There was one post yesterday, “The Facts Have A Well-Known Center-Left Bias:”
Yesterday I tweeted a response to Donald Trump’s claim that America is the highest-taxed nation in the world. Actually, he’s been busted on that claim repeatedly, which makes it even more shameful that TV interviewers just let it slide. But I’m also interested in the responses I’ve been getting, which I think tell you something about the broader situation – maybe call it the politics of epistemology.
As you might guess, I’m getting a lot of denial, with quite a few people “explaining” that the international comparisons don’t include state and local government. Um, guys, maybe you shouldn’t make confident pronouncements about stuff you’ve never looked at.
And I do wonder about right-wingers weighing in here. After all, isn’t it a (false) right-wing trope that the economic troubles of European nations are caused by their excessive welfare states? Doesn’t that suggest that they have bigger government and higher taxes than we do? Oh, never mind.
But I’m also hearing from Berniebros, insisting that anything I say must be wrong, because I criticized their hero. And this suggests to me that we may need a clarification of the doctrine that facts have a well-known liberal bias. More specifically, they seem to have a center-left bias: conservatives are big on empirical denial, but so is some of the U.S. left.
This has become especially obvious in the waning days of the Democratic primary: you can watch data journalists like the two Nates (Cohn and Silver) growing increasingly exasperated with Sanders supporters who keep insisting that Hillary is stealing the nomination with superdelegates, when it’s actually the Sanders campaign talking about getting supers to overturn the pledged delegate count and the popular vote.
Of course, campaigns can’t be held responsible for everything their supporters say, although it’s a bit worse when some of those supporters are actual campaign surrogates. Still, we can ask whether Sanders himself is inclined to dismiss inconvenient facts. Well, as you know, I think the answer is yes, on issues ranging from economic projections to the sources of Clinton primary victories.
I was therefore primed to notice when Sanders declared that Democrats need their own version of Fox News. What does he mean, exactly? Should the proposed network engage in similar factual distortions and outright falsehoods, except this time in the service of progressive goals?
By the way, it wouldn’t work. Fox caters to an audience of angry old white men; the angry young white guys who would want a left-wing version of this message are fewer in number, have less purchasing power, and anyway don’t get their news from TV. But that’s a side point.
The main point, instead, is that what we’re seeing is that the sort of people who really care about getting facts right – who see facing up to inconvenient truths as an important value – are largely on the center-left. Care with evidence appears to matter if you are, say, the 11th most liberal senator; this is in contrast not just with the right, but also with some of the left.
The good news is that this general election will be a contest between the center-left and the ignorant right, so political values and intellectual values will be in perfect accord.