|Two events will become the focus of our—and probably the world’s—attention early this year: Trump’s impeachment trial and the Democratic primary campaign. Expect to be overwhelmed with a cacophony of opinion, predictions, and rhetoric. How do busy people sort through the noise to determine what actually is going on and what it means for them?
The best strategy is to establish an objective set of baseline criteria—or indicators—for evaluating the dynamics and use them to track the discussion. By creating a pre-determined yardstick, you will be able to better understand—and better defend—the position you think makes the most sense. It also provides a valuable middle ground to stimulate constructive dialogue with those who come to different conclusions. And it makes it a lot easier to process what you read on the internet or see in the media because you will know what information matters the most to you.
In this article, we explore how to apply this process to the impeachment trial. In the next Analytic Insider we will explore how to use it—and the Decision Matrix—to decide which Democratic Party candidate for president best reflects your preferences no matter which party you might favor.
For tracking the impeachment trial, the first step is to establish a set of criteria for judging the President’s guilt or innocence. The criteria could include key factors such as:
- Is there sufficient information to conclude that the President has committed a high crime or misdemeanor?
- Does the President’s refusal to respond to Congressional requests for evidence and witnesses constitute an unconstitutional act?
- Was a fair process established in the House and will a fair process be established in the Senate to allow Congress to make these judgments?
The second step is to identify a range of plausible responses relating to each criterion. For example, let’s begin with the second point. You can create your own list for the first and last criteria:
- The President is violating the constitution by ignoring legitimate Congressional requests for information needed to perform its oversight function and enforce the principle of checks and balances laid out in the Constitution.
- The President should comply with Congressional oversight requests unless the principle of Executive Privilege is violated. If a conflict arises over what is protected by Executive Privilege, the Courts should decide what information or conversations qualify for protection.
- The Executive is supreme and the President is not required to respond to any Congressional oversight requests. Moreover, the Courts should not become involved in any disputes between the Executive and Legislative branches.
The third step is to evaluate the quality of the data that you will use to determine which is the correct response. Does the information you are relying on to select or defend your position satisfy these three requirements? Is it:
- Valid. Is the information I am receiving valid? Can the sources be trusted OR could I be a victim of intentional or unintentional digital disinformation?
- Reliable. Would everyone rate this information the same way OR would people perceive it differently depending on their political affiliation?
- Stable. Am I relying on a stable flow of information from a set of pre-selected sources or streams of information OR do I keep changing the mix of whom I listen to or whom I read?
Once you know the information you are relying on meets these tests, ask yourself if it supports or is inconsistent with each response. The response that is best supported by valid, reliable, and stable data is most likely to be true.
Over the years, Globalytica has established a set of standards for determining what constitutes a good indicator for constructing an objective yardstick. A good indicator should satisfy five criteria: it should be observable/collectible, valid, reliable, stable, and unique. When viewing the upcoming impeachment trial, we see the first and last criteria as less relevant. The observable/collectible requirement will be more than fulfilled by the news media and social media in our 24/7/365 world. The unique criterion is relevant when trying to decide which mutually exclusive scenario or hypothesis is the most likely. In this case, it is more a question of whether a threshold has been crossed, not which independent hypothesis is most likely to be true.