Separating wheat and chaff

Several interesting political discussions ensued with friends over the last few days. There were a few more around because two people some of us knew passed away. One in a plane wreck, the other from cancer. Some friends like to talk politics with a real live blogger, and some of them are informed enough and intellectually honest enough to be worth talking about it with. But not all.

There’s a somewhat simple, almost elegant algorithm for separating the novices and part-timers and hard-core partisan warriors from the more experienced and frank. The latter might lean or reside entirely on one side of the great left-right divide that has come to define modern US politics like North vs South did decades ago. But they’re able to exert some objectivism; there’s a lot of fancy ways we could say this, they live in a reality-based world, they resist cognitive dissonance. But what it boils down to is they know a fact when they see one, plus they value facts as building blocks in effective policy solutions.

It’s not infallible, but below is a fast-food approach to separate the more purely ideological from the more purely rational.

If the person leans left, and assuming you have good rapport, mutual respect, i.e., that they won’t see you as trying to trick them. Ask them 1) did President Bush win the 2004 election? 2) Did he run on remaining in Iraq or leaving it?

You’d be surprised how hard it is for a progressive, someone who plays politics for sport or a living, to just answer those questions. They are compelled to avoid, twist away, or stand in denial of the answers. Which is pointless, we all know what the answers are. Yes, Bush won in 2004. He won by a comfortable enough popular and electoral vote margin that any irregularities in voting or touch screen machines or whatever you want to pick don’t matter. If the progressive goes into a convoluted, “it was rigged but done so well there’s not much evidence for it,” that’s basically political Last Thursday-ism. A conjured cover story, an illusion so perfect it is indistinguishable from reality, calling into question the meaning of either word.

Remember, we’re not asking for a moral judgement on that question — did he win? — we’re not asking if it was good or bad. Only the result. The result is George Bush won against John Kerry in 2004 fair and square by number of votes — whoever gets the most wins — and part of the winning campaign was the US staying in Iraq. So it shouldn’t be surprising that we stayed for the rest of Bush’s term.

Up to now right-leaning readers might be smiling, ‘those dang liberals can’t face reality, George Bush whipped your ass!’ OK, two questions: 1) did Obama win the 2008 election? 2) Did he run in staying in Iraq or leaving? Hey now, no evading, no twisting, did Obama win or not? Did he run on leaving Iraq? You’ll see some members of the left exchange scripts with members of the right here, ahh it must have been cooked by ACORN or the Blank Panthers or some conspiracy nonsense, because Obama couldn’t have actually won. Except of course, he did.

We all know the answer to the Bush and Obama questions. In Obama’s iteration, it’s shouldn’t be surprising that we left Iraq. That’s what he ran on and won on, that’s what he raon and won on in the Democratic primary. That’s why Clinton lost against Obama.

Whenever a friend wants to talk to me personally about politics, I find simple, symmetrical questions like those good way to pre-gauge if the discussion is likely to be productive in any way. Because with no respect for facts, it’s tough to have a discussion that includes them. Which means there’s a whole bunch of other fun, non-political things we can talk about or do.



  1. says

    Except Ron Paul won both of those elections. The UN then confiscated 48% of the ballots cast to put one of their puppets in place. The lame stream media never brings it up, though. What are they hiding?

  2. Scr... Archivist says

    But they’re able to exert some objectivism….

    I think you mean “objectivity”.

    Unless you mean something else entirely by this post….

    Except of course, he did.

    Not only did he win, but in 2008 he won with more popular votes, more electoral votes, and a higher proportion of the vote than Shrub received in 2000 or 2004. Obama’s support slid somewhat in 2012, but he still managed to out-do Bush in all of these categories.

  3. Trebuchet says

    Nitpick: Obama may have run on leaving Iraq, but the date had already been set by Bush. W was a different president in his last two years, after he fired Rumsfeld and started marginalizing Cheney.

  4. lorn says

    Yes, W won the 2004 presidential election and did it in a convincing manner. I wish he hadn’t, but those are the facts.

    That said the question has to be asked; if the 2000 election had been lost and W was not the incumbent at the time of 9/11 would W have been president at all? If the debacle of the 2000 election had ended up with Gore in the white house in 2001 and 9/11, with everyone rallying round the flag, would W have had a chance in 2004. My answer is: no.

    For W to win in 2004 he had to be the incumbent running against Kerry. He likely wouldn’t have succeeded in running against an incumbent Gore.

    I base this in part on the historical observation that the president at the start of a of a war gets a bonus and that democratic presidents tend to do slightly better in military leadership simply because they tend to micromanage less and defer to the military leadership more.

    The world would be a different place. Likely we would have been slower and more deliberate in invading Afghanistan and the Iraqi invasion might not have happened at all. Gore would have maintained the agreement with North Korea established by Clinton but neglected by W. Neglect that led to NK having the bomb. Likely the financial world would have been significantly more restrained and the financial meltdown both less likely and less dangerous if it did go south.

    Against an incumbent and one coming off relative success in Afghanistan, while avoiding involvement in Iraq, W would have had little chance.

  5. John Horstman says

    @Pierce R. Butler #5: Most (perhaps not all, but evidence is lacking) of the electioneering that went on in Ohio was actually legal. As with everywhere, we have disenfranchisement of people without fixed addresses year-to-year (disproportionately younger, darker, and poorer people) to an extent that I think ought to render the elections unfair in our evaluation, but based on the rules in place (and unlike the 2000 election), Bush almost certainly legally won in 2004. See, for example, this follow-up report by Mother Jones.

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