Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Might" makes Right I -- a comment on Sargent

"Might" makes right. You can take almost any indefensible claim P and make it the defensible claim "P might be true".

"Might" is the ultimate weasel word. It should be obvious that it appears in a conclusory sentence only when the writer knows perfectly well that he (or she) doesn't have a case. Yet it appears very often.

Greg Sargent wishes he were naive enough to believe that the fact that most voters agree with the Democrats' anti ISIS policy and disagree with Republicans' alternative proposal means that the issue will help Democrats in the mid terms. In fact he knows better. So he whips out the mighty "might" and concludes "But on the other hand, if Republicans really want to make these elections about national security, you’d think it just might prompt some media pressure on GOP candidates to say what course of action against ISIS they support and to clarify whether they support another ground war in the Middle East."

I agree that this won't happen.

His post is here. My comment is there and also below.

As I began reading this post I almost had the impression that you were going to argue that the fact that the US public rejects the Republicans' proposed response to ISIS implies that the issue won't help the GOP in November, but then I thought to myself "no Greg Sargent can't be that naive." I now know you aren't.

I think by "could -- or at least should" you mean "should" and believe "should -- but almost certainly won't."

The post illustrates intellectual distress caused by being a serious commentatator advising a country (indeed a world -- it's not just the USA) which doesn't take the responsibilities of self rule seriously.

with a "Perhaps" (which means "I know perfectly well that") you concede that candidates win with slogans and "keeping their own ideas vague". I am sure you also know that US elections tend to be decided as if they were referendums on the President, that the President and his party are held responsible for everything and, finally and quite separately, fear makes people Conservative (I am appealing to psychological research but I admit that I won't provide a link).

In the end you are so desperate that you rely on the fact that "might" makes right. Your concluding sentence includes the word "might". As written it is true. Anything at all might happen. A big enough majority of voters might consider competing policy proposals and the evidence which suggests which is better. And pigs might fly.

Who can deny that somethign might happen. For all I know the GOP might make a useful contribution to the policy debate.

So yes indeed the fact that most voters agree with the Democrats' policy and disagree with the Republicans' proposed alternative might determine how the issue affects the mid terms. But that's not the way to bet.

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