I am a Democrat—I received and submitted the DNC national survey, I voted for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, I have worked for a Democratic congresswoman, I have volunteered on Democratic campaigns, and have donated (for me) considerable sums of money to democratic candidates for office. However, a demographer looking at my background—white male, conservative but not overbearing parents, conservative high school, conservative college, conservative city—would not project me to be liberal. Why, then, did I turn out this way?
A number of explanations present themselves. I have a contrarian streak, which has played a part. Some (though not all) of my friends come from Democratic families, which is important. Growing up watching the hot mess of the Bush administration, and in particular the disastrous Middle Eastern wars, was formative. But one particular trait really sticks out. Politics has long been an interest of mine, but instead of getting a law degree—the default entry point for a political career—I chose to pursue a Master in Public Administration. I chose this degree because I’m interested in identifying the policy solutions which best address the issues we face. And the truth—not the “alternative truth,” not the Fox News truth—is that the Republican party’s policy preferences are, to a frankly remarkable degree, demonstrably wrong.
One of the few things the media and the administration have agreed on since January 20 is that capital-T Truth no longer carries the heft it once did. The President of the United States, a bigoted sexual predator who is under criminal investigation for obstruction of justice, often takes to Twitter to lambast anything non-laudatory as “fake news.” White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway has defended the administration’s positions by claiming use of “alternative facts.” The media is no less culpable: false equivalency has run rampant through even the most august news sources (read: The New York Times) and it has become part and parcel of political commentary to proclaim, usually in a grave and foreboding tone, that we have entered a “post-truth” society.
That is nonsense. Truth is immune to changes in circumstances. Moreover, the peddling of the “post-truth” narrative—by the administration but also the media—is dangerous. Underneath the bluster and the incompetence and the chaos, the White House and Republican party are making policy decisions which are having real consequences for real people. We must not let the vortex of the various investigations into the administration pull us away from the actual harm that those in power are doing.
This post introduces a series in which I will examine various policy areas, the data and circumstances around them, the best policies for addressing them, and which party’s position is closer to correct. I will only use data which I can cite from a reputable source, and any conclusions I draw will be based this data. There are some issues (health care, gun control, economic stimulus, immigration, climate change, the criminal justice system) which I will certainly cover, and while there are no shortage of other topics to choose from, I am open to suggestions on other issues as well. Please leave any topics you wish covered in the comments—I will entertain all options.
Note: Due to draconian editorial constraints, the first issue in the series will not be published until August.
After working in Washington, D.C., for two years, Andrew Orlebeke (’10) is in graduate school in Seattle, Washington, studying public policy. In addition to public service, he has a passion for traveling and an abiding love of sports.