But whether you’re looking ahead to the next four years with unbounded enthusiasm or overwhelming dread, there’s one thing we all should be able to agree on now that the presidential race is over. And that’s the need to reaffirm our commitment to intelligent, respectful, and substantive debate. And moreover, to debate grounded in logic, reason, and verifiable fact. Because in a mature democracy, there should be no room or tolerance for hateful rhetoric, rumors, conspiracy theories, and “fake news.” Yet sadly, each of these featured prominently this past election cycle.
Now of course, some will claim that we live in a “Post-Truth” world and that “facts are dead.” But I disagree. Americans, by and large, still value facts and credibility. This is evident in the public’s continued trust and admiration for knowledge-driven professions, such as medical doctors and scientists. As I see it, talk about a “post-truth” society simply means that we, as free citizens in a democracy, need to work harder to keep tabs on our elected officials. Because there’s danger lurking behind the idea that politics is mainly about an appeal to human emotion. When we give in to this way of thinking and embrace heated emotion over cool-headed rationalism, we run the risk of inadvertently creating a safe space for politicians who want to operate outside the bounds of reality. Moreover, we become enablers to those who would willfully and unabashedly exaggerate, cheat, smear, lie, and break promises in order to attain – and retain – power.
None of this is bodes well for either our democracy or our continued existence on this planet (see climate change and unfounded skepticism thereof). Our elected leaders must be held fully accountable for their words and actions. No one, no matter how much power or influence they wield, should ever be regarded as being above the truth.
That’s why, in light of the 2016 presidential election, I’ve decided to refocus things a bit here at GeekPsychologist and dedicate more of my time and attention to writing about U.S. politics and current events, though still from a mainly data-driven perspective of course.
And as my first project under this new mission, I’m undertaking an effort to collect and curate various metrics and data related to Donald Trump. I call it the “Trump Tracker,” and it will feature any sort of data that’s publicly available and relatively easy for me to get my hands on and organize for readers – from favorability ratings and job approval numbers (once they become available) to media-sponsored fact-checks and recent tweets from the President-elect himself.
Importantly, my goal is not to try to undermine the President or fuel animosity towards him. Quite the contrary. Although I strongly disagree with many of Mr. Trump’s policies, I wish him well and certainly hope he rises to the occasion and performs well in leading our country. Rather, my goal is to do my part – however small – to promote a more informed citizenry and ensure that in the 2020 election – and in all future elections, as well – more Americans base their votes on cold, hard facts and numbers, rather than on heated emotion, subjective impressions, and (God help us) catchy memes. Certainly, this is something we all need to be reminded of from time to time.
So, follow along. And together we can get started doing the necessary work to keep logic, reason, and evidence a part of our political discourse and democracy.
Brian Kurilla is a psychological scientist with a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology. You can follow Brian on Twitter @briankurilla