Can you discredit an opponent’s opinion by demonizing the opponent or his or her supporters, rather than addressing the opinion itself?
The President recently spoke on the horrors of the Citizens United v. FEC decision, in which evil corporations retained (or regained) a right to support political speech. Obama hates the decision, but insists he’s no censor. What he really wants is to force supporters of political messages to disclose the financing used to promote said speech. Who it comes from.
The Disclose Act, currently working its way through Congress, aims to do just that.
The odd thing, as former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith relates, is that the legislation is, well, redundant. Corporations that spend money on political speech during final election blitz-time are now required to report their funding sources.
So why pile on?
Perhaps the President and his confrères see disclosure as less about information and more about blocking the message by taking up half of a 30-second television spot with the names of various corporate executives.
But the stated rationale bespeaks of an underlying belief that arguments for or against something stand or fall depending on who supports them. It’s the argument ad hominem all over again. Someone for policy X? If A or B supports it, that’s bad; if C or D supports it, that’s good.
And that’s a fallacy. And evidence of a certain simple-minded partisanship, giving voters less credit than they are due.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.