I’ve had an interesting experience in my political life, and it inspired me to write this particular blog entry.
Last week, I announced that I am one of the prime sponsors of legislation that would remove the philosophical exemption for vaccines in Pennsylvania (please note that I’m only discussing this to illuminate a point, I’m not using this blog to advocate for this bill). Naturally, this is a pretty hot issue right now, and I discussed it on social media. Here’s the post from my official public page:
As you can see, there was a LOT of comments, questions and arguments in this thread; more than any I have ever seen any of my previous posts. I can’t say I am surprised, because this is such a hot and controversial topic. The thread also reached more people than I usually do, and we’ve seen a much larger increase in fans than normal.
Here, however, was the great thing about this particular post: the arguments made me think. Some of the comments were completely illogical, sure. But the majority were made by people who have real concerns with my proposal, and made sensible statements. As any good public official should, I reviewed some of these arguments to determine their veracity; unsurprisingly, at least to me, is that I was able (with a quick Google search) to determine that they didn’t hold water.
Okay, that’s fine, but what’s my point? This Facebook thread made me better informed about the issue, better able to respond to questions and concerns, and thus a better advocate. For example:
- One commenter said that vaccine laws violate the concept of informed consent. From a legal perspective, this is incorrect, as there is no legal requirement of informed consent for vaccines.
- Multiple people have said that the measles hasn’t killed anyone in a decade over the past ten years. Not true; it killed more than 145,000 last year.
- “It’s unconstitutional to make me get a vaccine!” Not true at all; a Supreme Court case in 1905 said that compulsory vaccines are legal.
These are all arguments made via Facebook, and all arguments I was able to rebuke after hearing them.
As I’ve said before, Facebook is just a tool, and in this case, it’s a tool that gave me a preview of what arguments people may use to debate the issue on the floor of the House. In that sense, it was fantastic: it helped me to inoculate myself against arguments, and thus become a better advocate for this legislation.
What can you take away from this? That’s easy: not only should you not be afraid to make your case on social media, but you should learn from the arguments that are made on it. If you are confident in your beliefs, you will use the arguments made against you to strengthen your proposals and your arguments. Heck, you may even discover that your proposal is a bad idea. Either way, this is democracy: the general public influencing and participating in the formulation of public policy.