Equating the Trend with the End

This statement may be incredibly obvious, but just in case:

The chief (only?) Republican strategy lately takes the form of a dishonest attempt to equate the fact that a given political issue implicates a principle, with the opinion that it in fact destroys the principle. Let’s canvass common examples:

  • Government expenditure tends to implicate the question of fiscal responsibility. Therefore, any spending measure independently and on its own force destroys the budget.
  • Regulation tends to implicate the question of the limits of regulatory power. Therefore, any regulation necessarily violates the Commerce Clause.
  • Federal programs tend to implicate state sovereignty. Therefore, any regulation violates whatever power is left in the residual Tenth Amendment. (Nota bene: this is a case where the premise isn’t even true.)
  • A commitment to decency tends to trigger personal impulses to suppress potentially offensive commentary. Therefore, urging self-restraint is the equivalent of government suppression of speech, somehow (?). This is a Palin favorite.
  • Civil rights (e.g., freedom from search & seizure; the guarantee of trial by jury) sometimes require that we trade away safety. Therefore, independent of the right’s textual existence, any recourse to any right compromises national security.
  • Rules of criminal procedure circumscribe the government’s ability to try accused criminals. Therefore, independent of any requirement that the rules be used, their reference or use constitutes the complete abdication of the government’s ability to convict the guilty.
  • Gay marriage relaxes one part of traditional societal limitations on the marriage tradition. Therefore it obliterates all societal limitations. On everything.

Numbers one through three figured prominently in what passed for a health care “debate” in this country.

Each argument, clearly, relies on a deep-seated dishonesty, but the sin of the tactic goes deeper still. This type of argumentation implicitly rejects a middle ground. When every step down a road implies reaching the destination, there’s no honest way to reach a compromise. If you want to know why we never saw any bipartisanship in the health care debate, that’s your answer. By their rhetorical choices, the Republican Party sold their constituents, and ultimately themselves, on the concept that bipartisanship implied a complete loss. The result is people like this.


  1. The real problem with #3 is that the Republicans conflating of opinion with fact isn’t supported by facts. The Federal government reserves to itself all powers it does not specificly delegate to states, especially those within federal statutes. That is why, For instance, the U.S. Army Coprs of Engineers does not obtain COunty grading permits fro its civil works construction projects – the COE hasn’t waived sovereign immunity, so the County can’t regulate them no matter how much they want to (And believe me the county wants to).

    1. The Federal government reserves to itself all powers it does not specificly delegate to states…

      Isn’t it the other way around?

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