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A Conservative Attack on Intellectuals

The right-wing attack on the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson – which has reached a sort of apogee in a recent National Review cover story – is notable for a number of reasons.

The right-wing attack on the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson – which has reached a sort of apogee in a recent National Review cover story – is notable for a number of reasons. What’s especially interesting, as I see it, is the attempt to have things both ways. On one side, there’s the sneering disapproval of anyone who tries to bring facts and evidence into the political debate – “you think you’re so smart, huh?” At the same time, there’s the claim that liberal “experts” are poseurs, not real experts. “Hey, we’re not anti-science, not us!”

One question you might ask, then, is whether the likes of Mr. Tyson are unrepresentative – whether the predominance of liberals among the nerds one sees in the public sphere is strongly at odds with the political leanings of scientists as a group.

Well, we know the answer to that question. Scientists as a group are a lot more liberal and Democratic-leaning than the population as a whole. And in fact, in other contexts conservatives use this disparity to attack scientists, or academics in general, for their bias.

So what’s going on here? One simple explanation would be that current Republican doctrine really is anti-science and anti-intellectual, and that scientists are responding to that. But that would, of course, be an unbalanced view. So the right tries to insist both that public figures like Mr. Tyson are poseurs and that there is some kind of conspiracy causing scientists in general to have similar views.

How about just using Occam’s razor?

Still Failing to Fail

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic recently looked at the evidence so far on health insurance premiums in the United States, and found that things are not too bad: “Coverage will get more expensive for the majority of consumers, as it almost always does,” Mr. Cohn wrote on Aug. 4. “Changes in premiums will vary enormously, from state to state and from plan to plan. But, overall, the 2015 premiums increases will not be significantly worse than they were in the past. They might even be a little better.”

Charles Gaba, who runs, finds much the same. Furthermore, there’s a clear trend within the trend: States that did their best to make the Affordable Care Act work are also delivering good deals to their residents. California is heading for an increase of only 4.2 percent.

On the other hand, things are not looking too good in Florida: “In Florida, by contrast, the Republicans in charge did very little to promote the law,” Mr. Cohn wrote, “and, at times, seemed determined to undermine it. Never was this more clear than in 2013, when the legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that suspended state government’s ability to reject excessive premium increases.”

Overall, yet more evidence that this reform works wherever politicians let it work.

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