, November 19.  Of course, please feel free to turn in your essay earlier.  If you would like detailed comments on your paper, please let me know and I will send them to you the following week.

Please title your Word document (no PDF or other frustrating format!) in the following fashion:  yourname.finalessay.truthandpolitics2020   No exceptions!

Good luck, be safe, and keep in touch!