I disagree with Hightower.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Motivation and Voter ID 2

I find the use of an alleged “motivation of your opponent” as an argument against his case to be rather boring and persuasive only to those who desperately want to believe.  The idea is:  Don’t argue that the opponent's case is invalid, argue that the opponent’s motivation is nasty.  I suppose that it is a subcase of the abusive ad hominem argument: A fallacy which usually involves attacking the traits of an opponent as a means to invalidate their arguments.  In this case the opponent’s motivation is the particular aspect of the person that is attacked.   The merits of the case, one way or another, often get lost altogether.  Of course, if you don’t have a good case, then perhaps avoiding an argument based on merit is your best chance.  (Did I just slip into the motivation fallacy?)

The place this is currently getting a lot of play is in the Voter ID laws.  Those Rs are just trying to deny the right to vote of the old and poor who are expected to vote Democratic.  The D’s are just trying to fix it so all of those illegal aliens can vote for them.  Both arguments totally ignore the fundamental question:

A.   If a person claims to have a right or an entitlement to something, should they
1) have to demonstrate that they are eligible for that thing or
2) should the government grant these rights and benefits on the honor system.

B.   Since voting is essential to a democracy it gets special treatment.  There is a fundamental obligation by the government to ensure there is no impediment (other than eligibility) to the exercise of the right to vote.  In particular there can be no financial impediment – tax, charge, or cost (24th  amendment).  That is, if you require a picture ID, then you must provide a way for them to get one cost free.

I choose A1 and B.  A1 it seems to me is self evident.  B is a bit harder to implement, but not really that bad.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I am not saying either group does not have the alleged motivations.  I am not saying that motivations are not important.  They may explain why someone is taking a certain position.

But an argument based on the opponent’s motivation is not valid.  There are at least two good reasons:
1.  Even if their motives are bad the result could be good.

2.  Unless you are God, you don’t know their motives.


  1. Always a pleasure Wayne.

    1 Bad motives may result in good results but I wouldn't bet the farm on it turning out that way (unless I really WAS God). To me, that's the one that requires Godly powers.

    2 One may not know 100% what someone else's motives are, but, to use an extreme example to make a point, if someone comes at you menacingly with weapon in hand. I would suggest that you not wait until the results are in to find out what their motive is or whether it is going to turn out good or badly. Hint: it's going to turn out badly. Motives can be inferred successfully, even by frail and mortal human beings, even in a much less stressful situation. We do it every day.

    Now, whether one has a valid argument against another's position just by attacking the opponent's motive for taking that position, rather than the position itself, is another question altogether. And I would argue that it depends on the situation. The devil's not going to show you his bad motives (limiting voting by minorities with various newly legalized strategies) before he shows you the prize (no fraudulent voters). You might say, "how is the right going to specifically limit minorities and poor folks' voting?" I admit that I am not smart enough or knowledgeable enough or in the loop enough to know all of the possible answers to that question. Both sides have very, very smart people working on strategies that I could never dream of. And they work on them them every day. So I suppose I am copping to Wayne's accusation that going with motive is the best I have. But I am not copping to it in the same spirit with which he accused it. What I have inferred is that the right would like very much to limit voting by minorities and poor folks and the right is the side making the fuss about fraudulent voting and new laws that need to be enacted. Coincidence? I'm going to go with no. Sometimes motive is the only solid thing you've got because the other side hasn't played their whole hand yet. But it's not nothing. Sometimes you don't know the how, but you do know the what. I don't know exactly how my teen aged kids used to sneak out of the house late at night (different ways I think) but I did know their motives because I'm not stupid. And that was more than enough for me to act upon.

    If only bad arguers argue against motives them I'm a bad arguer. But, I don't think so.

  2. So based on the motives of the imaginary guy who is attacking you and the machinations of your children,
    what is your conclusion about how government rights and entitlements should be passed out?
    Evidence or the honor system (see below)?

    Poll watcher: "Are you eligible? "
    aspiring voter: "Of Course I am."
    Poll watcher: "Come on down."

  3. My conclusion is that government rights and entitlements should be passed out fairly, justly and without prejudice based on the legal purpose of the right or entitlement.

    Can you assure us that none of the so-called voter ID laws that have been enacted in the various states will make that happen better than it is now and not actually worse? Can you argue in favor of specific legal language that's being included in these laws that make what I'm after happen better and not worse?

    You have been quite clear about what you want and I don't see anything wrong with it in theory. But you're not writing the laws. I would actually feel better about it if you were. This is the part where I worry about motives. And I think we all should be. Just because a law is called a voter ID law does not mean that it doesn't do a lot more than require voter ID. But it will still be called the voter ID law and folks who are in favor of voter ID will feel that their side won.

    I haven't voted in every precinct in the country but I have voted in a lot of precincts in Texas and Oklahoma and I don't recall even one not requiring to see my voter registration or some evidence that I was who I said I was. So I don't believe it's as free and easy as you are making it sound right now. But that does sound fun. "Bruce Young, or whomever you are, come on down!"

    1. Take "none of" out of the 1st sentence in the 2nd paragraph.

    2. You are right that it is not that free and easy. I am happy that it is not. The reason that it is not that free and easy is voter registration and ID laws. I think they are a good thing.

      I also agree that you and I would probably write a similar law if we were doing it.

      It seems strange to me that the left seems so reluctant to agree with the simple statement that someone ought to demonstrate their eligibility for the things to which they are entitled.

      Seriously, do you know why that is? I think that most of you would agree. We have picture IDs required to drive a car.
      Why do y'all object to the statement above? Is it because you want to identify anyone who even whispers support for demonstrating eligibility to vote as being out to deny people the right to vote?

    3. Oh, NOW you want to talk motive. Haha. Far be it from me to speak for the left. When I speak about the right or the left I am generally referring to the leadership and strategists, not individuals who have decided the center is not for them. I would imagine that the reason the left, as I have now defined it, opposes voter ID legislation is the same reason the right is for it. If said legislation does keep any voters away from the polls for whatever reason, and the reason would be in the actual legislation itself, the probabilities say they would be democrat voters. I would be willing to bet money that your average democrat does not favor voter fraud any more than your average republican. But it would be difficult to argue that voter
      ID legislation, though it's stated purpose was always to prevent voter fraud, has not in the past been used to legally decrease voter participation by some group or other. And neither you nor I nor anyone else can guarantee such legislation will not be used for that purpose in the future.

      I don't know anything about the whispering part. I myself do not want to identify anyone as anything other than who they are. Though, like most people I probably do. But not purposefully. The left as I defined it above probably spends a lot of money and time trying to devise ways to do just that. Same for the right. They both do it everyday.

    4. I am always willing to talk about motive. If you look at original post it included: "I am not saying that motivations are not important."

      The logical fallacy is to argue against a presumed motive instead of against the case the opponent presents. Because it lets you ignore the opponent's case.

      I understand that you can't speak for the general left. What about yourself? We have picture IDs required to drive a car. Shouldn't voting have that much proof of eligibility? If you would, please omit "fraud" and "keeping voters away" and all of that propaganda out of it. Maybe just say what you would require for a) registration and b) identification at voting time.

      Please don't limit yourself to statements like: "Voting rights should be passed out fairly." That would not help your poll watcher decide who can and who cannot vote.

  4. I think this discussion ties in nicely with the previous discussion on “intent”.

    1. I agree Tom. I really wanted to participate more in that conversation but did not have the time to give it the thought it deserves.