The Ill-Logic of Trumpites

The common Trumpite is utterly bereft of basic principles of logic. Without a basic understanding of logic, it does not matter what information an individual possess; they will be unable to effectively process that information and will make determinations based solely on emotion, without access to reason.

In a nut shell, logic is the correct method whereby the mind, or reason, infers conclusions from premises. Stated differently, logic is the input of premises (facts, data, information, states of affairs) and the the output of conclusions. There are two primary forms of logic: inductive and deductive.

Inductive logic involves inferring probable, rather than necessary, conclusions from premises. It uses specific statements to draw general conclusions. As such, it relies on evidentiary support. For instance: 26 human beings have accused Trump of sexual misconduct; Trump admitted to sexual misconduct on tape, and said he gets away with it; therefore, it is likely Trump has engaged in sexual misconduct. The strength of an inductive argument depends upon the degree to which the premises support the conclusion; scientists and philosophers refer to this degree of support as the criterion of adequacy. If the criterion of adequacy is deemed sufficient to justify a conclusion, the argument is deemed cogent. For instance, consider the argument: 1 human being has accused Joe Biden of sexual misconduct; Joe Biden has not admitted to sexual misconduct on tape; and, therefore, it is likely Joe Biden has engaged in sexual misconduct. This is an argument with a far lower degree of certainty (i.e. criterion of adequacy) as compared to the original and is, therefore, less cogent.

Deductive logic involves premises that are purported to necessitate a conclusion. It makes specific inferences from more general statements. For example, consider the argument: conceding an election is an important political norm; Trump refused to concede an election; therefore, Trump violated an important political norm. If a conclusion follows logically from the premises, as in the example above, the argument is valid. If the conclusion does not follow from the premises, the argument is invalid. If an argument is either invalid or the premises untrue, the argument is unsound. If an argument is valid and the premises true, the argument is sound. Since it is almost certain conceding an election is an important political norm, and Trump did refuse to concede the election, it follows — via deductive logic — that Trump did, in fact, violate an important political norm; and, therefore, the argument is sound. Of course, good luck explaining that to a Trumpite.

Logicians refer to common errors in reasoning as logical fallacies. Many arguments presented in right-wing media and forwarded by Republican leaders are blatantly fallacious. The common Trumpite absorbs these fallacious arguments and uses them as fodder to protect their fragile world view, often regurgitating them on social media, creating a fallacious feedback loop.

It would take volumes to consider all examples of fallacious Trumpite reasoning, but a few of the most brazen will be considered here. Perhaps the two most impactful fallacies in American political history are “fake news” and the “deep state.” These are examples of ad hominem attacks, or attacks against the person. An ad hominem attack diverts people from considering the evidence by attacking the source of the evidence. In this case, the mainstream media and professional civil servants. For instance, some Trumpites do not register that Trump was, as a matter of fact, accused of sexual misconduct by 26 separate human beings. This is because they consider the mainstream media “fake,” and the right-wing media, upon which they rely for their information, simply does not report those facts. Of course, this is true of all kinds of facts about Trump, from paying off a porn star in violation of campaign finance law, to bribing the Ukraine with taxpayer money to interfere with an election, to six bankruptcies, to having the personality of a perverted used Pinto salesman. The ad hominem attack of the “deep state” works in a similar manner. For instance, though the ignorant Trumpite may be aware of the official vote count in the 2020 election, they categorically dismiss the count, because, in their view, the crooked “deep state” conducted it. Of course, and it is amazing this needs to be said, but there are professional journalists who are reporting the facts in mainstream media, and there is no such thing as a “deep state.” These concepts are not only fallacious ad hominem attacks but the product of inductive inferences with inadequate evidentiary support.

Hasty generalization is another common Trumpite fallacy. Hasty generalizations are inferences about a general group of cases drawn from an inadequate sample. Throughout the 116th Congress, 4 progressive, minority, female Democratic House members from the inner city, out of 282 total Democratic Congresspeople from all over the United States, were held up as exemplars of the Democratic Party to create a false impression of Democrats generally. This is a textbook hasty generalization. After the social unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death, these same elites tirelessly worked to tie Democrats to the riots. Ignorant Trumpites took to social media to decry the “liberal riots.” Of course, there is no data to support the generalization that anything but a minuscule amount of Democrats participated in or supported riots; in fact, only 29% of Democrats think peaceful protests are effective. Trumpites would benefit from a simple maxim: the chosen leadership of a group of people is more representative than small, aberrant minorities.

So the next time you find yourself arguing with a Trumpite, remember that they don’t speak your language. Start with the basics, don’t make any sudden movements, and remain calm.

Student of law, literature, and philosophy.