We’re seeing a recurring theme in the words from our Republican leaders: They can’t take in information, even when they see it first-hand – all now amplified by the indictment of Donald Trump over what may be a series of inflaming criminal charges.
Instead, with the myopia of partisanship, all incoming data needs to wash through a purifying lens first to fit into preconceived conclusions that translate into politics or policy.
That particular practice puts them at odds with Democrats, who report seeing a consistently different set of data – however wrong their interpretation or suggested fix may prove to be. But it also increasingly puts these very vocal Republicans at odds with science, medicine, legal precedent and procedure, technology, law enforcement – and the rules that normally expect to govern the procedures of Congress.
Armed with “alternative facts,” these outspoken right-wingers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) – and especially Donald Trump — selectively and variously pick out information on which to launch the next partisan diatribe towards making points against the political opposition. The 60 Minutes interview Sunday night with Greene was an example of her not understanding what pedophilia is before using it to broadly depict Democrats as supporting “children being sexualized and having transgender surgeries. Sexualizing children is what pedophiles do to children.”
Because the leaders do so, the MAGA faithful follow the same course, and within a day of right-leaning media amplification, we have yet new wrinkles in what already has become a tiresome, repetitive, and useless political divide not on what to do, but on what happened to bring us to this point.
It’s true in budget and debt negotiations, where Republicans demand negotiations when they have not yet put forth proposals, in refusal to even discuss possible gun safety changes or mental health system expansion after yet another school shooting, a crazy holdup of military personnel changes over abortion health policies for troops stationed in abortion-resistant states. It’s a weaponization of justice committee in Congress that sees perceived wrongdoing only by opponents.
It’s not that there are policy differences alone, but rather the habit of denying the effects that are clear to see in the follow-up to policy decisions.
Facts and then Different Facts
Last week, Greene led a congressional delegation to Washington jails where Jan. 6 defendants are being held to witness what she said was a two-tiered corrections system that denied basic human rights to those she called “political prisoners.” Of course, they only visited with those defendants and not the general population, so any “two-tiered” conclusion was based on insufficient information from the get-go.
But the two Democrats who attended — one a former public defender in Texas who has seen plenty of bad corrections conditions — reported the opposite, that these defendants had 24-hour health care, food, access to laptops and communications with family and air conditioning. As she noted in interviews, there is a two-tiered system at work here, but in the opposite way that Greene intended.
No problem. Greene went ahead with her assessments without regard to any incoming data.
Earlier in the week, Senator Paul was surprised to learn from a Moderna executive whom he was examining in a hearing over covid policies, that more young men had suffered symptoms of heart illness from covid itself than from vaccines. It didn’t fit with the setting of a hearing that aimed to slam Moderna for ignoring studies showing some ill side effects from vaccines.
It has followed other such selective rejection of covid policies over its perceived political impact rather than over the medical history. DeSantis, who promoted an anti-vaccine advocate as his own state’s top medical adviser, repeated this week that he would have fired Dr. Anthony Fauci, head virologist at the National Institutes of Health, for promoting shutdowns without explaining how that would help address a pandemic.
Bad fact leads to bad policy.
We see the same pattern in rejection of climate data and reports that do not comport with Republican orthodoxy or in hearing that easing regulations on bank rules contributed to recent mid-sized bank failures or in any of the conflicting numbers that we get about immigration enforcement efforts along the border.
For that matter, we shouldn’t still have to argue about whether Jan. 6 was an overgrown “tourist” problem. It wasn’t, no matter how Tucker Carlson curates his access to Capitol videotapes.
Just why rejection of incoming information is being recognized as a legitimate and praise-worthy for Republicans remains a mystery.
Why can’t we have real debates about policies affecting international relations, gas prices, economy measures, education, child tax credits and long-term federal debt obligations based on a common understanding.
The way we’re moving as a country is that each individual citizen is supposed able to decide what happened as well as why and what to do about it. That doesn’t even work inside a family household.
Donald Trump’s calls, including those inciting violent reaction, towards the whitewashing of all information that may constitute evidence considered violation of law is most offensive not for his stridency but for the apparent disregard for any information to even be considered. His delaying tactics, his urging of aides and allies to fight against calls to testify and his defensive arguments all point to a singular goal beyond his guilt or innocence. Rather, they are denials of basic facts. Or, as in an attack on the New York district attorney and grand jury filing charges against him, a denial that the circumstances giving rise to allegations ever took place.
It is factual that the country’s demography is changing, altering our notions of racial “minorities.” It is a fact that the globe is seeing the beginnings of water shortages and other ill effects of climate change. It is a fact that pandemics kill millions, whether they think horse medicines for individuals work more effectively than global vaccines.
The denial of truth is getting old and useless. So are the people who insist on it.