Once upon a time, my political debates with my conservative counterparts focused more on ideological differences on issues like abortion, tax policy, the death penalty, or issues related to the use of our military. These were normal political debates between people who simply disagreed on some key philosophical differences on several issues.
Those days are long gone.
Now when I try to engage with most of my Republican friends and family, they don’t even seem to exist within the same version of reality as I do. I spend more time trying to convince them that facts are, you know, facts while they inundate me with a long list of talking points that aren’t remotely true.
If you talk to conservatives, they honestly believe that most illegal immigrants are criminals pouring into the U.S. at a record rate, and that members of ISIS have entered the country by walking across our southern border. They believe this because that’s what they want to believe, but it’s also what members of their party tell them is true.
Except, none of that is true.
Here are a few facts about illegal immigration and ISIS:
- Net illegal immigration has been basically zero since 2009.
- President Obama deported more illegal immigrants than any other president in history.
- Only about 7 percent of illegal immigrants are considered to be “criminals” (though that doesn’t mean violent) — and they’re less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens.
- They don’t qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and most other public benefits.
- There’s absolutely zero evidence that ISIS (or any other terrorists) have come across the U.S. border.
Those are facts that most Republicans flat-out refuse to believe.
Then there’s the economy. These folks truly and honestly believe Donald Trump when he says our economy is a “disaster.” Many Republicans I know actually think the economy got worse during President Obama’s eight years in office.
Again, here are a few facts about Obama’s economy:
- In January 2009 we lost 598,000 jobs — in January 2017 we gained 227,000.
- In November 2009 unemployment hit a high of 10% — when Obama left office the unemployment rate was 4.7%.
- On January 20, 2009 the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 7,949 — on Obama’s last day in office it closed at 19,804.
- We created private sector jobs for 75-straight months (and counting, by the way).
- Overall we added 11.3 million jobs during his eight years — though he created over 15 million jobs (the 11.3 million includes the job losses that were already taking place when he entered office).
- 2014 marked the best year for job growth since 1999.
- He reduced deficits by $1 trillion while in office.
Was everything perfect? No, of course not. When you inherit the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, then spend 6 of your 8 years in office dealing with Republicans doing everything they can to sabotage you, it’s a little more difficult to fix things as well as he might have liked. But to claim he was an economic failure, things are worse now than before he took office, or the country is a “disaster” right now is absolutely not true.
Yet if you ask most Republicans, that’s exactly what they believe.
Donald Trump recently said violent crime is at all-time highs even though it’s actually much lower now than it was 25 years ago. But that doesn’t stop conservatives from believing that criminals and violent crime is running rampant in the country. Because, you know — Chicago. But that’s what Republicans do. They make false, fear-mongering generalized statements, then cherry pick outliers as “proof,” which is not-at-all how determining factual statistical evidence works.
They think there’s almost no vetting process for refugees when, in fact, our screening process is extensive and lengthy. On average it takes a refugee between 18-24 months to come to the United States. Yet nearly every Republican I talk to acts as if we snatch them up off a boat somewhere, put them on a plane, then send them over here within a matter of a few days. Again, even though that’s not remotely true.
Conservatives think any mention of universal health care is awful, would lead to long waits, and cause people to die who didn’t need to. Of course, that’s not what facts tell us. Most of the modern world has some form of universal health care, the programs are incredibly popular, and most of the citizens from these nations live longer than Americans. Logic would dictate that if socialized health care were worse, and caused people to die, then countries that had it would have shorter life expectancies — not longer.
Many Republicans don’t believe there’s a scientific consensus on climate change when there most certainly is. Around 97% of scientists agree climate change is being caused by humans. Hell, even China and Pope Francis have come out, making bold claims about the need to combat human-made climate change. When China and the Catholic Church believe in science more than the GOP, that’s saying something about how absurd it is for Republicans to continue denying the realities of climate change.
Every November conservatives from all across the country gear up to fight the imaginary “war on Christmas.” Despite the fact that I now see stores putting Christmas decorations out for sale in July, apparently there’s still some massive “war on Christmas” that’s usually centered around Starbucks coffee cups… or something.
When they think of Planned Parenthood they envision a clinic that does almost nothing but perform abortion after abortion. To most conservatives, Planned Parenthood is nothing but an “abortion clinic.” Once again, reality tells us that 97 percent of what Planned Parenthood does has nothing to do with abortions. In fact, they probably prevent more abortions than they perform considering they’re a go-to resource many individuals (especially lower income) use for birth control.
However, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of what Planned Parenthood does centers around providing vital health services for people — especially women — the vast majority of conservatives I know believe it’s nothing but “an abortion clinic.”
Here’s a “fun fact”: Because of the Hyde Amendment it’s illegal for any federal funds Planned Parenthood receives to be used to perform abortions. So rest assured, your tax dollars aren’t funding abortions.
Then there’s the issue of transgender rights. Despite the ridiculous propaganda from the right, no, transgender people aren’t out-of-control sexual predators. That’s another one of those fear-mongering “alternative facts” conservatives want to believe even though reality disagrees with them.
Yes, while Democrats were the party of the KKK and segregation decades ago, the party ideologies switch during the 50’s and the 60’s, when the GOP enacted what’s known as the Southern strategy, a deliberate pandering to white racism. Why else would staunch racists and segregationists like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond leave the Democratic Party to become Republicans around this time if the GOP wasn’t embracing racism? Why would David Duke, the KKK, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis be praising and supporting Donald Trump and the Republican Party?
Again, reality and common sense contradict what conservatives want to believe is real.
To this day a good chunk of Republicans still believe Barack Obama is a Muslim who faked his birth certificate. Never mind believing that is absurd and not based on a shred of credible evidence, like everything else on this list, it’s what they want to believe — so they do.
Clearly there are more, but I think I’ve made my point.
We’re no longer dealing with a situation where Republicans simply differ ideologically from Democrats when it comes to dealing with key issues. Now we’re faced with a scenario where the majority of conservatives believe in a “reality” that’s simply not real — which is why con artists like Donald Trump can thrive among Republicans. He doesn’t need to prove any of the lies he spews. All he has to do is keep pandering to this non-existent “reality” conservatives want to believe is real — even though the only place it exists is in their own minds.