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Credit: Alice Heyeh

In September, the United States economy added approximately 134,000 jobs, dropping the unemployment rate to 3.7 percent. And, as would be expected, Donald Trump has been quick to take credit. If you were to listen only to President Trump, you would think that this positive economic trend is due primarily to his administration’s policies. This is false.

The unemployment rate didn’t start dropping on or after Jan. 20, 2017.

The unemployment rate has been steadily dropping for the past eight years. That is an indisputable fact. That, however, is something Donald Trump is unwilling to acknowledge. After all, throughout the campaign he lambasted the state of the economy under President Obama. And now that he is presiding over the strengthening economy, he is pretending that he is responsible for it. 

Now, if a Democrat took office while the economy was growing due to his or her predecessor’s policies, would he or she find a way to take some credit for it? Probably. 

Would the Democrat, faced by data from their own Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the recovery starting with their predecessor, call it fake news and brand the media “the enemy of the people” for daring to confront them with the inconvenience of facts? Of course not. 

The fact that Donald Trump does precisely this helps explain the passion of the majority of Americans who oppose him. And while Trump’s war on facts is unprecedented, it represents a trend that remains very much alive in today’s Republican Party. 

This war on facts and reality is most intensely fought on the economy and science. 

The idea that tax cuts for the wealthy will stimulate the economy by trickling down to the rest of society gained steam in the Reagan era and was made into a driving economic goal for the Republican Party. Though repeated tax cuts for the wealthy have failed to produce the results its proponents promised, the idea has refused to die. If anything, it has become orthodoxy among Republican leaders today. And perhaps most maddeningly of all, no matter how many facts you show Republican leaders about the true effects of such tax cuts, they will summarily dismiss the truth as “liberal bias.” 

On the science front, things are looking even worse. Built on decades of scientific progress and breakthroughs, there is global consensus on the presence and threat of climate change. And the prognosis looks, to put it mildly, grim. If sweeping action isn’t taken by the government — and the global community as a whole — in the near future, we will see catastrophic changes to our planet in our lifetime. 

But the Republican Party isn’t in a political battle with Democrats about how to best address this issue. They are denying climate change altogether! To some Republicans, the presence of snowfall in the winter is proof that climate change is a liberal hoax. To others, the Bible not mentioning climate change is proof that it is not real.

What is going on here? Are Republican leaders allergic to facts? Or have they simply decided to reject reality when it collides with their predetermined ideological dogma?

The war on facts as Republican doctrine is a rather new phenomenon. 

When Richard Nixon was president, smog in the cities was a major issue facing the nation. So what did he do? He acknowledged the problem and created the Environmental Protection Agency to address any and all issues facing the environment. 

In fact, up until a few decades ago, academics had a more balanced ideological split. Then came the war on facts and reality, and academics and college-educated Americans became increasingly alienated by the modern Republican Party. 

This acrimonious relationship with truth spells trouble for our future. The Founding Fathers were children of the Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, and accordingly felt that wisdom and the progress of the human race were essential to the health of the Republic.

In 2015, Sen. James Inhofe held up a snowball as proof that climate change is a hoax. // CC0

To them, people untethered to facts and knowledge were a threat to a self-governed people. The cure? Education and scientific progress. 

The Founders were highly educated men who marveled at the progress of science and the human mind in their lifetime — and its future potential. After all, Benjamin Franklin, the founder of the University of Pennsylvania, was himself an accomplished scientist and champion of higher education. 

If you put the Founding Fathers in a room and explained the breadth of scientific progress made since their time and the science behind climate change, they would undoubtedly accept it. Why won’t the Republicans? 

If the Founders could see the unhealthy degree of ignorance and hostility the modern Republican Party has shown toward scientific progress, they would be flabbergasted. The anti-intellectualism present in our current discourse represents the very same threat to self-governance that the Founders feared could end the Republic. 

When you vote this November, choose country over party. It’s what the Founders would have wanted. 

MICHAEL A. KESHMIRI is a College senior from Stockholm, Sweden studying political science. His email address is mkesh@sas.upenn.edu.

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