As health care debate intensifies, GOP takes aim at empiricism

We're seeing a broad White House effort to corrode the very ideal of reality-based governing, something that includes not just a discrediting of institutions such as the CBO but also the weakening of the influence of science and data over agency decision-making and the deliberate misuse of our democracy's institutional processes to prop up Trump's lies about his popular support and political opponents.

Welcome to the war on empiricism. For Team Trump and its Republican allies, some may present themselves as authorities -- on health care data, on the unemployment rate, on climate science, on how many people showed up to witness a presidential inauguration -- but right-thinking people should dismiss those sources as illegitimate.It's become a staple of the Trump presidency. As we discussed last month, the White House isn't exactly subtle about its vision: Don’t trust news organizations. Don’t trust the courts. Don’t trust pollsters. Don’t trust U.S. intelligence agencies. Don’t trust unemployment numbers. Don’t even trust election results.Some Republicans are actually inclined to go along with this style of authoritarian thinking. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), the chairman of the House Science Committee, recently advised Americans "to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth."He wasn't kidding.If Republicans have a problem with a CBO report, fine. They can and should make their case, point to flaws, present evidence, and respond with competing data. The rest of us can then evaluate that data and draw conclusions. Lather, rinse, repeat.But when far-right officials make the case that there are no authorities, and subject-matter expertise is an illusion intended to distract people from "alternative facts" that Republicans find more satisfying, the damage to our discourse and policymaking process is incalculable.