I was going to post today (and will another day) on a number of rhetorically sly and fallacious argumentative ploys I’ve encountered lately, but you may have noticed that I am singularly focused these days on the GOP’s reactionary assault on labor rights and working people. It is a critical moment in U.S. social history, with profound implications for the future. While Ohio appears currently lost because of the greater Republican superiority  in its legislature, Wisconsin will be resolved sometime soon. The resistance has already stopped GOP governor’s without Ohio Governor Kasich’s number advantage, and a victory for labor in Wisconsin can prevent the blitzkrieg conservatives were hoping for. Those concerned about the fast approach of the United States to plutocratic government cannot allow themselves to lose focus while Wisconsin in unresolved. Even as I would very much like to post on other topics, I’m trying not to lose that focus.

Here, then, maintaining both my concentration on Wisconsin and my intent to expose dishonest forms of arument, is a post I came across just this morning, from Clark S. Judge at Texas Insider.

At a private Washington dinner last night, one of the nation’s most prominent political scientists and pollsters said that the battle of Wisconsin is over. Governor Scott Walker has won. The remark came amidst a flurry of wide ranging discussion & passed almost unnoticed, until one guest interrupted, “What did you say a moment ago? Walker has won?”

“Sure,” the professor and pollster replied. “We are seeing polls out of Wisconsin that show the public has clearly turned in favor of the governor.” He cited one by the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. But he could as easily have pointed to other samplings of both national and local opinion.

For example, the Rasmussen Poll has found 48% of voters around the nation supporting Governor Walker, only 38% supporting the public employee unions. Meanwhile, former pollster to both Democratic president Bill Clinton and numerous Republicans, Dick Morris, has reported similar results among Wisconsin voters.

On Thursday, Morris posted on his blog results from a survey taken in the prior two nights:

“By 74-18, [Wisconsin voters] back making state employees pay more for their health insurance. By 79-16, they support asking state workers contribute more toward their pensions. By 54-34, [they] support ending the automatic deduction of union dues from state paychecks and support making unions collect dues from each member. By 66-30, they back limiting state workers’ pay increases to the rate of inflation unless voters approve a higher raise by a public referendum.”

He continued: “[If the collective bargaining issue is] related to giving schools flexibility to modify tenure, pay teachers based on merit, discharge bad teachers and promote good ones, [Wisconsin voters] support such limits on collective bargaining by 58-38.”

Morris concludes:

“[If Governor Walker] emphasizes the positive intent that lies behind the proposal (i.e. giving schools the flexibility and freedom to implement education reforms), he will find a solid public majority behind him.”

The stakes in this standoff could not be higher, and both sides know it. In a front page article, Sunday’s New York Times quoted a Wisconsin county executive and independent state assemblyman: “With collective bargaining in the public sector, it’s, ‘You can’t make me,’ ” he said. “It’s hard to change anything unless the union lets you.”

In the same article, the Times reported that, “a longtime welfare worker and union activist in New Castle, Ind., said a big problem with ending collective bargaining was that workers who had ideas to improve government agencies or services became scared to stick their neck out and make suggestions to their bosses.”

Now, I’m just asking – if you’ve been following this story with any regularity, does this take on events remotely conform to your sense of the the situation? It isn’t just an appearance of any inability to analyze and report with some degree of objectivity; the argument is identifiably inferior and slanted in two rudimentary ways. First, Judge actually employs a couple of anecdotal quotes as key elements in his argument. I’ll wager one can find more than a few “longtime welfare worker[s] and union activist[s]” and even ex executive branch employees, like Judge, who are even Birthers or 9/11 Truthers. Get good quotes from them, too.

More egregious still is Clark’s citation of polls. He cites Rasmussen and the reptilian Dick Morris without even a pro forma acknowledgment that they are partisan pollsters, a circumstance known in professional polling and journalism often to produce results at variance with more independent polls.  While he is able to quote anecdotally from The New York Times, he somehow does not manage to reveal the recent CBS/New York Times poll and even more recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that are both dramatically different from the Morris and Rasmussen polls he cites. In fact, today, March 4, he cites a February 21 Rasmussen poll, when Rasmussen has produced a more recent poll, on March 2, that provides different results from the February 21 poll and that contradicts Clark’s claims, which I helpfully pointed out in a comment at his blog.

Clark also trots out Madison’s Federalist Paper #10, in the usual conservative manner, in which everyone in the country except business owners are “factions.” I was kind enough to point him to my recent, rather different consideration of #10.

This is the kind of power that will rule the lives and destinies of American workers if the labor battle, won once before, is not won again.

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1 comment

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Lynn white March 5, 2011 at 8:38 am

” He cites….and the reptilian Dick Morris….”
Could you possibly have selected a better adjective for Dick Morris?
I think not.

and , yes , he is SUCH a “partisan pollster.”

Perfect descriptors , both.

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