Politics & Policy

The Corner

When No One Knows (or Cares) About Facts

Yesterday, Ted Cruz received considerable incoming fire for noting that a number of Trump supporters had “relatively low information” and were “not that engaged.” Never mind the truth of the assertion, its very utterance was deemed insulting.

Then, last night, I saw this:

Keep in mind that throughout the night, Trump was offering answers to policy questions that veered from outright reversal (indicating he’s willing to send up to 30,000 troops to the Middle East) to sheer nonsense (he clearly has no clue about the financial realities of entitlements), to confusing word salad (even if you’re protectionist, do you really believe Trump has a grasp on international trade?).

Conservatives are fond of saying that Obama won reelection on the strength of vast numbers of low-information voters, but we’re now seeing that the GOP has its own “don’t know/don’t care” electorate. When a politician claims he’ll fix the budget by eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse,” he’s appealing to don’t know/don’t cares. When a candidate flips on major positions not just within the same election cycle but sometimes within the same day or week, he’s counting on the don’t know/don’t cares.

Look, I completely understand that it is extraordinarily difficult to keep up with the twists and turns of the economy, culture, and foreign policy. It’s even more difficult with so many competing news outlets claiming that their competitors are distorting the truth. Add in the normal cares of life and the proper prioritization of family and career over news-gathering, and it’s simply inevitable that vast numbers of Americans won’t have high awareness of public policy. It’s not a crisis, it’s a fact of life.

The problem comes, however, when — during an election cycle — voters don’t even try. They ignore their responsibilities as citizens and become content with ignorance, happy to shortcut real evaluations with a number of tried-and-true tricks. The identity of the speaker matters more than the content of the speech (we tune out the “establishment” or the “media” or “pundits”). The tone matters more than substance (I’m not sure about Trump’s math, but he sure sounds presidential). And narrative hovers over everything.

It’s hard for a democracy to thrive without good leaders, but it can’t survive without good voters. And if you watch a debate without the slightest clue (or perhaps even concern) as to who’s telling the truth, you’re simply not doing your job.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Religion

Billy Graham: Neither Prophet nor Theologian

Asked in 1972 if he believed in miracles, Billy Graham answered: Yes, Jesus performed some and there are many "miracles around us today, including television and airplanes." Graham was no theologian. Neither was he a prophet. Jesus said "a prophet hath no honor in his own country." Prophets take adversarial ... Read More
Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More