Sunday, October 10, 2010

Campaign Finance, The "Big Lie," and Ad Hominem Fallaciousness

When the Supremes overturned most campaign-finance laws on the basis of free-speech rights, many on the left declared the end of American democracy. Who knew that the prophecy would be self-fulfilling?

Presently the so-called Leader of the Free World is stumping with the hopeful trope that Republicans are getting secret advertising money from foreigners, oil companies, banks and other forces of darkness.

On the foreigners, BHO and his minions point especially to the Chamber of Commerce as financed by aliens. The protectors of political uprightness admit they have no evidence against the Chamber, whose leaders insist that they sequester foreign funds outside their political accounts. But the Obamanoids insist that the allegations are "serious" and so must be disproved by those against whom they make them.

Barack and his buds also show no interest in the similar financial arrangements of their patrons, such as the AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club. Not that anyone should care: just being directly associated with these groups is a political liability at present.

This stratagem so warmly embraced by The One We've Been Waiting For is well known as the "big lie": say an unproved allegation often enough and people will take it for granted. Or so it is thought. We think otherwise.

Once willing to require of all political advertising only that the source of its financing be revealed, we now believe that there's no reason whatsoever to require even that. Disclosure of donors is pointless regulation that will do nothing to protect the integrity of our political processes.

And so gentle readers exclaim, How can you say such an outrageously counter-intuitive thing, SWNID? Has your long neglect of blogging atrophied your common sense?

Well, SWNID relies on uncommon sense, but that's not the point.

The point is twofold: the source of a message neither validates nor invalidates the message, and influence buying can only be stopped at the next election anyway.

To the former: we assert that it's an utterly settled principle of logic that an idea can't be invalidated because it comes from a suspicious source. If Genghis Khan says the sky is blue, the fact that he is a murderous tyrant does not invalidate his assertion. So why should the electorate care whence cometh the money that sponsors this or that ad? Let voters judge the message on its merits. Perhaps if they have only the message's merits on which to decide, they'll think about something other than the messenger for a change.

To the latter: prior to overturning campaign finance laws, previous Supremes argued that such laws were needed to avoid the appearance of influence-buying that unlimited campaign contributions can constitute. But we reason as follows: the presence of a big donation does not necessarily indicate that influence has been bought, and the absence of such donations does not assure that it exists. A corrupt politician can be bought with all kinds of things, including the promise of a sweet deal after he leaves office (ever wonder why politicians retire richer than when they entered office?). An honest politician can accept all kinds of gifts and never be influenced at all. But in any case, voters simply review the incumbent's record and decide whether he's been bought or not--or even if they approve of the way he's been bought.

Note well, gentle readers: we, so pessimistic about the capacities of our fellow humans, nevertheless believe that voters are the best people to sort these matters out. Let them decide whether they like this or that candidate's message or record, not whether they like who pays that candidate's bills. Voters may be stupid, but campaign finance regulations are stupider, let alone those who write and enforce them.

We figure that most folks already see through the unsubstantiated allegations that BHO is passing out this round in place of his signature hopium. They know what it's like to be called upon to prove they're honest, even when there's no evidence of their dishonesty. They remember what it was like to get detention in school because they were in a class where one person did a dastardly deed and so all were accused as accessories after the fact. They are unlikely to be comfortable with folks who resemble an enraged PE teacher running the Justice Department and such.

When America votes GOP in November, it won't be because their votes were bought, but because ideas and records matter.

1 comment:

JB in CA said...

... we assert that it's an utterly settled principle of logic that an idea can't be invalidated because it comes from a suspicious source.

Well, not exactly. It's true that an argument can't be invalidated because it comes from a suspicious source, but a claim can be. E.g., if Slimy the Weasel claims (without argument) that Honest John's the best candidate, you'd be justified in dismissing his claim—other things being equal—by pointing out that Slimy stands to gain financially, if Honest John wins.