Evidence-Based Governance

May 31st, 2007

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For six years, we have lived in a through-the-looking glass world of faith-based governance. The President and his administration have led the country on a hunch and a prayer. Just yesterday, the Director of NASA (presumably a rocket scientist!) was suggesting that it was “arrogant” to presume that our present climate is “the optimal climate,” or that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change.

Americans – to say nothing of the rest of the world – have grown weary of this arrogance and presumption, and with good reason. Faith-based governance has led this country profoundly in the wrong direction.

And that’s why at Third Way, we are obsessed with the practice of “evidence-based policy.” Our ideas are based on rigorous research and analysis of what Americans need and want from government. While subjective judgments certainly play a role, ideology takes a back seat to data. Our goal is simply to produce the best possible outcomes for families and individuals to succeed in a changing world.

This approach, in our view, should be the standard for all progressive policy development, and this week, Third Way Senior Policy Advisor Scott Winship is hosting a series of posts on TPMCafe to explore and defend this notion as it applies not just to policy but to politics.

As Scott puts it eloquently in his initial post:

“Too many debates among progressives occur largely without reference to evidence. We fight about what kinds of campaigns to run and where without evaluating the record of different strategies or assessing public opinion. We argue over the frames that progressives should emphasize without examining whether they are particularly resonant. We assume that prioritizing some policies over others will make for good politics without testing that assumption. We accuse our opponents of either being wedded to an obsolete past or of being closet conservatives depending on what position they take on Social Security reform, all without considering the merits of different positions.”

Scott’s full essay should be required reading for all progressives committed to furthering progressive ideals. As the train wreck called “the Bush Administration” has shown, ideology by itself isn’t enough if progressives want to achieve their vision.

And yes, we have the evidence to prove it.