Political debate has been reduced to a bunch of noise. Unfortunately for all of us, the discourse behind political disagreements is the lifeblood that drives it. Accordingly, when two well-meaning people have a disagreement, it is hard to settle disputes by pointing to a monolithic block of evidence that proves one side and one side alone of the debate. This, I believe, may be traced back to our obsession with ideology, a nearly tribal mentality that tells us we must take a specific side of the argument, just because most of our compatriots do. When one is blinded by their ideology, it perverts our system of facts, which we in turn use to validate our ideologies. Rather than serve the ideology, we should serve the facts.
For example, most every American believes that their fellow countrymen deserve affordable, quality healthcare. Only the most cruel, caustic on the right-fringes of politics would dare actually stand for anything different (albeit, many of these individuals hold much power in our State). Likewise, a strong majority of Americans believe that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced if it is not competently accomplishing its duties. Only the most loyal supporters of President Obama and his administration, those blinded by ideology, would continue to stand by a program that can be proved as to be a failure. When it comes to the issue of healthcare reform, the silent majority of this country steers clear of ideology, only the fringes that dominate primaries and the like would differ in opinion.
The problem with this is that there is a genuine disagreement between the left and the right on whether or not Obamacare reduces costs and increases quality. There is a disagreement on if the program is a failure or not. This is where the aforementioned “noise” and the concerns over polluted facts come into play. AM Radio and Fox News will publish piece after piece of yellow journalism, using shoddy, anecdotal evidence to allegedly prove the program is one hiccup away from falling apart. In turn, the spin doctors at Upworthy or Addicting Info will twist words and figures to allegedly refute all the claims made by the other side, often using straw man fallacies.
So what gives? Perhaps we should just cut through the fat, you might say, and get to place where just the unadulterated facts are presented to the general public. The trouble with this, of course, is that it is never so simple. Take the issue of a 20-week ban on abortion, for example, wherein proponents of such a ban argued that fetuses could feel pain at that point in the pregnancy. The scientific studies we have on this are riddled with complex jargon and often do not make such a clear-cut point as the papers may want to in order to sell. And while on this issue, the scientific community tends to be mostly skeptical of fetal pain claims before the 3rd trimester, the deeper summation of our understanding on the issue is “There’s far more we don’t know than we do know.” But that does not make for a very good headline in the National Review or Mother Jones, now does it?
I regrettably do not have a solution to this problem, but it is an important one to keep in mind. When you come to a solution about a problem, be it Healthcare reform, Abortion rights or even the local disputes being fought over at City Hall (the Uber/Lyft debate comes to mind), ask yourself if it is facts…or ideology that is driving your opinion on the subject. Make sure you are not just on the team for the sake of being on the team. We’ll try to do our part by being part of the noise with less frequency.