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Either/Or Politics

posted: 11.12.12 by Donna Winchell

Rogerian argument doesn’t have a chance in a nation where red and blue replace black and white as the either/or of politics. In teaching rhetoric, we discuss the either/or fallacy. The fallacy is that there are often more than two possible options, and to present your case as if there are only two is fallacious reasoning. Our election of a president has long been essentially a two-party affair in spite of the fact that a few more names may appear on the ballot. So it had to be Obama or Romney. That was a fact. But does that mean we had to prove ourselves a red nation or a blue nation? Is there no other option?

Because of our outdated Electoral College, we vote as states, not as individuals. It’s easy for those who are “red” but live in a “blue” state to feel disenfranchised, and vice versa. It’s easy to say “why vote?” when the media have long since called the election for your state, as if all  but those in a few battleground states might as well not vote at all. We learned a number of years ago that calling the presidential election in Eastern states before polls even closed in the West was disastrous for those running for state or local office because so many potential voters didn’t bother to vote.

With a nation divided very nearly down the middle, it is easy for politicians to see every situation as an either/or situation. That’s how a president can find himself blocked at every turn by a Congress in which his party is not the majority. That’s how looking ahead to the next election can become more important than reaching across the aisle to try to work out the country’s problems. Every decision has to be made as a Republican or as a Democrat. That leaves no room for middle ground, and Carl Rogers taught us that finding middle ground is the first step toward finding a solution to a problem.

If we could ever replace the Electoral College with the popular vote, at least we could be “red” or “blue” as individuals. We might even realize that seeing everything as red or blue is no wiser than seeing everything as black or white. Many issues our country faces are much more complex than that. We as individuals are more complex than that, and so is the welfare of our country.


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