Partisanship makes you dumb (Vol. 1)

This is the first installment of a fun new series on the blog. The series will consist of me pointing out illustrative examples of the partisanship makes you dumb axiom.

Partisanship brings out the dumb in the best of us, so please don’t be offended by the partisanship makes you dumb series. This will be a helpful, insightful, and bipartisan exercise.

“Dumb” is a colloquial term, so allow me to explain what I mean. By “dumb,” I mean the capacity to make and celebrate gross errors in reasoning.

For example, let’s say that Professor Wayne Fontes is standing in his kitchen looking outside through a window. Professor Fontes observes that it is raining. A smart response to this observation would be to grab a jacket before leaving home. Instead, Professor Fontes, prompted by his observation, calls his mom to tell her that Aaron Rodgers has a stupid smile. Professor Fontes has made a gross error and will likely get wet.

That is a silly example, but we make gross errors in reasoning all the time in the name of partisanship. Partisanship affects our ability to reason well. I wrote about that problem here.

I think that you get the point, so let’s turn now to the first entry in the partisanship makes you dumb series.

Partisanship makes you dumb (Vol. 1)

Check out this excellent partisan tweet from Rep. Keith Ellison.


This is peak Make-Me-DNC-Chair-Because-I’m-Snarky tweet style from Ellison.

Sitting at his computer, Ellison notices an article about cancer death rates. Instead of extending praise and thanks to researchers or the American Cancer Society, Ellison’s immediate reaction is to use this article to partisan advantage by implying that the Republican push to repeal the Affordable Care Act will lead to higher cancer death rates.

So good. So dumb.

If you actually read the article or the original press release, you’ll notice that the American Cancer Society tracked cancer death rates between 1991(!) and 2014, noting a 25% decline over that time span. The very first paragraph of the article lists a couple of contributing factors.

 Cancer death rates in the United States have declined steadily over the years, thanks to improved screening guidelines and falling smoking rates, among other factors, according to a report released Thursday by the American Cancer Society.

To recap: Rep. Ellison takes an article about a 25% drop in the cancer death rate between the years 1991 and 2014 and uses it to imply that the Republican effort to repeal the ACA will somehow reverse this progress. The evidence does not support that conclusion. Partisanship makes you dumb.

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