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Bipartisanship and False Dichotomy

March 16, 2011

A false dichotomy is a logical fallacy whereby someone views things as being black and white with no shades of gray.   As in: a person is either tall or short, honest or a criminal, pro-life or pro-choice.   Reality often doesn’t obey our efforts to categorize things so simply.

A false dichotomy becomes a logical fallacy when we use it in a debate to argue a point.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in politics.   Our politicians must align themselves with the party line or risk having their career stunted.  And votes for critical bills are often divided on party lines.

For example, a Senate vote on March 9th on H.R.1 got a Yes vote by every Republican and No by every Democrat .  Another vote on February 15th was similar.   Now, I’m not saying that every vote goes this way, but many of the important ones do.  Similar things can be seen in our news media.  People like Glenn Beck will promote one parties agenda, to the exclusion of all reason.

When it comes to discussions between friends the attitude is frequently “either you’re a conservative or a liberal”.  Why can’t I be in the middle?  Or mostly liberal with a few conservative points?

By forcing our politicians, friends, and enemies into one of two boxes we are forcing our government and society to never meet in the middle.  To never work together. To never accept that the other side might have a good idea too.  And yet we wonder why the country is so divided.

And by forcing myself into a box I must support ideas that I don’t agree simply to remain “in the box”. In essence, to lie to myself and others.  Staying in that box also makes me ignore good ideas from those in the other box.  Call it pride or call it ego, either way it’s stupid, counter productive, and in some ways dishonest.

So how do you fix this?  Hell if I know.  Maybe by seeing everyone as equal.  Or by seeing the good in others while seeing the failings in ourselves.  But I can tell you that it starts at a personal/individual level.  Good luck with that!  Tell me how that works out for you.

I, personally, am mostly in the middle when it comes to most issues.  I’m pro-choice, anti-union, pro-gay, pro-gun, and pro-universal health care.  Although I will be careful to point out that while I’m anti-union, I am most certainly pro-teachers and pro-education.  Most of these issues will become topics for later blog posts, I’m sure.

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One comment

  1. I’m with ya there. I’m having a hard time deciding on unions. I think that both sides in a labor dispute have monetary and personal/pride issues that they feel they must defend in order to retain respect, and their job as a negotiator. So, they always battle to the death over the most trivial matters.

    I learn towards pro-union, because I believe that a corporation inherently self-organizes in its own interest (and because the employees do what their superiors tell them to, because they get paid to do that). Nothing self-organizes the employees in their own self-interest, so I recognize that in SOME cases unions are appropriate. I also acknowledge that both sides abuse their power.



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