Party politics and the false dilemma logical fallacy
By Joshua Walker
Article ID: 1262
I’m an American. Just a few weeks ago, the United States elected a new President for 2009. This is the first election that I decided to forgo party politics – I voted for the person I think was best for the job. I voted based upon my political principles, instead of just voting “against” the “other guy”. During this process, I’ve grown angrier and more frustrated at the “false dilemma” logical fallacy that is so prevalent in American politics.
What is a false dilemma?
A false dilemma is a logical fallacy where someone states that “either X is true or Y is true”. The problem is that X and Y might both be false or both true. In fact, there might be claims A, B, L, and Z that are also true and related to the topic. Now, it is possible that X and Y might be the only options and that if one is true the other is false; we should, however, be very careful with such claims and determine if X and Y are really the only options.
Republican or Democrat: You decide
I am constantly astounded by those who claim a differing political ideology, such as Libertarianism or Constitutionalism, yet always vote for the two major parties. The Republicans are usually considered conservatives and the Democrats are usually considered liberals, but even those ideologies have splintered into sub-ideologies, such as the neo-conservatives and neo-liberals. Sometimes these new ideologies are directly contrary to their parent. Yet even with these ever-evolving political philosophies, the individual is expected to sacrifice their ideals to the current party puppet- …I mean party “candidate”.
Americans are constantly flooded with propaganda telling them that there are only two choices and that the third parties have no chance at winning an election. This becomes its own self-fulfilling prophecy. If a man thinks he’s going to die tomorrow, he’ll find a way to make it happen, or die trying. If a majority believes that voting for a third party candidate is useless, then the prophecy will fulfill itself. If we all want change, but choose to vote for party sycophants simply because we are told to do so, then we are merely puppets and not free people.
The example of false dilemma propaganda that inspired me to write this article came from this news article at Yahoo.com. It begins by quoting a person saying that voting third party would be throwing their vote away. Since this person is – of course – just like us, then we also should not throw our vote away on a third party. Or is that more than a quote, and a recommendation from the article’s author? Later in the article, an “expert” is brought in to tell us that none of the third party candidates “resonate” with the American people, even though people constantly complain about the poor choice of candidates and the “vote for the lesser evil” strategy. There are figures and statistics dissuading us from opposing the political power structure because no third party candidate has ever won high political office. Unfortunately, repeating this fact helps to ensure continued failure of the third party candidates.
The major parties place themselves on opposite sides of every issue, even though many political positions have more than two sides. Take, for example, the abortion debate. You are either pro-life or pro-abortion. Taking a position that the federal government has no authority in this issue and that it should be left to the states is never considered. Consider the ANWR drilling controversy. You’re either for or against it. You can’t say that it’s irrelevant because the government has banned alternative fuel options for years and more drilling is only a band-aid on an amputation. The issues are always turned into yes or no options. This lets the parties take opposite sides and argue pointlessly, while ignoring any inconvenient facts.
Take responsibility and free your mind
Logical fallacies are dangerous. They are often used to persuade the uncritical mind into choosing something that’s hurtful and enslaving. They are also, ironically enough, ever-present in American politics. It astounds me when I listen to political speeches, as I hear one fallacy after another. Since fallacies are used to persuade the uncritical mind, politicians must assume that the majority of people are stupid. As so many people blindly swallow fallacies – like the false dilemma discussed in this article – I am beginning to agree.
The best way to deal with this is to question everything. Never accept anything at face value, particularly the words of a politician. Always check the facts presented, particularly those not presented as well, because what’s excluded could be more important than what’s included. As Digital Bits Skeptic is oriented towards skeptics, I hope in this case that I’m preaching to the choir.
Let’s free ourselves from the political machine. Ignore the pundits. Let’s vote our ideals, rather than sacrificing ourselves to the power hungry. Most importantly, remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”