In 40 years of teaching English, I enjoyed political campaigns since candidates’ ads offer fertile ground for discussing critical thinking and logical fallacies. Candidates from all parties spin reality, and teaching students to think through that spin was a favorite lesson of mine, my contribution, I felt, to making a more educated electorate.
Occasionally, however, a politician creates more than spin, edging past hyperbole into misrepresentation or dishonesty. Such is, I fear, the case with recent ads by Sen. Mitch McConnell.
In a current McConnell ad, local small business owners laud the CARES Act with saving their businesses. Therein, no doubt, lies the element of truth. They go on to suggest McConnell “quickly passed” the bill with “bipartisan leadership.” Here the spin veers out of control.
In as much as McConnell is head of the U.S. Senate and as such has authority over which bills are brought to the floor, he did indeed “oversee” the passage that did have bipartisan support. But check the Congressional Record for the period and you will find that while the Democrats in Congress and Secretary Mnuchin, representing the White House, negotiated the bill, McConnell was on the floor speaking against key provisions aimed to help suffering American citizens.
This same ad accuses House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “sandbagging” the bill when in fact she was one of the people negotiating the bill while McConnell sat it out. My former students would note McConnell’s use of the fallacy agumentum ad hominem sinks McConnell’s claim into dishonest territory.
After thirty-five years in the U.S. Senate, you would think McConnell would be able to run on clear, undisputed accomplishments. That he doesn’t should speak volumes to Kentucky voters.