Christopher Robichaud at the Niskanen Centre:
Facts these days are taking a beating in politics. A month or so back, Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes shared on “The Diane Rehm Show” that “[t]here’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts.” She was pilloried in the press over this, not unsurprisingly, though her words, taken at face value, do at least convey a sense of loss over our purported predicament—it’s unfortunate that there aren’t any facts anymore. Unfortunate or not, is she right that truth has left the building?
Well, no, of course not. We still have death and taxes, if nothing else, two stubborn, non-negotiable facts of modern life. And even if Republicans somehow manage to do away entirely with the latter in the first hundred days of Trump’s presidency, I’m pretty sure we’ll be stuck with our own mortality for at least a little while longer.
The really real world, in other words, didn’t suddenly slip away during the 2016 election cycle, impressions to the contrary notwithstanding. Be that as it may, it’s hard to deny that something funny is going on.
“Post-truth” was recently named the international word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary. PolitiFact’s 2016 Lie of the Year is fake news—as in all of it. A few days before the election, the Toronto Star listed in excruciating detail 560 falsehoods that then-candidate Donald Trump had uttered during the election cycle, a project of mendacity so immense in scope and ambition that the Los Angeles Times, two months earlier, argued that it was unprecedented in modern presidential politics. When election day came around this November, the general consensus among pundits was that the American people would surely reject such an unapologetic liar.
And then Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth President of the United States.