A common practice in politics is the use of the loaded question; that is, a question with a false or questionable presupposition designed to mislead the reader or listener. A typical example of this often used in logics classes is the question “Have you stopped beating your wife.” It presupposes that you have beaten your wife in the past. No matter how one answers a question like this, the listener will often have doubts about the veracity of the answer.
The Republicans are masters at the use of the loaded question. Take for example, the inclusion in one of the health care bills of a provision giving the option for an elderly person to discuss end-of-life issues with his or her doctor. End-of-life issues could be anything from the discussion of hospice care for a chronically ill person through living wills and directives to funeral planning. These are issues that are commonly discussed today – and should be – but are often not covered by one’s medical insurance.
All it took was for Sarah Palin to make the charge that the government health reformers were creating death panels whose task it would be to decide who would live and who would die. Of course that is a charge based on a totally false presupposition, but it was enough to blow this much needed provision right out of the water.
Members of the Middletown Republican Club – I always try to distinguish them from the good, decent registered Republican voters who are my friends and neighbors and whom I have met in my travels throughout Middletown Township – have been perfecting the art of the loaded question for years.
In a recent mailer to residents of the Village of Flowers Mill, they basically ask why I would refuse to engage the voters in a debate. They took a statement I made out of context – that I would be reluctant to accept an invitation to debate at the Village of Flowers Mill – and exclaimed with great flourish that “We find it outrageous that any sitting elected official would refuse to engage the citizens of our community so voters could better understand the positions of every candidate for office.” (Not that anyone could understand their positions on the issues that face Middletown Township from their literature, but more on that tomorrow.)
The article in question was about a resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors allowing Township Hall to be used for a political debate, which would be televised so every resident in the Township would have the opportunity to view it. Given that premise, I said I would be reluctant to hold a debate in the Village of Flowers Mill since the audience would be restricted to members of this community when we now have the means to reach all residents of the Township. A fact our Republican opponents neglected to mention is that the president of the Village of Flowers Mill’s Board agreed that a debate in Township Hall would be preferable.
Also left out was the fact that one of their candidates was quoted in that same article saying that they were contacting the League of Women Voters to set up a debate. This, of course, never happened.
I am sure a lot worse is coming. When candidates don’t have any issues to run on, they attack, distort and obfuscate to try to cover their own inadequacies. Now there – inadequacies – is something they have in abundance.