In a Townhall.com editorial titled The Top 10 Things to Know About ’08, Patrick Ruffinni writes:

… 5. Be the Guy (or Gal) People Want to Vote For. Emotion, charisma, and nostalgia are still huge factors in driving the vote. Committed observers of politics disparage this basic fact — while candidates who are able to establish an emotional connection with the voters keep laughing all the way to the White House.

Hillary continues to romp thanks to Democratic nostalgia for Bill despite lingering doubts about her electability. Mike Huckabee, who’s good with a quip, edged the more rigorous Sam Brownback out of the race. The pro-choice Giuliani thrived while the pro-life McCain tanked because of the connection the former built with Americans on 9/11. Appeals to reason increasingly fall on deaf ears. That sounds like a stinging indictment, but it’s not. It’s simple reality. And smart politicians need to adapt to it … etc.

Someone named “myclob” responds to Ruffinni in a blog.electromneyin2008.com post titled Is Patrick Ruffinni Jaded?

Unfortunatley Patrick doesn’t give us an example of “appeals to reason falling on def ears”, but not only is he bemoaning the fact that people no longer listen to reason, he is actively telling politicians to stop trying to make “appeals to reason”. Contrast Mr. Raffinni to Mr. Lincoln …

Various responsa:

(1) Say what!? Mr. Ruffinni does develop his thesis with examples that support the notion that “Emotion, charisma, and nostalgia are still huge factors in driving the vote.” His examples:

  1. Hillary continues to romp thanks to Democratic nostalgia for Bill despite lingering doubts about her electability.
  2. Mike Huckabee, who’s good with a quip, edged the more rigorous Sam Brownback out of the race.
  3. The pro-choice Giuliani thrived while the pro-life McCain tanked because of the connection the former built with Americans on 9/11.

In each of Ruffinni’s 3 examples a reasoned position loses to, respectively, an emotional attachment to (1) an era, (2) a quick wit, or (3) a national hero. Ground and consequent, not once, not twice, but 3 times in a row!—See how that works, Myclob? Duh! Oh, well, I suppose that you don’t see how that works since you missed it entirely. You prate about the utility of logic and evidence yet you can’t identify a simple argument?

(2) Mr. Ruffinni counsels office-seekers to connect with voters on an emotional level. Mr. Ruffinni is hardly the first to issue this advice. You only need to peruse Aristotle’s On Rhetoric, Cicero’s On Oratory and Orations etc.,. etc. Or perhaps you could peruse the more recent research of Cialdini, who includes “liking” as one of the primary instruments of social influence: we tend to want to listen to those we like, to those to whom we are attracted etc.—of particular interest to any Romney follower would be Cialdini’s category of “consistency”—we tend to want to be consistent with ourselves, and we tend NOT to trust those who are INCONSISTENT.

Myclob continues:

... It is a casualty of today’s short attention spans, that Patrick can’t make a longer more logical argument that we should abandon logic. He gives no logical reason why we should abandon logic. No empirical evidence. No statistics. He just asserts his superior knowledge to (you guessed it) “D.C. insiders, the media, and interest groups.” This is the kind of crud people are sick and tired of. Opinions are like elbows, everyone has them. Patrick never makes an argument for why people need to abanond logic. Go ahead read the article yourself.

He just states his conclusion, backed up by no facts. That’s why people hate politics. So many people say stuff that just isn’t true. In science and medicine people don’t go around saying stuff without trying to prove that it is true. But in politics people just spout their opinions …

We have already established that R. does offer grounds for his assertion, only Myclob failed to identify it. But just for fun, let us allow Myclob’s claim and ask: When is the last time you heard an e.g. categorical syllogism spoken from behind a pulpit, or a podium, or from atop a bima?—probably never. Formal reasoning occurs in specialized disciplines. Most deliberation in public or civic discourse takes the form of practical or informal reasoning, e.g. what Perelman would call argument based on the structure of reality (roughly: deduction), or argument that establishes a structure of reality (roughly: induction), various species of presumptive (default) reasoning, analogy, metaphor, illustration, dissociation …

Further: Politics is about the opinionable—it is about opinions—what is not opinionable or what is inarguable is no longer a political question. (Imagine if we could vote on the laws of physics.)

Contrast Patrick’s style of stating conclusions to Mitt Romney’s more data centered approach in this article. An example of Romney’s date-centeredness can be summed up by the statement of a business friend that we should; “Look at the invoices!”

Yes. And this precisely why so many of us bitterly oppose Romney, i.e. his aggressively and unapologetically apolitical habits of mind. Politics is about the polis, the mess and the muddle of the human community. Politics is about people. Data, on the other hand, are inhuman, mere telemetry, even if that data is about humans. We, for example, are not a demographic category, nor are we an income bracket. We have a name. We have a history. And we want a president who is not a bloodless problem solver. The president may appoint bloodless problem-solvers like Romney. But we would prefer a president with whom we can identify on some human level. And this would not be—never be—Romney.

yours &c.
dr. d.g.

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