Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rhetoric: "Americans Want..."

Politicians and pundits frequently make claims about what their constituents want. They say that "Americans want this" and "Americans want that", but without providing much substance to these assertions, or defending their importance.

Is It True?

The first thing to consider when someone announces that "Americans want X" is the truth of the claim. Do Americans really want it? What evidence is there for the truth of this assertion?

Part of the problem with evaluating the truth of the claim is in specifying what it means. Does the claim "Americans want X" mean that all Americans want X; some Americans want X; or that a majority of Americans want X?

Depending on which claim is meant, the assertion may or may not be true. If the claim is that all Americans want X, then just one dissenter is enough to prove the claim false. If the claim is that some Americans want X, then you only need one person in order to prove the claim true.

If the claim is that a majority of Americans want X, then it's tougher to prove (or disprove) the claim. Typically politicians try to support their claim by referring to a poll. Not all polls are accurate, however, so we should be wary of instantly taking any poll at face value.

Does It Matter?

Supposing that we've established that the claim "Americans want X" is true, the next thing to consider whether it matters.

If the claim is merely that some Americans want X, then this doesn't carry much weight. After all, this is compatible with there being some Americans -- maybe even a greater number -- who don't want X.

If the claim is that a majority of Americans want X, we still need to consider whether it matters.

This might sound odd: given our allegiance to democracy, we're inclined to bow to the will of the majority. But democracies all over the world -- the U.S. included -- take measures to ensure that the majority doesn't always get what it wants, and for good reason. In the U.S., the Constitution prohibits certain rights -- for instance, the right to freedom of speech -- from being violated regardless of what the majority votes for. And this is justified, because it's wrong to treat people immorally merely because a majority wants to do so: for instance, just because a majority wants slavery doesn't make slavery a good thing.

So, even if the majority of Americans really does want something, it's fair to question whether they're right. The majority isn't necessarily always correct. To think that the majority must be correct is an example of flawed reasoning. In particular, it's a fallacy known as argumentum ad populum ("appeal to the people", or "appeal to the masses").

The final version of the "Americans want" claim -- that all Americans want something -- is, in the first place, likely to be false. But, even if it is true, it has the same problems as the argumentum ad populum "appeal to the masses".

Best Response

When you here someone make the claim that "Americans want" this or that, ask the following questions:
  • Which Americans are they referring to? All of them? A majority of them? Only some of them?
  • Once it's clear which Americans are being referred to, what evidence is there for the truth of the claim?
  • Finally, why is it important that Americans want it? Is this a fallacious appeal to the masses? What are we supposed to conclude from the claim that "Americans want X"?
Demanding this sort of clarity will help to reduce confusion, flawed reasoning, and empty rhetoric.

"For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle – have made in the fight against ISIL, is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam”. That’s the key, they tell us. We can’t beat ISIL unless we call them “radical Islamists”. What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is, “none of the above”. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction. Since before I was President, I’ve been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As President I have repeatedly called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions. There’s not been a moment in my seven-and-a-half years as President where we have not been able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam”. Not once has an advisor of mine said, “Man, if we really used that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around.” Not once. … So there’s no magic to the phrase “radical Islam”. It’s a political talking point. It’s not a strategy. And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness, and everything to do with actually defeating extremism. Groups like ISIL and Al-Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. They want us to validate them, by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda, that’s how they recruit? And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists work for them. Up until this point this argument about labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric. Sadly, we’ve all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups. And that kind of yapping has not prevented folks across government from doing their jobs, from sacrifice and working really hard to protect the American people. But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mindset and this kind of thinking can be. We’re starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we’re fighting, where this can lead us. We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States to bar all Muslims from emigrating to America. You hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence. Where does this stop? … Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want. … We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it. We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history."
-- President Barack Obama, June 14, 2016, referring to (among other people) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: There is a lot going on here, including "distractions", "talking points", "appealing to fear" and "Americans want" rhetoric. But the bigger issue is distortion. It's not clear who has ever said that using the term "radical Islam" is a necessary or a sufficient condition for defeating ISIS (i.e., that we can't defeat ISIS without using that term, or that using the term is all we need – a "silver bullet" – to defeat ISIS). Maybe some people have taken one or both of these positions – though, has it been their "main" contribution to the issue? – but they certainly haven't been adopted by Republicans in general. Obama needs to name who has advocated these positions, and when and where did so; otherwise it seems like he's knocking over a straw man (a position no one holds). More, if there is no "magic" in using the term "radical Islam", then why avoid it? Obama says that we shouldn't brand all Muslims as terrorists or radicals – and he's correct – but it's not at all clear that using the term does that. Lots of people refer to "Islamic terrorism" while at the same time acknowledging that not all terrorism is done by Muslims and that the vast majority of Muslims aren't terrorists. As I've argued before, you can call someone a "white supremacist" without saying all whites are supremacists, just like you can say Josef Stalin was an "violent socialist" without saying all socialists are violent. Why doesn't the same apply to "radical Islam"? If we support all of Obama's policies and actions on terrorism, but also use the term "Islamic terrorism", are we suddenly validating terrorists and helping them recruit members? Does the term have that much "magic"?

"I want to echo something that I heard my friend and former colleague Peter King saying as I was listening here. This is a moment for Republicans, Democrats and Independents to work together as one team. The American team. And it’s a time for statesmanship, not partisanship. I think that our fellow American citizens expect that."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 13, 2016, referring to the Orlando nightclub shooting by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.

Comment: This is "unify the country" rhetoric, but what, exactly, are Americans supposed to unify on and not be partisan about? It's trivial to say that we should all be opposed to terrorism. Should we all unify on one plan to deal with terrorism, even if we don't all think it's the best plan? Without specifying this, how can she be sure that it's something all Americans want?

Beyond the logistics of a comprehensive round-up are the political implications of such an effort. During a campaign stop in central Florida on Monday, Bush told a group of about 150 pastors and other religious leaders that America's immigration system is "broken" but that deporting 11 million people is not a solution.

"The idea of self-deportation, of rounding people up, is not an American value," Bush said. "Americans reject that idea."
-- Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), July 27, 2015, as reported by a July 30, 2015, Associated Press story by Jill Colvin and Alicia A. Caldwell.

Comment: First, Bush is suggesting that those who advocate self-deportation are somehow not American. Second, it's "Americans want" rhetoric for Bush to insist that Americans reject the idea of self-deportation.

"It's also essential that we strengthen families and communities, and that means we have to finally, once and for all fix our immigration system. … it is at heart a family issue at heart, and if we claim we are for families, we have to pull together and resolve the outstanding issues around our broken immigration system. The American people support comprehensive immigration reform, not just because it's the right thing to do, and it is, but because they know it strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and strengthens our country. That's why we can't wait any longer. We can't wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship. Now, this is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistakes, today not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one. When they talk about legal status, that is code for second-class status. … I will fight to stop partisan attacks on the executive actions that would put DREAMers, including those with us today, at risk of deportation."
-- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY), May 5, 2015.

Comment: Clinton is using "Americans want", "code words", and "partisan" rhetoric. Is it really the case that you can't support families without also supporting Clinton's immigration reform proposal? It seems like demonizing to suggest that people who disagree with her proposal are not in favor of families.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why are you the best choice for President of the United States?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Because for the last 30 years, I've been standing up for the working families of this country and I think I'm the only candidate who is prepared to take on the billionaire class which now controls our economy and increasingly controls the political life of this country. We need a political revolution in this country involving millions of people who are prepared to stand up and say enough is enough. And I want to help lead that effort.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that mean Hillary Clinton is part of the billionaire class?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It means that Hillary Clinton has been part of the political establishment for many, many years. I have known Hilary for 25 years. I respect her and I like her. But I think what the American people are saying, George, is that at a time when 99% of all new income is going to the top 1%, and when the top one-tenth of 1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, maybe it’s time for real political shake-up, in this country, and go beyond establishment politics.
-- Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), May 3, 2015, during an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.

Comment: First, this is an evasion, as Sanders never answers the question of whether Clinton is part of the "billionaire class". Second, Sanders is engaging in "Americans want" rhetoric by claiming they want a "shake-up beyond establishment politics".

"He doesn't like Congress. He's got his pen and his phone. And when Congress doesn't do what he says he's off doing his best Benito Mussolini. He doesn't like Netanyahu. Netanyahu just won in a landslide; Obama's never won in a landslide. The American people rose up in November and told Obama how they are disgusted with his programs and his policies. And what did he do? He turned around and spat in our faces. And he does the same in 2010 when they lose the House of Representatives. Obama has more ability to work with dictators and genocidal types than he does with people who are elected democratically. The fact of the matter is, Sean, I want to say this and this is important. Eric Holder said that this nation is full of cowards because we won't have a discussion about race. Well, I think this nation needs to have a discussion about what's going on in this White House and this administration about anti-Semitism. Because this White House and it's reaching out to Sharpton, the Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR, all these radical nut jobs and groups, their policies which are -- it's not just Netanyahu. They're willing to throw Israel over the side for the Islam regime in Tehran. This president's former relationships with [Rashid] Khalidi, the professor in Columbia now, with Wright the so-called reverend from Chicago. This president has a lot to answer for, and his conduct is contemptible. And I don't care how many liberal Democrat donors -- hold on now. I don't care how many liberal Democrat donors he has who are Jewish. He can hide behind them all he wants. But Mr. Holder, Mr. Obama, let's have a national discussion about the anti-Semitism that reeks from your administration."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, March 18, 2015, appearing on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News.

Comment: In what sense is Levin comparing President Barack Obama with Italian dictator Mussolini that doesn't amount to demonizing? Levin is also issuing "Americans want" rhetoric regarding the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014, insisting that Obama has no mandate for what he is doing. Calling someone anti-Semitic is basically an accusation of racism. Finally, Levin is accusing Obama of guilt by association, for Obama's links to Rev. Al Sharpton, Rashid Khalidi, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and others.

WALLACE: You have taken some heat recently, I do have to tell you, for refusing to say whether or not President Obama loves this country and whether or not he's a Christian. And the conventional wisdom is either you're pandering to the Obama haters or you're not ready for prime time. Which is it?

WALKER: The answer is neither. I am not going to take a manufactured media crisis and take and follow that path instead of going to the path that I think Americans want, which is leaders who will stand up and tell them where they stand on the issues that matter to them and talk about how you're going to ensure that that family that's been out of work for the last six months can find a way to be a part of this recovery, talk about how we're going to take the power out of Washington and put it in the hands of the hardworking taxpayers. Those are the things people care about. And as I, after last week's visits to Wisconsin and to Michigan, when I heard from people talk about what happened in Washington, they said you need to push back and say that's what the American people want to talk about, not this nonsense.

WALLACE: I agree with you, the question about whether or not Obama is a Christian was nonsense, was stupid. On the other hand, the question about whether or not he loves the country, Rudy Giuliani said that at a dinner for you. It seems to me, it's fair game to say to you after the dinner, what do you think of it? Marco Rubio, one of your potential contenders, said I don't think there's any doubt he loves the country. I just think his policies are wrong. Isn't that a better, smarter way to handle that?

WALKER: Yes. But let's be clear on the point with the mayor. The mayor wasn't speaking on my behalf. He happened to show up half-way through an event that we had that night and he can speak on his own. That's what I've said repeatedly since that time, as the president can. I don't question that. I think any person who's going to put their name on the ballot has to have a love for their country and their state and their jurisdiction no matter where they were. So, I -- I don't contest that against anyone who's running for office out there. My point wasn't to get in the middle of that, but rather to say I want to lift the debate up, to talk about issues that people really care about. I'm not going down that path. I'm not making those arguments. I'm going to talk about the things that matter to everyday Americans.

WALLACE: Just to be clear, because you seem to -- to indicate you think the president, President Obama, loves this country?

WALKER: I think, in the end, he and anybody else who is willing to put their name on the ballot certainly has to have the love for country to do that.
-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), March 1, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday. The conversation concerned remarks made by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) on February 18, 2015, at an event Walker also spoke at.

Comment: First, Walker is using "Americans want" rhetoric. More, Walker is saying he doesn't have an obligation to police Giuliani's remarks disparaging President Barack Obama. Is that true? By comparison, did Obama have an obligation to police the remarks Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa made disparaging the Tea Party at an event they both spoke at on September 5, 2011? Given that Walker is insisting we should talk about substantive issues and "lift up the debate", isn't it fair to ask him if he will denounce Giuliani's remarks, remarks which don't seem to live up to the standard of debate that Walker is advocating?

"In America, we believe that a lifetime of hard work and responsibility should be rewarded with a shot at a secure, dignified retirement. … we’ve got more work to do to make sure that our recovery reaches more Americans, not just those at the top. That’s what middle-class economics is all about—the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everybody does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."
-- President Barack Obama, February 28, 2015, during the weekly presidential address.

Comment: These remarks by Obama on fairness seem to involve either platitudes or "Americans want" rhetoric.

"Now, what we did most recently was to expand that so more people would qualify for DACA, and we also said if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen or a legal resident, if you’ve been here for a while, if you're part of our community, then you should be able to come forward, get registered, go through a background check, and if you generally have been contributing to our community, you should be able to stay here legally and not be in fear of deportation. It did not provide citizenship because only Congress can do that, but it was going to help. And I think we saw the reaction in the community and, the truth is, across the country, people recognized this was the right thing and the smart thing to do. Now, unfortunately, a number of Republican governors chose to sue. They found a district court judge who has enjoined -- meaning stopped -- us going forward with this program. … And in the meantime, what we said to Republicans is, instead of trying to hold hostage funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is so important for our national security, fund that, and let’s get on with actually passing comprehensive immigration reform."
-- President Barack Obama, February 25, 2015, during town hall on immigration.

Comment: First, this sounds like "Americans want" rhetoric: did ALL the people across the country recognize that what Obama did was right, or just some of them? Second, Obama is indulging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric.

"As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with giveaways that the super-rich don’t need, while denying a break to middle-class families who do."
-- President Barack Obama, January 20, 2015, during the 2015 State of the Union address.

Comment: This is "Americans want" rhetoric. As I mentioned previously, there are substantial disagreements among Americans about what constitutes fairness in general, and a fair tax code in particular.

"The problem with the Ryan Budget is that it is so vulgar, so obscene, so out of touch with what the American people want and need that it is literally hard to believe. It is hard to believe. The richest people in this country are doing phenomenally well. The Ryan Budget substantially lowers taxes for millionaires and billionaires. Working families and low income people are struggling. The Ryan Budget makes savage cuts in nutrition programs, in education, and in health care. It does exactly the opposite of what the American people need and what the American people want, and as you indicated, this is a continuation of the war against the middle class and working families that the Republican party has been mounting and work for for a number of years now."
-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), posted April 10, 2014.

Comment: This is an example of "Americans want" rhetoric and "war" rhetoric.

"The big obstacle to comprehensive tax reform is the persistent Republican myth that spending cuts alone can achieve economic and budget goals. That notion was sounded [sic] rejected by voters during the election."
-- New York Times editorial, December 29, 2012.

Comment: First, this seems like a "silver bullet" caricature. Have Republicans really said that spending cuts alone would meet their economic and budget goals? Haven't they also called for tax reform? Second, it seems like the editorial is indulging in "Americans want" rhetoric -- as well as mandate rhetoric -- by saying that voters rejected the Republican position.

"Everybody agrees in the country and in the Congress that we should have a middle income tax cut. The -- what is holding it up is the Republicans are holding it hostage for tax cuts for the wealthy. But left to it on its own, to stand alone, we think it would get a unanimous vote in the Congress."
-- House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), December 4, 2012, during an interview with TV pundit Ed Schultz.

Comment: First, this is "Americans want" rhetoric. Does literally everyone in the country believe there should be a middle-class tax cut? What's the evidence for that? Second, Pelosi is engaging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric. Perhaps the tax cut Pelosi describes would pass if it were considered on its own. Should nothing ever be attached to legislation that would pass on its own?

CARNEY: It's not good government for one party in Congress to refuse to acknowledge what a compromise has to include, a compromised position that is not just the President's position, is not just the Democratic Party's position, but it's the position of the majority of the American people. I mean, I think we've seen data again today that reinforced that fundamental fact. And it's certainly not good government -- the reference you made to our debt ceiling debacle -- to even hint at the possibility of holding the American economy hostage again to the ideological whims of one wing of one party in Congress. That’s unacceptable.

REPORTER [unidentified]: Jay, speaking of the debt ceiling, does an agreement to raise the debt ceiling have to be part of an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff?
CARNEY: We're not going to negotiate over what is a fundamental responsibility of Congress, which is to pay the bills that Congress incurred. It should be part of the deal. It should be done and it should be done without drama. We cannot allow our economy to be held hostage again to the whims of an ideological agenda.
-- White House briefing with Press Secretary Jay Carney, December 4, 2012.

Comment: Carney is making a claim about what Americans want (he seems to cite polling data to back up his assertion). Also, Carney is indulging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric. Related to that, why can't Republicans in Congress bargain in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling? If they asked for spending reductions in return for raising the debt ceiling, why couldn't that be cast as "comprehensive" legislation? Why must the two be unrelated? Hasn't unrelated legislation been attached to defense spending bills in the past? Was that "hostage-taking"?

"Here’s what we know about the political context of our fiscal challenges: … The American people, whose trust in government has plunged to near-historic lows, want the parties to resolve their differences through an approach that requires compromise on both sides. … The American people are sick of delay. They are sick of pretend solutions that address the politics of our problems rather than the problems themselves. … Getting this done will require a rebirth of leadership. Specifically: Tell the people the full truth. … Tell us how big the problem is … And once and for all, agree on the facts, so that we can spend our time on the real issues. Govern for the future. … Put the country first. … Finally: work together. … there are only two options: bipartisan compromise and success, or partisan gridlock and failure. There is no third choice, and it’s time for our leaders -- all of them -- to stop pretending that there is. … It’s time for real leadership. And that means it’s time for truth."
-- Political advisor Mark McKinnon and political advisor William Galston, December 4, 2012, in jointly-written article, "With the Fiscal Cliff Looming, It’s Time to Take Politics Off the Table".

Comment: First, McKinnon and Galston are indulging in "Americans want" rhetoric. What is their evidence for their claims about what the American people want or are sick of? Second, what do they mean about "pretend solutions that address the politics" of the situation? They don't specify, though it sounds like "politicizing" rhetoric. What do they believe that politicians are doing that isn't responsive to legitimate aspects of the problems we face? Third, the demand that we should agree on the facts is difficult to follow. The world isn't an open book, we have legitimate disagreements about what's happened in the past (and why it happened) as well as what's likely to happen in the future. This is especially true in social sciences, such as economics. Finally, McKinnon and Galston are indulging in platitudes -- "govern for the future", "put the country first", and "work together" -- without giving much in the way of specifics about how to do so. Are politicians really not putting country first in their disagreements on these issues? Again, how are they supposed to "take politics off the table"?

"Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont has spoken on this program about the need to protect programs for the middle class in debt negotiations. Sen. Sanders [I-VT] released this statement to the Ed Show tonight: "What [presidential advisor] David Plouffe has stated deeply concerns me. Despite Mr. Plouffe's assertions, the American people have been clear, both through their votes in the election and in poll after poll after poll. At a time when the middle class is disappearing and the number of people living in poverty is at an all-time high, the American people have demanded that there be no benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and that the wealthiest people and largest corporations in this country, who are doing phenomenally well, must be asked to play a significant role in reducing the deficit." Here, here, Bernie! I'm on board with that! The public agrees with Sen. Sanders, I'm not the only one. In the latest CNN poll, 56% of Americans believe that taxes for the wealthy should be raised to help pay for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid."
-- TV pundit Ed Schultz, November 26, 2012.

Comment: Citing an opinion poll that claims 56% support for a positions indicates a majority, but does it indicate what Americans want as a whole? Plus, is Schultz making an appeal to popularity?

"We’ve been reasonable, even as we’ve remained firm on this point: no tax increases now for promised spending cuts that won’t materialize later. The American people have seen that game before. They won’t be fooled again."
-- Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), November 26, 2012, from the floor of the Senate.

Comment: This is "Americans want" rhetoric. Are the American people as a whole opposed to the same things McConnell is opposed to?

Let me say this publicly: Michelle, I have never loved you more. I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too, as our nation's first lady.
-- President Barack Obama, November 7, 2012, addressing his supporters while declaring victory in his race against Republican candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: This is "Americans want" rhetoric. Does the entire country love Michelle Obama? Aren't there some who dislike her, or are simply indifferent to her?

"Probably the first piece of business is going to be to go ahead and fix our deficit and debt issues and make a decision about how big our government is, and how we're going to pay for it. And, you know, I've put forward a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. We've already cut a trillion dollars worth of government spending. We can do the rest by a sensible combination of spending cuts and some revenue. … I'll do whatever's required to get this done. And, you know, I think the key that the American people want right now is for us to tackle some big challenges that we face in a common-sense, balanced, sensible way."
-- President Barack Obama, October 26, 2012, during interview with pundit Michael Smerconish.

Comment: Obama is using "Americans want" rhetoric, here. Granted, Americans probably do want common-sense solutions, but that's a platitude. What counts as common-sense when it comes to fixing the deficit and the debt? That's the key question. Is Obama saying that people who disagree with his solution to those issues lack common-sense, or aren't sensible people?

BIDEN: "[W]e are arguing that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire. Of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, $800 million -- billion of that goes to people making a minimum of $1 million. We see no justification in these economic times for those, and they’re patriotic Americans. They’re not asking for this continued tax cut."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Comment: This is "Americans want" rhetoric. How does Biden know that absolutely no high income people want this tax cut continued? And Biden suggests that it would be unpatriotic if they did ask for the tax cut to be continued. Is it fair to question the patriotism of someone who wants a tax cut?

"See, when they skipped town, Members of Congress left a whole bunch of proposals sitting on the table -- actions that would create jobs, boost our economy, and strengthen middle-class security. These ideas have been around for months. The American people want to see them passed. But apparently, some Members of Congress are more worried about their jobs and their paychecks this campaign season than they are about yours."
-- President Barack Obama, September 22, 2012.

Comment: Along with demonizing, Obama is also indulging in some "Americans want" rhetoric, here.

"If you're like me, you're watching these fires; you're watching a million people evacuated; these are homes. … This is worse than any hurricane and what are we getting? We're getting the Democrats politicizing it. They're blaming Bush. They're blaming the war in Iraq. They're blaming global warming, for a natural disaster. … Now, I maintain that the country is fed up with this kind of action, fed up with the politicizing of these things, and if you're feeling like everything's out of control and nothing's making any sense and everything's going wrong, this may be one of the reasons. You may not be feeling that way, after today's show you might, depends."
-- Radio pundit Rush Limbaugh, October 24, 2007, discussing the California wildfires.

Comment: Limbaugh is responding to remarks made a day earlier by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) -- "One reason that we have the fires burning in Southern California is global warming. One reason the Colorado basin is going dry is because of global warming." -- and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) -- "Right now we are down 50% in terms of our National Guard equipment because they're all in Iraq, the equipment, half of the equipment. So we really will need help. I think all of our states are down in terms of equipment.". If Limbaugh believes Reid is wrong that global warming is the cause of the fires, then he should say so and defend the claim. And if he believes that Boxer is wrong that the Iraq War hamstrung firefighting efforts in California, then he should say so and defend that claim as well. But he can't just dismiss what they say as "politicizing". Limbaugh is also engaging in "Americans want" rhetoric, by saying that the country is "fed up" with remarks like Reid and Boxer's.

(The list above is not intended to be a comprehensive record of all relevant examples.)

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