Persuasive explanation

Persuasive or rhetorical explanation is the non-argumentative strategy of increasing critical scrutiny on one side of an issue by way of explaining a disagreement or situation in terms of some failure on the other side.  So, for example, if we ask why S doesn’t give to charity, we might then place the burden of proof on those defending S to not only explain S’s actions, but also dispel the thought that S is selfish.  Or if S avoids a confrontation, we challenge the other side to show that S isn’t spineless.

Victor Davis Hanson has a rhetorical explanation for why the base of the Democratic Party has stuck with President Obama through all the controversies, ranging from Benghazi, to the IRS targeting Tea Party oufits, to the botched rollout of the ACA (AKA “Obamacare”).

In short, Obama will always poll around 45 percent. That core support is his lasting legacy. In a mere five years, by the vast expansion of federal spending, by the demonizing rhetoric of his partisan bully pulpit, and by executive orders and bizarre appointments, Obama has so divided the nation that he has created a permanent constituency that will never care as much about what he does as it cares about what he says and represents.

For elite rich liberals, whose money and privilege exempt them from the consequences of Obama’s policies, and their own ideology, he will always be their totem. He is iconic of their own progressivism and proof of their racial liberalism, and thus allows them to go on enjoying their privilege, without guilt and without worrying too much about how they got it or whether they might lose it.

Now, for sure, there has been some pretty scandalous behavior from the White House, and heads have rolled.  Nobody can, really, repeat Bob Dole’s “Where’s the Outrage?” challenge.  Perhaps an alternate story could be told about the outrage mongers.  In trying to keep their own base in a permanent state of fury, they’ve had to bloat anything that even hinted of error from the White House into the outrage du jour.  And it’s had boy who cried wolf effects on their credibility and the capacity of anyone to be properly outraged.  (For a recent example of outrage machines  making noise, take a peek at the Obama with his feet on the Oval Office desk story: HERE.)

Oh, and rich white liberals might support the President because they see his policies as overall in the right direction, even if he makes errors (even egregious ones) in the process.  That’s partly the Republicans’ fault, too. Most political support, you know, is made on the basis of comparative judgment.



You don’t have to be good at maths to be rich.  Here’s Godwinizer Tom Perkins on taxing the “1 percent” (from TPM):

“The fear is wealth tax, higher taxes, higher death taxes — just more taxes until there is no more 1%,” he said, as quoted by CNN Money. “And that that will creep down to the 5% and then the 10%.

In addition to failing to understand marginal tax rates and basic math, this also a slippery slope.  This is probably worse than his proposal that every dollar of tax paid ought to equal a vote:

“The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes,” Perkins responded, as quoted by CNNMoney. “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?

It might be easier just to give people who pay no taxes less than an entire vote, say 3/5ths.

How to turn your analogy to straw

Marco Rubio recently made an interesting analogy after the release of the CBO report.  He said that the likelihood of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) actually helping people is as great as the likelihood of the Denver Broncos coming back from their fourth-quarter deficit in the SuperBowl.

I know that there are still some who hold out hope that Obamacare will work, just like there were some in Denver this Sunday still holding out hope that the Broncos could come back and win in the fourth quarter.

Now, there is some debate on the matter, but let’s give Rubio the point for the sake of argument.  However, if we do, then Aaron Goldstein has a critical point to make:

But let’s not forget that the Broncos actually made it to the Super Bowl. The Broncos were the second best team in the NFL in 2013….

If Rubio is going to compare Obamacare to a football team he should invoke the 2008 Detroit Lions who went 0-16. Better still, the junior Senator from Florida could also speak of the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers who went 0-14. This would be a far more apt comparison because when it comes to Obamacare no one wins.

Ah, a lesson in how to turn an analogy into a straw man.  At least the Rubio analogy conceded that the ACA had something going for it (at least the Broncos had a chance to make points back earlier), but Goldstein refuses even that.  Beyond this, the point Rubio was trying to make with the analogy was one of prospects, like for the future, not retrospects, looking at the past.  Oh well, when the objective is to paint your political opponents in the worst lights, saving the actual point is beside the point.

F**k logic, get votes

In a recent interview, George Lakoff, author of Don’t Think of an Elephant, highlights (again) his well-known disregard for “logic.”

To liberals, a lot of conservative thinking seems like a failure of logic: why would a conservative be against equal rights for women and yet despise the poor, when to liberate women into the world of work would create more wealth, meaning less poverty? And yet we instinctively understand those as features of the conservative worldview, and rightly so.

The nurturant-family model is the progressive view: in it, the ideals are empathy, interdependence, co-operation, communication, authority that is legitimate and proves its legitimacy with its openness to interrogation. “The world that the nurturant parent seeks to create has exactly the opposite properties,” Lakoff writes in Moral Politics. As progressives identify failures of logic in the conservative position, so it works the other way round (one of Lakoff’s examples: “How can liberals support federal funding for Aids research and treatment, while promoting the spread of Aids by sanctioning sexual behaviour that leads to Aids?”).

Lakoff seems to be arguing that logic is not essential to political disagreement because each side thinks the other to have failed at logic in some way.  What you need to do is highlight the strengths of your position:

 It’s about time progressives got out there and said what’s true about themselves, as well as what’s true of the other side. If you have a strong position, let’s hear it.

Point taken (maybe) about the adopting an exclusively critical position, but, I wonder, what sorts of things make your position “strong”?  Could it be that your position accords with reality, overcomes relevant objections, etc.?  It’s “logical” in other words?

If I’m not mistaken, Why We Argue has a chapter on this very issue (featuring Lakoff!).

In perfect harmony

According to some recent reports, Glenn Beck, self-described super troll, has expressed remorse over the Godwin-themed clown show that enriched him.  I don’t believe him.  Here’s his reaction to the multilingual and multicultural Coca-Cola ad during last Sunday’s Super Bowl:

“So somebody tweeted last night and said, ‘Glenn, what did you think of the Coke ad?’ And I said, ‘Why did you need that to divide us politically?’ Because that’s all this ad is,” Glenn said. “It’s in your face, and if you don’t like it, if you’re offended by it, you’re a racist. If you do like it, you’re for immigration. You’re for progress. That’s all this is: To divide people. Remember when Coke used to do the thing on the top and they would all hold hands? Now it’s, have a Coke and we’ll divide you.”

What kind of divisions are we talking about?  Here’s one from a Fox News type:

So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don’t learn to speak English?

And there are more, of course.  The logic of Beck’s argument is a marvel, however.  I’m not sure how to reconstruct it, but here goes: People disagree about stuff, among this stuff is immigration, if I mention something related to immigration, and drive racists into a racist frenzy, then I’m dividing us by reminding others of their racism.  So I’m the real racist, or something.

Maybe, however, I want to be divided from people who cannot stomach the very sound of Spanish (or English, Keres Pueblo, Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese French, or Hebrew) in America.