During the U.S Presidential campaign, my friend and I engaged in a heated argument about the likely outcome of the recently concluded election. He pointed out two “premises” that he argued predicted who will emerge the winner. First, he noted, a party’s grassroots popularity always reflects the prospects of the party’s presidential candidate winning the election. This popularity is reflected in the number of House of Representatives, Senate, and Congress seats that a party wins during midterm elections.
The results give a clear picture of how well a party’s ideologies and policies are resonating with the voters’ expectations. He noted that almost always, the party with popular representation in the grassroots carries the day in the presidential vote. His second argument was the most convincing one. He observed that since after World War Two, no Democratic incumbent, with the rare exception of Bill Clinton in 1996, has ever been elected for a second term. Like a good teacher going over the details once again before drawing a conclusion, he summarized his premises thus:
- A party’s grassroots representation, reflected by the number of elected representatives during midterm elections, usually predicts the party that will win the presidential vote.
- The Democratic Party ceded popularity to the Republicans during the midterm (2006) elections.
- Besides former President Bill Clinton, no Democrat incumbent has ever been re-elected since after WW 2.
- Obama is a Democrat incumbent; therefore,
- President Obama will lose the 2012 presidential election
Given the evidence offered in support of this inductive argument, and considering that I did not have enough evidence to disqualify its validity, I agreed with my opponent. However, I arrived at this conclusion through a deductive reasoning. I noted that in 16 presidential elections, a democrat has been re-elected only once. Therefore, it will be very unlikely for Obama to be re-elected, more so considering the poor state of the economy and his Republican opponent’s credentials to improve it.
Nevertheless, the outcome of the presidential vote convinced me that conclusions drawn from premises that are not supported by concrete empirical evidence are not always true. I realized that it’s important to look for fallacies even in statements that are logically sound.