Fallacies in Recent Politics

Hillary-Clinton-Basket-of-Deplorables-Screen-GrabI'm teaching a module on fallacies on Monday and will present a few related to politics-wish me luck: 

  • Ad hominen: President Trump's tweets are an obvious example, but I'll use Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" for this example. It's an attack without evidence.

    If it's not too charged (and a bit complicated), I may talk about Senator Elizabeth Warren's reading of Coretta Scott King's 1986 letter about Jeff Sessions, the attorney general nominee. An LA Times opinion piece explains the ad hominen issue well: 

"The original intent of the rule, if you will, was to preserve comity and focus the attention senators on substance rather than ad hominem arguments. But Warren was commenting on Sessions not as a colleague but as the nominee to a position in the executive branch; his character (as perceived by Mrs. King) was central to her argument."

  • False analogy: This one will be a question to students. Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump's brand, and President Trump criticized the decision on Twitter (although The Wall Street Journal reports a 32% sales decline). This may have been an ethics violation itself, but the false analogy came in the reporting. Kellyanne Conway was charged with an ethics violation for, as a member of the White House staff, promoting Ivanka Trump's products on Fox & Friends:

    "Go buy Ivanka's stuff, is what I was [saying] - I hate shopping and I'm going to go get some myself today."

    "This is just...it's a wonderful line. I own some of it... I'm going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online."

A Breitbart article agrees with the charges, but is this "wildly disproportionate"? The article discusses a SiriusXM interview and includes a few comparisons to democrats' promoting for-profit companies: 

"Obama administration directly involved government in vastly larger business dealings, most dramatically by using the Internal Revenue Service to force Americans to buy products from preferred insurance companies under Obamacare."

"President Obama's pushing green energy technology and electric cars, such as the Chevy Volt."

"...Clintons' case...pushing the Clinton Foundation and using their government power to get people to donate to the Clinton Foundation as a form of quasi-bribery."