Saturday, May 16, 2009

On Pathetic Republican Arguments

One of the key principles of rhetoric is to tailor your arguments to your audience. If you are arguing to Muslims, for instance, one should not use logic becuase they do not believe in logic. If one is arguing with democrats, one should do one's best to sound like Karl Marx (they love that stuff!). Etc.

According to this article, there are a handful of republicans with just enough intelligence to employ this strategy - at least they are trying! RNC chairman Michael Steele is trying a new rhetorical poisiton in the gay marriage debate, by arguing that it would hurt small businesses. Here is the quote:
"Now all of a sudden I've got someone who wasn't a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for," Steele told Republicans at the state convention in traditionally conservative Georgia. "So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money."

I am not sure that there is a technical name for this fallacy, but the problem with this argument is that it argues againt an effect that is not at all exclusive to the cause being argued against. It would be like arguing against riding on bicycles by suggesting that one could get injured (even though getting injured is not an effect at all exclusive to riding bicycles).

So, let's think about what the REAL implications of Steele's argument against dependents is. If we follow it to its logical conclusions, Steele's argument against forcing employers to pay for dependents could be seen as an argument not only against gay, but straight, marriage, or at very least an argument against having employers pay for ANY dependents (including children).

What is even more horrendous than the fact that Steele thinks he is smart enough to devise an argument is the fact that he is utterly transparent that it is not a sincere argument, but a rhetorical ploy!
Steele said that was just an example of how the party can retool its message to appeal to young voters and minorities without sacrificing core conservative principles. Steele said he used the argument weeks ago while chatting on a flight with a college student who described herself as fiscally conservative but socially liberal on issues like gay marriage.

This brings us full circle, back to the rules of rhetoric. A hidden rule of rhetoric is that while one should always tailor one's arguments to one's audience, one should never disclose that this is what one is doing. Otherwise, one opens onesself up to charges of insincerity and 'ends justifying the means" style of argument.

Steele's suggesting that one can "retool its message to appael to young voters and minorities without sacrificing core conservative principles" will have the likely effect of achieving none of those goals. Arguments for gay marriage (especially those from the young) do not generally focus on economic arguments, but on civil rights arguments (showing that economic arguments will not likely triumph civil rights arguments in their minds). And as for sacrificing core conservative principles, if the principle is (as it always has been to the GOP) that homosexual marriage is immoral, then the principle is sacrificed as soon as one makes the gay marriage argument void of arguments from morality.

(And just for kicks, let me see if I can beat Steele at his own game. Wouldn't his argument against forcing employers to add dependents on to healthcare plans be a GREAT argument IN FAVOR of abortion? After all, the ability to abort potential children certainly would minimize the number of dependents one would claim for insurance purposes, wouldn't it?)

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