Here’s a brilliant example of the false-choice fallacy, which claims two alternatives when more (or fewer) exist.
President Obama needs to decide between his goal of higher taxes, or a bipartisan plan to address our deficit.
Senator Mitch McConnell in the New York Times
The Republican leadership has walked away from talks to raise the debt limit, putting the nation at risk of defaulting on loans and throwing world markets into chaos. The reason: the Democrats want to phase out “temporary” income tax deductions while slashing the deficit by $2 trillion.
Having successfully defined the elimination of deductions as tax increases, and having convinced the public that the economic doldrums were caused by the deficit, the Republicans are now claiming still more rhetorical terrain. But how do you turn Republicans’ refusal to budge on revenues into Democratic intransigence? With a false choice.
The false choice analogy is the secret behind “push polls,” those fake voter surveys that ask you whether you’d like candidate A or, alternatively, Armageddon. McConnell presents a choice of (a) Obama’s “goal” to raise taxes, and (b) bipartisanship. Ordinarily, bipartisanship means compromise. In the hands of smart rhetoricians, bipartisanship now means doing everything the Republicans say.
The Democratic leadership, being the anti-rhetorical souls they are, will retreat. But they’ll make aggressive growling noises while they do it, and will feel much better afterward.