Friday, November 2, 2012

Rhetoric: Virtuous Loser

Politicians tend to think that their positions on issues aren't just right, but are obviously right.

As such, when they lose an election or a political contest of some sort, they're loathe to admit that the reason they lost was because of some flaw in what they believe.

Instead, when they lose, they tend to insist that there was disinformation and propaganda working against them.

People in politics often seem to operate under the assumption that, when you win, it's because the truth was on your side. When you lose, it's because the other side resorted to propaganda and dirty tactics that you wouldn't stoop to. You never say that you won because of dirty tactics and propaganda working in your favor, or that you lost because the truth was against you. Win or lose, your own side is virtuous. It's only your opponent who resorts to "negative politics".

At least, that's the caricature some politicians would have people believe.

That's not to say that people never lose because of distortions, or that they never win because the truth is on their side.

But, given that both Republicans and Democrats (and members of other parties, too) resort to disinformation, what is the evidence that it's disinformation that caused one side -- but not the other -- to win?

"Romney was successfully defined via negative advertising by the Obamaites in the campaign. When Romney was busy raising money, Obama couldn't run ads or even a campaign on his record. There's not one positive thing Obama could say about his record, so the Democrats did what they always do. They set out to demonize their opponents, which is standard operating procedure for them. They demonize all their critics, try to discredit them and so forth, clear the playing field of them. … we had ads and a campaign strategerist, the lovely and beautiful Stephanie Cutter, claiming that Romney was a felon and that he was a corporate criminal and he had all these secret bank accounts and that he didn't care about you. None of it was true. … who are these people that believe these ads? … Look, folks, we gotta be honest. Hard work is not what an Obama voter is interested in. So the message doesn't resonate. But still, who are these people that believe this drivel, these lies, who are these people that believe all of this rotten stuff about George W. Bush that was put out? We don't run ads like that about people, do we? We never attacked Obama's character, his humanity or any of that stuff, and we could have … We didn't go anywhere near that. We are always aboveboard."
-- Radio pundit Rush Limbaugh, November 8, 2012.

Comment: First, Limbaugh is indulging in the "only my opponent" caricature by claiming that only Democrats -- and not Republicans -- resort to demonizing and "negative" politics, and that Republicans never attacked Obama's character. Of course they do, and of course they did. They're not "always aboveboard". Second, Limbaugh is using "negative politics" rhetoric, but to his credit he's defining the term to mean "demonizing" (he's just wrong that Republicans and conservatives don't engage in demonizing). Third, Limbaugh is demonizing people who voted for Obama by saying they are opposed to hard work. Lastly, Limbaugh is saying that Romney and the Republicans lost the 2012 election because they wouldn't stoop to the misbehavior that (allegedly only) Obama and Democrats do, which is "virtuous loser" rhetoric.

"Well, two things. I mean, you know, the debate, I think it’s fair to say I was just too polite, because it’s hard to sometimes just keep on saying and what you’re saying isn’t true. It gets repetitive. The good news is, is that’s just the first one. Governor Romney put forward a whole bunch of stuff that either involved him running away from positions that he had taken or doubling down on things like Medicare vouchers that are going to hurt him long term. And, you know, I think it’s fair to say that we will see a little more activity at the next one".
-- President Barack Obama, October 10, 2012, on his performance against GOP presidential candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) in the first presidential debate on October 3, 2012.

Comment: Obama was perceived by many as having lost the first presidential debate to Romney, and he is chalking that loss up to the virtue of being polite.

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