© Josh Sager – June 2012
When looking at modern American politics, it has become apparent that a faith/fact schism has opened between the two dominant political parties. One party has remained within the factual realm—the traditional home of secular public policy—while the other has shifted to existing within a purely faith-based ideology. I refer to this divide between the parties in terms of factual policies and faith-based policies the “faith gap.”
Notice the trend, where Republican politicians/ideologues are much more likely to promote non-factual ideals than Democratic politicians/ideologues.
While there are legitimate arguments over whether they are making correct choices in terms of politics/policy, the Democratic Party’s policy platform is primarily based in facts. When looking at the party as a whole, the Democrats don’t reject science, don’t promote laws based upon religious dogma, and don’t base their economic policy upon a discredited economic school and a study that turned out to be false due to an error with a decimal point. In many arguments, the Democrats may be horribly incorrect in their interpretations of the facts in regard to their policy suggestions or simply misguided, but they rarely rely on faith for their policy ideas to function.
Unlike the Democrats, the modern Republican Party has transitioned to an ideology based primarily on a series of accepted ideals that have no real basis in reality. For example, they fervently believe that global warming is a hoax, the economy is suffering because of the national debt, that industrial self-regulation is the most effective regulatory regime, and that taxes are not only far too high, but being increased by the Obama Administration (despite the fact that they are now at a record low for the modern era). There is simply no evidence supporting any of these assertions—or many of the other guiding principles of the GOP—yet most in the Republican Party are willing to take it on faith that these assertions are fact.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, two of the definitions of faith are:
(1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof
(2): something that is believed with strong conviction
When synthesized, these definitions of faith combine to become: “A strongly held conviction in the validity of a belief that has no proof.”
In my opinion, this definition perfectly describes the current GOP’s mindset surrounding the factually inconsistent basis for many of their policies. They have a great many ideas that they hold dear and promote, yet have no real evidence that would support the validity of their claims—in short, they are taking it on faith that their policies would work rather than looking at theoretical evidence and history to devise policies that have a proven factual basis.
The Republican Party economic ideology is based around the ideas that the free market can take care of society’s needs, corporations will voluntarily self-regulate, government debt cripples economic growth, and that taxes are oppressive and need to be lowered in order for the private sector to grow.
Put plainly, all of these beliefs are not supported by the factual evidence and are the economic equivalent to faith healing. The free market regularly fails to help those without resources survive and charity just doesn’t pick up the slack (Case in Point: elderly poverty in the pre-entitlement era USA). Corporations cannot self-regulate as they will always have an economic interest in cutting corners and not holding themselves to industry safety/environmental standards (Case in Point: The TX fertilizer plant explosion, where a company that was allowed to self-regulate decided to illegally store 300 tons of high explosives). Governments that spend their way out of economic crises recover faster, while those that worry about the debt while facing a supply-side economic crises fall into depression from lack of public buying power (Case in Point: after the 2008 economic crises, countries which engaged in stimulus recovered while those that engaged in austerity were hit by a double-dip recession). Taxes are not oppressive to growth—particularly when we are talking about increasing them from their lowest point in a century—as demonstrated by the fact that our country’s greatest growth years were during a time when the top marginal tax rates were between 70% and 90%.
Due to the lack of evidence supporting these policy choices, they are purely faith-based, rather than fact-based. It isn’t necessarily that these views are wrong, but that those who promote such policies have no objective evidence to support their claims and are proposing a political leap of faith.
Despite its complete lack of a factual basis, the Republican Party members fervently and completely believe in their party’s economic line and have pushed it relentlessly. They have absolute faith that, despite the evidence to the contrary, their ideology is correct. The current GOP moves in a remarkable lockstep with the conservative ideology and a vast majority of GOP elected officials conform to the party line.
Keep in mind, the simple fact that the current Republicans have divorced themselves from reality in no way means that the Democrats are correct—this is a logical fallacy. The Democrats keep most of their policy based in reality rather than a fictional and constructed world, but they regularly fail to interpret the facts correctly, often fall prey to corrupting influences from moneyed interests, and commonly fail to see the best way to address a problem.
A good example of this is found in the Keystone XL pipeline debate: Unlike Republicans, who completely reject the idea of global climate change, most Democrats who support the pipeline concede that global warming is real yet argue that the jobs and economic growth from the pipeline are more important than the consequences of global climate change. I think that they are wrong to make this assessment, but they are simply making a mistake in interpreting the facts and not outright rejecting reality.
What our country needs is a return to the days when both parties accepted the facts and debated their interpretations and possible solutions to our problems. If we can achieve this course-correction, we can return to a political environment where there is a debate over solutions, rather than a situation where debate is impossible because the two dominant parties aren’t even living in the same reality. Most issues have left and right wing solutions that are perfectly valid topics for debate, but these solutions must be based in reality rather than factually unsupported faith-based assertions.
Letting the GOP get away with living in fantasy-land and proposing factually-unsupported policy ideas is extremely dangerous, as it risks implementing policies that are not based in any realistic basis and allows the Democrats to suggest policies that are factual, but wrong—those who know the facts are unable to support Republicans so they are forced to accept the Democratic policy, even if they know that the Democratic policy is not the best way to achieve good results. Restoring the GOP to a factual policy agenda would remedy this by giving the people two real choices, rather than one between delusion and tepid mediocrity.