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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Argument by Motivation 2

In motivation and Voter ID (April 4th) we discussed the left's opposition to voter ID laws on the grounds that the advocates' presumed  motivation was to prevent a certain class of people from voting.  I have seen people who are well aware of the invalidity of this type of ad hominem fallacy find it so appealing that they cannot resist it. It is reasonable to consider motivation in analyzing an advocate's reason's for opposing a position, that is, for the purpose  of judging the advocate.  However, it is not, in fact a valid argument against the position itself.  Consider about any martyrdom case.  The position is to eliminate the individual and thereby shut down the person's belief, program, cause ... .   But it frequently doesn't work for example the French Revolution, Nelson Mandela, or for that matter, Jesus Christ himself.  Just because X is the motive of your action does not mean that X will be a consequence of that action.

The right likes this kind of argument too.
In this situation in fact many on the right believe that the left is opposed to voter ID laws because the left is motivated by a desire to get the votes of millions of people who are in the country illegally and do not have the right to vote.  Just as the right has some who would like to suppress voting, there are some on the left who would like to stretch the access to voting to include some who would not have traditionally qualified.  If you listen to TV discussions on this you will sometimes hear "all eligible people" should be allowed to vote and sometimes they will simply say "all people".

This is at least part of the reason for the fact that we do not have an immigration bill.  Each side assumes the worst possible motives on the part of the opposition -  i. e. they seek to demonize them.

Here the fallacy allows you to oppose the law without having to deal with what the law says.  Just oppose the presumed motives of the opponent.  As usual with ad hominem arguments it involves much less thinking.

With all  of the discussion on the other point I still did not see someone on the left say that they agreed with the statement:

If you are entitled to or have a right to something from the government you should be required to prove your eligibility for that entitlement or right.


  1. "If you are entitled to or have a right to something from the government you should be required to prove your eligibility for that entitlement or right."

    I'm with you! Here are some poorly developed thoughts - admittedly, based on how I *feel* about the issue. I reserve the right to change my mind or just shrug "I don't know" at any point in this discussion...

    1) It doesn't seem crazy to me that you should have to prove who you are to have to vote
    2) If you have to prove who you are, there better be a free and relatively hassle-free process to do so
    3) It seems like the process currently in place puts a higher burden on certain groups of people - people who might have a harder time getting to places where necessary documentation can be acquired, taking time off work to do so, etc
    4) It would be a lot easier for me to support the efforts to impose voter ID laws if there were enough fraud taking place to actually change the outcome of an election
    5) As far as I know, this level of fraud is not taking place

  2. Wayne from April 14 discussion: "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?"

    Wayne, here's what puzzles me about your passionate desire to get the left to sign on to your exact wording regarding ID requirements. You seem, as shown in the above quote, minus the snark, to be coming at this issue as if the current system, by which I refer to the voting system across the country before the various states changed their voter ID laws, resulting in the stirring up this controversy, requires no voter ID whatsoever. If there is somewhere in the country where that is/was true then I'm not aware of it. I have voted in two states and various cities within those states and I have never been allowed to vote on the "honor system". Although admittedly I did not try. But it was my belief that, had I not provided the required ID, I would have been turned away. My position on this issue assumes that the current unchanged voting system already requires proof of eligibility and that the new laws in question seek to add additional barriers to voting by requiring additional and or harder to acquire, voter ID.

    Wayne from above: "If you are entitled to or have a right to something from the government you should be required to prove your eligibility for that entitlement or right." This lefty agrees with this in principle. To my knowledge proof of eligibility has always been required, at least in my adult life, and so far as it has been credibly determined, that system is/was working well, at least as far as voting is concerned. If I am incorrect and there are/were pockets of "honor system" voting going on then I would be happy and interested to hear/read about them. I am not in favor of an honor system. I repeat...I am not in favor of an honor system. Now I will have to call the lefty hot line and confess my sins.

  3. Dan,
    2-3 agreed as noted before - particularly for voting.
    4. The current question is not whether to have voter ID but whether it should include a picture like my driver's license does. But it is just an example of a larger problem.

    The reason that I was pushing for THE STATEMENT was to get exactly that "agreement in principle" that you just made.

    All: Now that we all agree on the basic principle, we can put aside the mutual paranoia ( D: the Rs are going to deny some of our people access to the polls; R: the Ds are going to try to make voters out of those 11-15 million noncitizen residents.) and look at what I would call "the real question". How to handle the problem of people who are eligible for some government right (.. benefit or privilege) being able to access that right (.. benefit or privilege) and only those who are eligible.

    In particular voter registration and ID.

    In this discussion one of the biggest issues is "voter fraud". Doubter's point to the small number of convictions. Remember that this crime does not leave a "visible victim". It is more like cheating on your taxes. How many of us think that that is rare just because there are not very many convictions?

    1. Why is proof of a high level of fraud a prerequisite for pictures on Voter ID cards, but not for driver's licenses?

    2. Why do we know or think we know how much voter fraud there is? Do we take exit polls? "Excuse me sir. Who did you vote for for Senator? Were you eligible to vote in this election?"