Let’s hope Marc Ambinder is into yoga or he might sprain something after all this twisting.
Trent Lott resigned; Harry Reid should resign.
Logicians call the above remark, from Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), an argument from false or weak analogy. In Washington, it happens to be a reflexive, almost instinctive identity protection mechanism.
In this case, it is the effort to analogize the circumstances that led to Trent Lott’s resignation as majority leader in 2002 with the remarks made by majority leader Harry Reid in 2008 (and published in 2010). As with most weak analogies, “proof” is induced from a reading of superficial similarities: both men said something about race, both men are majorities leaders. Once the analogy is employed, the events are linked, and disparate treatment could only suggest nefarious motives: media bias, usually, or double standards, or something unfair.
The argument is based not only on illogic but on how easy it is to exploit the tendency among human beings to seek patterns. A priori — that is, before we get to the facts of the matter, analogies, even when valid, don’t provide proof of anything. Weak analogies, in particular, tend to eclipse — or are intended to eclipse — a rational assessment of the facts and they obscure meaningful differences in time, place and motive.
Admittedly, it is always fun to trot out the material learned after one’s first Logic 101 exam and validate those youthful moments spent paying attention to something. Ambinder makes a fairly decent case about the argument from false or weak analogy if you ignore the fact that he’s making an argument from a false premise, which was also on that same Logic 101 test.
The mistake many of us on the right made was in bringing up the Trent Lott incident in the first place because it gave the left one of their beloved distractions from the real point to dance around. Any time they can get you caught up in a side argument about anything else they’ve won three quarters of the battle.
After deconstruction the Lott/Reid analogy, Ambinder attempts to defend the obvious double standard being employed. His false premise is that, contextually, one remark was racist and one was not. Poor Harry, you see, was merely expressing “his excitement about a black presidential candidate”.
Really? Then explain why the most powerful man in the United States Senate from, thank you David Brooks, the educated class couldn’t praise this black candidate’s education or legislative achievements? Is it because Reid is merely a stunningly inarticulate man (a somewhat easy case to make)? Perhaps he’s just “from another generation”.
No, like it or not lefties, Reid went there. Ambinder takes the logic he applies at the beginning of the piece and tortures it to come to the conclusion that Reid was simply excited.
In expressing his excitement about Barack Obama by essentially saying “he doesn’t look or sound very black” Reid revealed some underlying racism that can’t be undone with a legislative eraser.
Of course, the elephant (no GOP/Dem pun intended) in the room is the fact that, by viewing everything and everyone in terms of race and ethnicity, leftists are far more racist than they understand. It is impossible for them to just see “people”. Everyone has to be racially and ethnically hyphenated, which does nothing but perpetuate and strengthen divisions.
Which is precisely what they need to scare people in election years.