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We are facing a looming ordeal of 18 months of presidential campaigning. So it has been worth paying attention to the pundits chewing over CNN's airing of the May 10 town hall in New Hampshire with Donald Trump.

The controversy centers on whether CNN screwed up in giving Trump an exclusive live platform, with one interviewer and a partisan audience, which he promptly used to spread his usual lies.

The unlucky moderator, Kaitlan Collins, was often reduced to bickering with Trump about what was or was not true.

But as I listen to various complaints and proposals on how to change the format, I am struck by how they all are trapped in an advocacy paradigm. The commentators seem to assume a reporter's job is to confront a politician over lies and, like Perry Mason, force them to admit the truth.

Let me be clear: Political lying is harmful to democracy. It promotes bad policy, deepens polarization, and erodes the trust a functioning society needs in its leaders and institutions. On the scale practiced by Donald Trump, lying is devastating. It is important to get out the truth.

But the simplistic advocacy paradigm is one reason political discourse during the age of Trump has deteriorated into fabrications, accusations and ever more heated and polarized rhetoric.

We can move to a deeper and more meaningful political dialogue. Despite years of evidence of his deceit, Trump stunningly carried the votes of 74 million Americans in 2020 and is far and away the Republican front-runner for the GOP nomination in 2024. Maybe the time has come to listen carefully to the emotional chords he is striking.

We need to recognize that factual corrections are always going to have limited value among political partisans. Although we humans pride ourselves on our intelligence and reason, scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that fact-based rational arguments are mainly used by people to justify previously reached emotional and moral judgments, not to reach those judgments.

As social scientist Jonathan Haidt puts it, it's as if we had an "internal press secretary" whose job is to put an attractive veneer of logic and reason on our emotional conclusions.

The best roadmap I have seen for moving beyond fruitless fact-checking to a deeper understanding of political lying is the 2019 book, "Politics, Dialogue and the Evolution of Democracy," by Kenneth Cloke, who co-founded Mediators Without Borders and has engaged in dispute resolution in the Middle East, prewar Ukraine, Armenia, Ireland and other trouble spots.

Cloke starts from the observation that lying is very common in disputes. Indeed, social scientists have demonstrated that just asking people to retell a hypothetical story in the first person from the perspective of the perpetrator or the victim will cause them to distort the story in favor of their character.

How many times have you said in exasperation that a family member or co-worker "always" or "never" does something — even though no one is that consistent?

Cloke's explanation is that lying is so common because lies can convey an emotional truth that cannot be captured by the facts. He uses the example of Trump's signature lie — the claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

The objective falseness of the statement was easily proven. But the ugly emotional truth behind it was that, to some people, a Black man, wherever he was born, was an outsider not qualified to be president.

Likewise, saying that someone "always" or "never" does something, while almost certainly untrue, effectively conveys that the other person is doing something far too often or too seldom for you, and that it is upsetting enough that you must exaggerate to communicate your distress.

Cloke's recommendation is to bypass the bickering over whether a factual assertion is true and get right to the emotional message hitching a ride on the falsehood. It is that message that will reveal the real issue and what the speaker means to say about it.

To all appearances, Trump does not have sincere beliefs about political issues; he is a thoroughly cynical politician who will say whatever he thinks will enhance his political power. But he has proved masterful at energizing large numbers of people. His emotional messages should be spelled out and discussed.

I would have liked to have heard Collins stop hopelessly trying to correct Trump's facts and get to the emotional truth he is communicating: "Mr. President, without any credible evidence you keep saying the election was stolen. What is true is that many Americans, particularly older Americans in rural areas, feel that their political power has, in effect, been stolen by rapidly changing demographics, identity politics, the mainstream media that talk down to them, and the way both parties cater to powerful interests like Wall Street and Silicon Valley. What are your ideas for restoring faith in democracy?"

Another example: "Mr. President, despite the recent jury verdict against you, you continue to deny any misconduct with Jean Carroll. What is true is that the changing role of women in our society, especially the assertiveness of the Me Too movement, sometimes at the expense of due process, has been uncomfortable for many people. What are your ideas for affording women protection and full equality without infringing on the rights of men?"

There are equally powerful emotional messages behind Trump's lies about immigrants, Ukraine and everything else.

I doubt Trump would have answers to questions at this level. He would probably evade and rant. But merely asking the deeper questions would attune us all to the emotional realities that are really driving our politics.

Other institutions are evolving from debate to dialogue, so we see things like the spread of restorative justice, the congressional Problem Solvers Caucus and increasing employee involvement in management decisions. Maybe it is time for journalism to catch up.

Bruce Peterson is a senior district judge and teaches a class on lawyers as peacemakers at the University of Minnesota Law School.