A columnist's responsibility: In an age of political propaganda, readers deserve independent judgment

But let’s get a few things straight. Winning an election doesn’t win an argument. Team Trump is not Team America. Modesty always becomes a political victor, especially one who lost the popular vote by a historic margin. And the question most appropriate for Mr. Trump and his supporters isn’t what his defeated critics owe him. It’s what he owes them as their highest political servant.

Something else: What a columnist owes his readers isn’t a bid for their constant agreement. It’s independent judgment. Opinion journalism is still journalism, not agitprop. The elision of that distinction and the rise of malevolent propaganda outfits such as Breitbart News is one of the most baleful trends of modern life. Serious columnists must resist it.

Independent judgment should also mean an occasional countervailing view, especially when it runs against the grain of readers’ thinking. “It is the true believer’s ability to ‘shut his eyes and stop his ears’ to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard,” wrote Eric Hoffer in 1951, “which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy.”

Many things explain Mr. Trump’s unexpected victory, but not the least of them was the ability of his core supporters to shut out the inconvenient Trump facts: the precarious foundations of his wealth, the plasticity of his convictions, the astonishing frequency of his lying.