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The 'Voice of the People' Fallacy

Thomas Sowell

By Thomas Sowell

Published April 12, 2016

 The 'Voice of the People' Fallacy

We hear many fallacies in election years. The fallacy that seems to be most popular this year is that, if Donald Trump comes close to getting the 1,237 delegates required to become the Republican nominee, and that nomination goes instead to someone else, then the convention will have ignored "the voice of the people."

Supposedly Republican voters would be outraged, many would stay home on election day, and some might even vote for the Democrats' nominee, whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Mr. Trump has more than once made the veiled threat that he would run as a third-party candidate if the Republicans failed to "respect" him. And of course Trump would himself decide what "respect" means.

In so far as the voting public believes the fallacy that choosing someone other than Trump is ignoring "the voice of the people," when Trump has the most delegates, his threat carries weight.

In reality, Trump has never gotten a majority of the votes in any state. In other words, "the voice of the people" has been consistently against nominating Trump.

In a poll of Republican voters in Wisconsin, 20 percent of them said that they would be "concerned" if Trump became President of the United States, and 35 percent said that they would be "scared."

If "the voice of the people" has spoken, whether in Wisconsin or nationally, what it has said repeatedly is "No" to Donald Trump. The illusion of Trump's overwhelming appeal to the Republican voters has been maintained by the fragmenting of Republican votes because so many candidates were running as conservatives that Trump won primaries without ever getting a majority of the votes.

This would not be the first time that the conservative majority votes in a Republican primary season have been split so many ways that someone who is not a conservative ends up with the nomination.

That is how the Republicans ended up with Mitt Romney in 2012 and lost the election. That is also how the Republicans can end up with Donald Trump and lose this year's election. Worse yet, from the standpoint of the country, that is how Donald Trump might end up in the White House.

The Republicans in Wisconsin who were scared of the possibility of Trump as President were on to something. We should all be scared.

Why? There is not room enough to list all the reasons. But Trump himself has demonstrated, over and over, how he lacks the depth of knowledge — and sometimes any knowledge at all — of complex life and death issues that are inescapable for any President of the United States.

Ignorance is dangerous enough in itself. But ignorance on the part of an egomaniac, who announces that he is his own best advisor, is incorrigible ignorance. He can surround himself with the best minds in the country and it will not do any good if they are just there for window dressing.

Barack Obama has already demonstrated what disasters a President can create when he ignores the warnings of the country's top military leaders, as he did when he pulled American troops out of Iraq, setting the stage for the emergence of ISIS.

Obama dealt with that problem, as he has dealt with other problems, by coming up with glib rhetoric — in this case, dismissing ISIS as the junior varsity. The horrors that have followed — especially for women and girls — wherever ISIS has taken over in the Middle East make Obama's slick words grotesque.

So too do the terrorist slaughters in Europe that are virtually guaranteed to be repeated in America.

The unprecedented public criticisms of President Obama by four of his former Secretaries of Defense, not to mention retired four-star generals, demonstrate that having knowledgeable and experienced advisors cannot make up for headstrong ignorance on the part of a President.

A headline on Bret Stephens' column in the Wall Street Journal — "Trump Is Obama Squared" — hit the nail on the head. After seven long years of disaster after disaster, at home and abroad, under the Obama administration, have we learned nothing about the dangers of choosing an untested candidate for President of the United States on the basis of his saying things we want to hear?

Elections are not held to make us feel good at the time, but to select someone with the depth of knowledge and character to be entrusted with our lives and the future of the nation.

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Thomas Sowell, a National Humanities Medal winner, is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher and author. He is currently Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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