I grew up with Northeastern liberals, went to high school with Northeastern liberals, attended college with Northeastern liberals, and so most people that I knew in my teens and 20s maintained two firm convictions: Bill Clinton was just a consensual philanderer railroaded by awful puritanical Republicans, and Hill was obviously telling the truth and Thomas was obviously a pornography-obsessed sexual harasser.

At the same time from late adolescence onward I identified as a conservative, wrote as a conservative in college and hung out with conservatives in Washington, which meant that I was frequently in worlds where Clinton was regarded as a predator and likely rapist who deserved to be impeached and where Thomas’s innocence and Hill’s duplicity were articles of faith.

And I’m here to tell you, as difficult as it may be to believe in this partisan moment, that most of the people who held these diametrically opposed perspectives were intelligent, thoughtful and above all well-informed. Indeed it was precisely because they were well-informed that they were able to hold their opposing certainties so firmly: They had access to a wealth of detail, a rich trove of information, plus in some cases (once I reached Washington, especially) personal knowledge, that could be sifted through at a moment’s notice to pull up a plausible rebuttal to any argument that threatened their certainty.