Beyond objectivity to truth and falsehood

Tom Edsall continues to demonstrate the technique of “objective” reporting:

The most volatile combination of events on Nov. 6 would be a very close election in which Mitt Romney wins the electoral vote with knife-edge victories in states like Florida, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. If new voter ID laws survive legal challenges in those Republican-controlled battleground states, a marginal Romney victory would powerfully reinforce the belief on the left that some lawfully registered voters were denied the right to exercise their franchise.

Conversely, if local and federal challenges to voter ID laws are successful, and Obama wins a tight re-election race, the belief on the right that felons and illegal immigrants cast crucial ballots will be reinforced.

[snip]

Almost a half century after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the question of who votes will not be resolved on the merits. The courts will address the dispute, and their rulings will matter. But the struggle over this fundamental citizenship right is intensely partisan and explicitly political. It can only be resolved at the ballot box.

In other news, friends of the shooting victim mourned a young life brutally cut short, while supporters of the shooter argued that the son-of-a-bitch had it coming. Which viewpoint will prevail with independent voters in the swing states remains to be seen.

There’s a difference between the belief on the right that elections are being stolen by ineligible voters and the belief on the left that eligible voters are being denied the right to vote. The former belief is, to use a technical epistemological term, false, while the latter, and the related claim that those voters are disproportionately non-white and poor, are demonstrably true.

That matters.

Footnote Even within his own canons, Edsall could have – arguably should have – reported that at least one prominent Republican has boasted that the Pennsylvania law was designed to help Mitt Romney carry the state, and that the former chair of the Florida Republican party claims that officials openly discussed suppressing minority voting.

Comments

    • Katja says

      Well, the article specifically states that “[i]n other words, the state cannot and will not produce any evidence of the kind of voter fraud the legislation has supposedly been crafted to prevent” (the state being Pennsylvania).

      I do think that Mark is reaching here. The article does get lost in the details and meanders too much with too little organization, but when it’s not quoting other people or talking about their perceptions, and the author instead states his own point of view, it is not at all ambivalent. For instance: “The riskiness of the Republican strategy in enacting restrictive election laws suggests that the party has reached an internal consensus that it must, in fact, tilt the playing field in order to win.”

      You can’t really be more blunt than that.

      In short, poor writing, but not bad reporting per se.

  1. Anomalous says

    Strictly speaking the gentleman didn’t say the law was designed to help Romney win but that it would have that effect. To extend Marks analogy: The shooter claims he wasn’t intentionally aiming his gun at the victim’s head at point blank range when he pulled the trigger. ‘The SOB just got in the way.’

    • says

      Not quite true. The “done” part of the infamous line carries a pretty strong implication of intent. (I guess one could argue, to be particularly pernickety, that the law wasn’t designed to have that effect, but that the people who voted for it intended it should have that effect. Same as, say, someone who loads an AR-15, puts it on a bipod and points it out the window, while a completely different — oops, the same as it turns out — person happens to come along and press the trigger when a crowd is in the sights.)

  2. Robert Levine says

    I think this is an unfair criticism. First of all, Edsall’s point was about perceptions, and there’s no doubt in my mind that lots of Republicans genuinely believe that Democrats only win because of voter fraud. I don’t think the leadership believes that, but the folks that listen to the Mighty Wurlitzer sure do. That this belief is devoid of factual basis is immaterial to Edsall’s point.

    Secondly, Edsall’s entire post makes it very clear just what he thinks of voter ID. He also wrote:

    “The riskiness of the Republican strategy in enacting restrictive election laws suggests that the party has reached an internal consensus that it must, in fact, tilt the playing field in order to win. Recently passed legislation making it more difficult either to cast ballots or to register voters was limited almost entirely to states with Republican legislatures and governors – for example, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It was made possible by Republican victories in 2010 that followed the elections of 2006 and 2008 when the Democratic coalition appeared to be on the verge of gaining majority status.”

    • Barry says

      “First of all, Edsall’s point was about perceptions, and there’s no doubt in my mind that lots of Republicans genuinely believe that Democrats only win because of voter fraud. ”

      And Mark’s point was that those perceptions are both false and a lie.