Opinion: Political Arguments Should be Based in Facts and Logic, Not Emotion
Amid the rise of emotional political argumentation, the idea of emotions being a prominent factor in political discussion needs to be called into question.
Many politicians and political commentators commonly assert that facts and logic are the best and truest way to argue ideas. While emotional appeal certainly has its place in politics and campaigning, facts and logic should be the central focus of political discussion.
Emotions play an important part in politics because emotions are a motivator for humans in their daily lives. Arguments that appeal to feelings are highly effective, as emotions cause people to make decisions and motivate them to act, such as who to vote for. Many campaign ads are based in emotional appeal, with four prominent emotions being drawn out of viewers: hope, fear, anger and pride. These feelings encourage voters to decide not only who to vote for, but they also motivate voters to take action and go out to vote. While facts and logic are important for policy and argumentation, emotional appeal has its place in politics in terms of motivation and attention grabbing.
In the highly emotional 2020 Presidential Election, both Vice President Biden and President Trump appealed to emotion at pivotal moments throughout the campaigning cycle. At the Presidential Debates, Biden appealed to the family dynamic as he broke the fourth wall, looked to the camera and asked the audience, “You folks at home, how many of you got up this morning and had an empty chair at the kitchen table because somebody died of COVID?” This statement was highly emotional yet highly effective without using facts about the important discussion of COVID-19.
In the same way, Trump appealed to the emotion of fear in a campaign television ad about what defunding the police would look like under a Biden/Harris presidency. The commercial was entirely based on appealing to that specific emotion, without the presence of logical argumentation.
Both instances of emotional appeal were effective in sending an engaging message, as emotional appeals are easier to package to listeners. Logical debate requires time and can be overwhelming as numbers, statistics and facts cannot be put into a single sentence in a debate, nor a short television ad.
Although emotional appeal has an important place in politics, facts and logic should be the basis for the argument in policy debate and ideology. While political parties claim to have the most reasonably-based arguments without centering on emotional appeal, both parties tend to lean toward the emotional argument to try to illicit action from their base. Being truly factual requires critical thinking that, at times, can be impaired by the emotional argument.
Appealing to emotion is a blatant fallacy, a common mistake because of the connection of humans with emotion. Facts and logic do not have the same allure that feelings do because pure logic is not always the central driving force to the human experience.
Political policies can have direct effects on peoples’ lives, and people naturally respond with an emotion to that policy, whether it be a good or bad feeling. It is human nature to respond with emotion first, but great advocates of policy look past the initial feeling and see the logic and long-term outcomes.
As Americans who all have a say in who leads our country, we should be vigilant to weed out the factual versus emotional and vote accordingly.
Keaton Browder is an Opinion Writer.