The legion of straw men
Having watched Maine and national politics from the sidelines for more than 40 years, it has become more apparent in recent years that a particular tactic of the left has become endemic to their political style book, the use of the straw man argument.
A simple definition of a straw man argument is to present a position that directly or indirectly misrepresents your opponent’s position, thereby making it easy to proclaim loudly how unjust, mean-spirited, and hateful their position must be, and by extension that yours is, of course, the only valid position/view. In some cases this involves exaggeration (in the extreme) of the opponent’s position, in others it really amounts to wholesale fabrication.
The goal of this form of argument is to denigrate the opponent’s image, while improving your own, by forcing them to refute a false argument, thereby having to repeat the lies in rebuttal — which oddly lends more credibility to the substance of the lie by repetition in the media.
It is worth noting that the straw man tactic is most effective with an audience that is already biased in favor of the attacker, and/or an uniformed and ignorant audience willing to be swayed by the tone of a sound bite or editorial headline.
Here is an example of the current master champion of the straw man argument, President Barack Obama: from USA Today, 12-13-2010 —
One of those fights will be over the very thing that some Democrats are angry about: The two-year extension of George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the nation's wealthiest Americans.
"When they expire in two years, I will fight to end them," Obama said. "Just as I suspect the Republican Party may fight to end the middle-class tax cuts that I've championed and that they've opposed."
In fact, Barack Obama’s assertion here that the Republicans wished to end middle class tax cuts was entirely false. The Republicans had never represented their position as such, wishing instead to see all bracket tax cuts extended. However, with a media willing to help his goal of pushing the narrative of Republicans trying to protect the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class (the “Income Inequality” meme), the process of repetition in rebuttals allowed them to focus more air time or column inches on the straw man than the facts .
The straw man argument deflects attention from the real issues, and never deals with the truth.
The record of the Obama administration is so riddled with scandal and corrupt practices (Obamacare, IRS targeting, Benghazi, NSA, to name a few things the mainstream media lightly reported on) that to suggest that Republican opposition is the cause of economic stagnation, or international catastrophes, is preposterous.
It is absurd for the media to imply that any opposition to the multitude of lies told by the president, and his administration is grounded in hatred. The theme that anyone who opposes Barack Obama’s agenda is a racist is yet another canard. These straw men prevent any meaningful conversation.
Many Americans are greatly dismayed at the executive over-reach of Barack Obama, and his end-runs on constitutional authority. Notably, the Supreme Court has, as of July 2014, handed this master of straw men 20 unanimous defeats in 5 ½ years. When even your liberal appointees vote against you, it isn’t hate or spite. In that venue, one does not deal with political one-upsmanship, it is the constitution and rule of law — over straw men.
We should all endeavor to become more educated as to the facts, and learn to recognize the straw men for what they are; a tactic to undermine honest conversation and debate.