Sunday, August 2, 2020

Working the Refs

While looking for new podcasts to listen to, I came across FiveThirtyEight, a site that I'd managed to forget about, despite Nate Silver popping up in various places from time to time. In fact, I'm not actually sure what prompted me to remember the site, and look there for podcasts, but, in any event, it's given me a new source of both reading and listening material. One of the features present on FiveThirtyEight are their chat transcripts, from the site's Slack page. A couple of days ago, a new chat went up, titled: "Trump Can’t Postpone The Election, But He Can Delegitimize The Results."

What made this an interesting read was that there wasn't a formal definition of "delegitimize" given at any point; the four interlocutors defined it for themselves. The definition they appeared to be working with was effectively: "convince people that the election results had been deliberately falsified." And in that sense, the headline is correct, President Trump can convince people that the election results are illegitimate.

But convincing people of something is not like making a table or driving a car. The person being convinced has something of a say in the matter, and what I was disappointed to find missing from the discussion was mention of the audience that the President would be attempting to reach with complaints about the conduct of the election, and why that matters. After all, there were people who understood the election of George W. Bush in 2000 to be illegitimate. The public, even when they strongly believe in a particular politician, are not puppets to be controlled by that person. They're going to decide for themselves whether to believe accusations of fraud, and how to respond to them. And so, in the end, whether President Trump claims that an electoral loss is illegitimate is beside the point. Understanding the likely responses to that on the part of the public is where it's at.


JohnMcG said...

I would suspect that the intended audience for this pieces believes that typical 2000 Gore voters are more open-minded and less likely to accept bland assertions than the typical 2020 Trump voter.

Aaron said...

Maybe. But it would have been nice if that assertion had actually been discussed, rather than merely hinted at in the piece itself.