Truth Matters: We Can’t Keep Playing Loose With Facts

In this new Trump world, facts can be based in fiction and lies can be disguised as truths.

Why Facts Matter

Fact – (noun) something that actually exists; reality; truth.

Facts are supposed to be non-negotiable, unassailable, and incontestable at their core. Facts don’t just matter, facts are everything. If you can’t tell, I have a special affinity for the facts. Facts are the building blocks that form reality, the foundation of assumptions, and the justification for actions. Facts are how we structure our debates. Facts are how we design our policies. Facts are how we measure the moral costs of doing business. Facts are how we decide things as serious as when to go to war. Facts aren’t supposed to be a partisan weapon, a tool for misinformation, or a means for dividing our country. Facts are supposed to be just that, facts. Not anymore.

In this new Trump world, facts can be based in fiction and lies can be disguised as truths. This is a dangerous new world. One that shouldn’t just concern the Starbucks-drinking “liberal elites” who President-elect Trump wanted approval from for the last forty years, but should also concern his middle-America supporters―who he’s about to bankrupt (literally and figuratively) like all those casinos democrats tried to warn you about. Without facts how would you know that unemployment has gone up under Republican presidencies, while going down under the last two democratic administrations. Check the facts.

You can try to explain, interpret, and analyze what the facts show, but those are not facts, those are opinions, and we should stop allowing them to be confused.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, President Clinton (D) took unemployment from 7.5% when he was sworn in, to 4.0% when he handed over power to George W. Bush (R). George W. Bush took unemployment from 4.0% when has sworn in, to 9.3% when he handed over power to Barack Obama (D). Barack Obama took unemployment from 9.3% when he was sworn in, to most likely somewhere around 4.9% when he hands over power to Donald Trump (R). See the trend yet?

You can try to explain, interpret, and analyze what the facts show, but those are not facts, those are opinions, and we should stop allowing them to be confused. An opinion is formed from the comprehension of the facts that are supposed to be societal norms, like the earth is round, gravity is real, and O.J. totally did it.

The facts show that no matter what your opinion of Obamacare is, close to 13 million more people have health insurance now than before its implementation. The facts show that the uninsured rate among the elderly went from 16.3% in 1995 to 10.5% in 2015. How to best fix Obamacare is an opinion, whether we should repeal and replace it is an opinion, would we be better off with the public option is an opinion, they’re all opinions.

What is not an opinion is that lives have been saved by the implementation of Obamacare. That is a fact. We can talk all day about the problems with our healthcare system. I’ll listen to every argument and policy suggestion on how we can make it run more efficiently and affordably, but in order to have healthy discussions, we can’t keep playing loose with the facts.

If you don’t believe that the facts are being manipulated, ask the next person you talk to whether they believe that crime is getting better or getting worse. Turn on the television, open a newspaper, google crime, and tell me what you see. Now click this link from the Pew Research Center and get ready to be stunned. Don’t worry, if you’re too lazy they even summed it up for you in three sentences:

Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades.

You may be more aware of this if Republican Congressman Jay Dickey hadn’t pushed through an amendment commonly referred to as the “Dickey Amendment” to stop federal funding for gun research in 1996; you know, facts. This is why facts matter. The only agenda that facts have is the truth. Instead of trying to find “facts” to bolster our arguments, we should all start finding arguments that reflect the facts.

The age old saying is true, “you can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts.” You can’t. Undermining facts is the quickest way to destroy faith in every institution. We as a nation need to be able to engage in a battle of ideas more than ever. We need an informed electorate, one who consumes information with vigor not apprehension, more than ever. We’ll never have that as long as we continue to confuse propaganda for facts.

Propaganda is intentionally misleading information used to promote a political point of view. To most of us it sounds like a five-minute scroll down your timeline. We read it on Facebook, re-tweet it on Twitter, and absorb it through our news every day. It’s everywhere and we cannot turn a blind eye to it. We must be intentional in our quest for knowledge and not be lazy in the mediums that we rely on. We must ensure that we immerse ourselves in these little things called facts.

We must demand that journalists ask the tough questions and expect our leaders to answer them. We must reward speaking uncomfortable truths and punish blatant pandering. We must require that in order to gain admission to the party you agree to baptize yourself in facts. Facts matter. Our republic can only continue to thrive if we acknowledge basic facts―common truths. Not because they may help us or hurt us, but because they are the reality that lies before us. A reality that doesn’t bend to our political impulses. A reality that cares nothing about which party controls which chamber or which candidate won the popular vote.

The facts are the facts are the facts are the facts, regardless of race, religion, or creed. They’re our guiding light, our northern star, our headlights cutting through the thick morning fog. In the age of a Trump presidency and his manic use of the bully pulpit, the facts are our lifeboat and they matter more than ever.