Liberals have often complained about “anti-intellectualism” a trend that shuns intelligence as elitism. In 2008, Barack Obama was incorrectly seen as aloof; a graduate from Harvard who couldn’t relate to the common man. Though incorrect, the trend of anti-intellectualism has disintegrated into something even worse: anti-fact. The complete dismissal of facts and evidence might be the biggest problem with politics and policy. Not only do we disagree on solutions, we disagree on what the facts are.
If you go to a Facebook comment section, you’ll see misinformation on full display. On one post, a bunch of gun advocates were seething at the thought of repealing the 2nd Amendment—never mind that no politician from any party has even alluded to repealing the right to bear arms. But when you point out that fact, and that gun control is not in contradiction with the Second Amendment—they continue on an angry rage about protecting themselves from non-existent government tyranny.
On a larger scale, we can look to our drug policies. Up until a couple years ago, I held more traditionally conservative views on drug policy because I allowed misguided emotion cloud my judgment on what is effective and what isn’t. I was wrong. Locking people up for an addiction stemming from biological and sociological problems is not only immoral, but it just doesn’t work . The War on Drugs was a blatant failure, built upon racial prejudice and holding people down instead of helping them back up. Yet, some local candidates run on continuing the War on Drugs, and emotionally-charged voters buy into reviving failed strategies. Since then, “tough on crime” policies like mandatory minimums and increased sentencing on possession have proven to be ineffective at preventing crime and are damaging to individuals and families. Likewise, the FDA’s recent decision to keep marijuana a schedule one drug—on the same level as heroin—shows that our policies are not in line with facts. Though we are experiencing progress on this front with drug courts, which rely more on rehabilitation rather than punishment, we have a long way to go. Any policy that treats heroin and marijuana as equals should be reformed.
Another part of respecting facts is admitting that we don’t know everything. Instead of arguing the first emotion that comes to mind, we should all become more comfortable with saying “I don’t know,” and “I would have to do more research.” And, finally, we need to be open to changing our minds, examining the consistency of our positions, and rethinking our own values.