It’s difficult to spot the logical fallacies politicians use all the time. Many are educated and trained on how best to answer a question or phrase an argument. Often, that means using tricks of the trade with thinly veiled logical fallacies. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do anyone any good. To make sound decisions, people need sound arguments. Making decisions off of bad logic usually leads to terrible consequences. Regardless, all politicians know logical fallacies are effective in fooling the electorate and dodging uncomfortable questions that can hurt their campaigns. They’ll never stop using them, so you might as well learn and know how to spot them. Put on your thinking caps, here are 25 Logical Fallacies Politicians Use More Than You Realize.
(And don’t worry; we cover politicians across the spectrum.)
Appeal to Fear
Also known as “scare tactics,” fear is a powerful motivator, which is why politicians have used it for centuries, but ultimately it’s bad logic and can lead to devastating results. Examples abound of politicians using this logical fallacy, including Adolf Hitler’s demonization of the Jewish people, McCarthyism’s Red Scare, fear tactics used after 9/11, and recently the fear tactics used against immigrants and refugees.
Begging the Question
This logical fallacy is a circular argument that says, “A is true because A is true.” It’s used all the time, but it can be tricky to detect. For instance, when arguing about the public option, Senator Kent Conrad said we can’t have a public option, because if we do, health care reform won’t get the votes from senators like him.
Circumstantial Ad Hominem
Also called “appeal to motive,” this fallacy is a type of ad hominem attack that questions the person’s motive. It tries to invalidate the person but doesn’t address the logical argument. It would be like if the discussion was about the oil industry and a politician said, “Of course, he supports more drilling. He used to be an oil CEO!”
This logical fallacy means, “it does not follow” and is a false argument with a conclusion that doesn’t follow the premise. For instance, in one of Donald Trump’s tweets, he wrote, “I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?” Releasing tax returns has nothing to do with winning the Electoral College.
Argumentum Ad Crumenam
Also known as “appeal to wealth,” this fallacy points to wealth or money as an indicator of truth, being right, or intelligence. In his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump frequently pointed to his wealth to prove he is both successful and trustworthy.