If a Tree Falls in the Forest, Is it a Lie?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


In the Washington Post, David Fahrenthold writes about the Republican mantra to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. Jonathan Bernstein comments:

Fahrenthold does a good job of pointing out how little Republicans have done to carry out their “replace” promise. But he doesn’t quite nail down just how much of a betrayal it has been.

….The chairs of five House committees, in an op-ed they published right after the first House repeal vote, [were] pretty specific: “hearings in Washington and around the country” to develop the new legislation. It’s something that they had full control over (as opposed to actually passing legislation, which depended on the Senate and the president). And it’s something that just didn’t happen.

I consider this a highly metaphysical question. Is something really a lie if no one was intended to believe it in the first place?

Consider the various audiences. The Republican base certainly didn’t care about “replace.” They just wanted to repeal the socialist abomination that was Obamacare, full stop. The press surely never believed it either. They knew perfectly well that Republicans have never shown the slightest interest in passing healthcare legislation. Democrats knew it was a sham, of course. And independents…..

Aye, there’s the rub. Did independents actually believe Republicans were serious about replacing Obamacare? Or did they see the implied wink and nudge just like everyone else? This I don’t know.

Was “repeal and replace” an actual promise? Or was it merely political sloganeering best interpreted as “We hate Barack Obama, and if you do too then vote for us”? Where’s Wittgenstein when you need him?

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.