In Search of an Honest Republican Argument (and a brief study of conservative fallacies)

I’m not going to say it’s a problem that originated with Donald Trump, but the rise of Trump and his “philosophies” have amplified the din of lies, hyperbole, false equivalence and all manner of fallacy which had been just lurking beneath the surface of the Republican Party for decades.

Now, I’m not saying they were honest before that, but they at least made an effort to pretend. Now they don’t even go through that.

I bring this up because we keep hearing from the right about civility and discourse, and it’s just impossible to have civil discourse when only one side is making the endeavor to be logically and fundamentally honest.

Failing to Recognize Opposing Arguments

Discourse requires the good faith that both sides are actually trying to be honest. And the more I look, the more I just can’t find a single conservative argument that is grounded in good faith. There are some that could be, but even those aren’t presented honestly because doing so would require acknowledging that more than one position can be honestly assumed.

For instance, of all the conservative arguments, the one I am most sympathetic for (even if I don’t agree) is that of pro-life. If one genuinely believes that an unborn baby is a human life then it would be a very difficult position to compromise with.

However, the way they carry out this argument is disingenuous because it implies that the other side agrees that it is a human life. Screaming “BABY KILLER!” at people who perform abortions or receive them is dishonest because the people who do so fundamentally disagree on the essential question of when life begins.

To acknowledge that they don’t agree with that is to acknowledge that they have an equally valid position based on the different premise that the government doesn’t have any business telling women what they can or should do with their bodies.

Just imposing your religious beliefs on another person and accusing them of things they don’t believe they are doing (infanticide) is not civil discourse. It’s not even discourse. It’s just yelling accusations.

Too much of the conservative agenda falls in this line of “reasoning.” Our side is the only side, and if you disagree, you’re just wrong, evil and a baby murderer.

Really? That’s civility to you?

Creating False Equivalence

False equivalence runs rampant in conservative circles. The examples are too ubiquitous to go through all of them, but here are a couple.

Yesterday, a person on Facebook was arguing that the Democrats were being hypocritical because they were for the fence that was built on the US-Mexican border but against the wall.

I asked, “If the wall and the fence are the same things, as you suggest, why do we still need a wall after the fence has been built?”

Conservatives did the same thing with children being detained under President Barack Obama and now under Trump, suggesting they are the same.

Yes, both instances had children being detained, but the circumstances behind that were entirely different, and Obama’s goal was to get them out of that detention and Trump’s goal is to use that detention to coerce their parents into forgoing asylum claims.

This is how conservatives operate. They take two things, find one similarity, and then harp on the similarity and then ignore all the things that make them different.

Association Fallacies

The laziest of all fallacies is the association fallacy (A is a B, A is also a C, therefore all Bs are Cs). It’s all a cornerstone of Trump’s racist anti-immigration policy.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera killed Mollie Tibbets. Rivera was an illegal immigrant, therefore all illegal immigrants are killers (not really, but really). They know this is a racist argument, so they won’t come out and admit it’s what they’re saying, so they just hide behind things like “If Rivera weren’t here, Tibbetts would still be alive.”

So if we got rid of all illegal immigrants we wouldn’t have murders anymore?

In fact, a recent study by Cato’s Alex Nowrasteth indicated that in Texas, the arrest rate for undocumented workers is about 40 percent lower than natural-born Americas.

And while it’s true that some people would be alive if certain illegal immigrants weren’t here, it’s also true that some would be dead if illegal immigrants hadn’t saved their lives.

Yes, some As are Bs. Some As are Cs. Some Bs are Cs. Some Bs aren’t Cs. Some Bs are Ds, Es and Fs. Some Bs, Ds, Es and Fs are Bs too.

Let’s not be idiotic and lump everyone into one bad category because of their race or ethnicity. That’s racism.

And if you’re going to be a racist, at least own it. At least admit that you’re making a racist argument. And if you’re not making a racist argument, reject the racist arguments.

And please, don’t pretend it’s being civil.

Whataboutism

Whataboutism is when someone deflects from a fair criticism by pointing to another person (who is supposedly being defended by the “other” side) who has done something similar.

A perfect example here is the tendency of the right to point to the antifascists when someone brings up the alt-right.

This is problematic for three reasons.

  1. Democrats aren’t advocating for the antifascists, and antifascists aren’t occupying important seats in the White House (and never have). This tendency to lump everyone who opposes Trump in one group also points to association fallacy (see above).
  2. Antifascists exist exclusively to oppose fascism, the alt-right exists to promote white nationalism, i.e. fascism. Ergo, antifascists and fascism aren’t co-equal entities brought about simultaneously. Antifascism is a reaction to the rise of US fascism. Get rid of fascism, and you get rid of antifascism.
  3. The conflation of ideology and acts is wrong: Both antifascists and the alt-right are wrong in their tactics but the antifascists are not wrong to oppose fascism. Violence is not the answer, but the wrong acts of the antifascists don’t justify the racist ideology of the alt-right.

The other ironic twist to this is that in creating the whataboutism, there is a confession inherent in the conservative argument. If in the Republican’s mind, these two things are the same, then aren’t they being hypocritical?

If antifascism is the same as fascism, why aren’t you calling out the alt-right and its access to Trump and key positions? Why aren’t you offended by Steve Miller writing immigration policy?

If you’re accusing the other side of hypocrisy, it’s best to remove the branch from your own eye first. Otherwise, you’re just not being civil.

Straw Man

A straw man is when you deliberately misrepresent the other side’s argument so you can have an easier argument to defend.

While I think the abortion issue is the hardest to reach a compromise because the two sides are so mutually exclusive, I believe the gun control argument should be the easiest.

Sure, there might be extremists on both sides, but most Americans feel that as long as you aren’t a violent felon, a domestic abuser, a certified threat due to mental health or a terrorist, you should be able to own a gun.

If you are one of those things, you shouldn’t be able to.

The anti-gun control lobby has a plethora of fallacies, but they are all premised on the same fundamental straw man: that gun control is equal to gun banning.

There is no serious legislation being put forth to ban guns. No one is talking about coming away to grab anyone’s guns, or to make it harder for law-abiding citizens to get them.

Gun control is 100 percent about making it harder for people who shouldn’t have them to get them. That’s why it’s called gun control. How we define that group should be a matter of discussion.

For instance, it’s perfectly fair to argue that the terrorist watch list is way too large and shouldn’t be the method to determine who is a terrorist threat. But come up with a better way, not a straw man.

Do you think violent felons should have guns? Or people who have been deemed a threat by a court? Or men (and women) who have been convicted of domestic abuse?

Do you want to make it easier or harder for the most likely people to murder other people to have the easiest means to do that murdering? That’s all the gun control question really is.

And I think most of us would like to make it harder. While there are very meaningful discussions on how to make it happen, we should at least be able to agree on whether it should happen.

If we can’t even agree on what we agree on, how can we have civil discourse?

I could go on. It’s not like this is a conclusive list. It’s just some of the “arguments” that have come up in recent days that are on the top of my mind.

Republicans could argue they have an honest argument about taxes, but if that’s the case, why don’t they make it honestly and represent their tax cut for what it was (a tax cut for corporations and millionaires, not the middle class).

They can say they have an honest argument for health care, but if they do, why are they lying about their position and votes on preexisting conditions?

They can say they’re being honest about protecting Medicare and Medicaid, but again, if that’s the case, why are they lying about their position when they run for office, saying they’re going to protect it while they’re planning to undermine it?

Where is the honest Republican position on anything? And how can we have “civil discourse” with anyone not having the civility to be fundamentally and logically honest in that discourse?

If you have one, hit me up. I haven’t heard it yet.

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I write for several outlets as an NBA analyst, including Bleacher Report, FanRag, Dime, BBallBreadown and RealBallInsiders. My political views are my own.

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Kelly Scaletta

Kelly Scaletta

I write for several outlets as an NBA analyst, including Bleacher Report, FanRag, Dime, BBallBreadown and RealBallInsiders. My political views are my own.

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