Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.
You know that famous late-19th century ambiguous illustration that, depending on how you look at it, is either a duck or a rabbit? Or maybe the vase that also looks like two faces in profile looking at one another?
Hopefully you’re familiar with at least one of those images—or of the concept of ambiguous images and a “gestalt switch”—or, if not, hopefully you’ve got Internet access and a bit of time to go down a duck-rabbit hole.
We’ll stick with that first example. If you look at the image one way, it’s unmistakably a duck—beady eyes and a jutting bill. But flip an invisible switch in your brain, and it becomes a rabbit facing the opposite direction, that jutting bill is now obviously a pair of rabbit ears.
The impeachment case against Donald Trump is a bit like that illustration. For congressional Democrats, the phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, in which, as subtly as a mob enforcer come to collect, Trump asks Zelensky to investigate his political rivals, is a big, fat, quacking duck. It walks like one. It talks like one. What else could it be?
But to the Republicans, it’s clearly a sweet and innocent rabbit. The phone call was “perfect.” There have been no abuses of power, no obstruction of congress or justice or anything else.
The Democrats see a smoking gun. The Republicans see a witch hunt.
The two sides see the same image, the same set of data, but draw radically different conclusions about what they’re looking at. And they refuse to even acknowledge the possibility of the other perspective having any validity. That’s why it’s inevitable that the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is going to impeach Trump. And why it’s equally inevitable that the Republican majority in the Senate won’t convict him.
They’re already convinced there’s no duck. It’s obviously a rabbit.
This might seem like a pedestrian observation—opposing sides have different perspectives!—but I think it helps to remember that both sides are equally convinced that they understand exactly what they see.