The Logic of Illogical Debates

The presidential debate began tonight October 3, 2012 with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The supporters of these two candidates seem to be incredibly loyal to their chosen party as well as the stances on controversial issues brought up in this election. However, many people do not realize the amounts of logical fallacies that are presented to them, under the guise of truth and good intentions.

A logical fallacy is an error in reason, a break in the chain of logic, causing anyone’s argument to then become invalid. A few common logical fallacies are ad hominem, ad populum, slippery slope, post hoc, false dilemma, and faulty appeals to emotion. All these logical fallacies I have seen come up in almost every news debate about the presidential candidates, their campaigns, their ads against one another, etc. Why do political leaders, who the general populace deems as at least somewhat intelligent, use illogical arguments/statements against the opposing’s side illogical arguments/statements? Because logical fallacies work. Inspirational speeches given to civilians in times of war, the US Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches, etc., all have logical fallacies. They sound nice, they sound confident and convincing, they create a very specific response in the audience with which the speaker can manipulate and utilize to his/her benefit.

The Presidential debate actually surprised me. Although the two candidates did use some slippery slopes, false dilemmas, and ad hominems, they truly seemed willing to at least try to make a debate out of it. The general public does not seem to understand that both candidates have this enormous amount of people they need to appeal to; Obama and Romney both have advisors instructing them on the best way to prove to America that he (Obama or Romney) is the best choice for president. Logical fallacies are quick shortcuts in thinking which allow a person to come to a decision quick. With so much pressure on both candidates, obviously some of these shortcuts will be utilized.

As I watched the debate, I was distinctively aware of the logical fallacies being employed as well as the appeals to emotion- faulty or not- both Romney and Obama were using. However, I was completely unsatisfied with the questions asked. Both candidates, contrary to what extremists on both sides will declare, do wish the best for this country. They both want to help the American people. They both want America to be a prosperous nation with a strong global economy, intelligent and well-cared for citizens, and safe borders. That is fact. The order in which these wants occur on the candidate’s priority list is of bigger issue. The ‘how’ in fixing the issues in these major areas matters more than whether or not the presidential candidate acknowledges these issues. The structure of the debate left both candidates with no time to expand upon these issues, either. The debate should be centered on one of the major problems in American society, and then both candidates, now with 90 minutes for just that one issue, would be more able to debate with each other, rather than last minute fine-tuning of their platform with finger pointing about who said what in the past. As a woman, and even though I do not believe these issues should be relevant to this election, I wanted to hear Romney’s reasons about his stance on birth control, abortion, ect. No matter what a president would like to declare, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe vs. Wade would deem any harsh restrictions on both of these hot issues as unconstitutional; not necessarily because of a morality issue, but because the federal government does not have that type of power, it is left to the states, but it also infringes upon a person’s right to privacy and their pursuit of happiness . Nevertheless, I saw many inadequacies in the structure of the debate, the questions being asked, as well as the time given to both candidates rather than in the candidates themselves and this has allowed logical fallacies to be more of use and of higher prevalence in politics.   

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