Why incoherence is so dangerous

It is pointless to have a discussion with a person taking an incoherent position. Not only will you learn nothing, but no problem can ever be resolved reasonably.

If someone is content to stand on incoherent “logic” there is very little you can really do about changing their mind. A person clings to an incoherent position because he truly believes it. There is almost no way to move them off of their deeply held belief.

I know that ‘incoherent’ sounds judgmental, but consider a few examples, from the world of recent politics. and one drawn from my personal life.

Take Joe Manchin III’s warning to progressive Democrats to stop playing games if they want his obstruction of Biden’s agenda to end.

Manchin, enjoying his moment as the most powerful man in the Senate, timing his pantsing of Biden perfectly for maximum political effect, calls “bullshit” on the progressive caucus for not trusting a suddenly all-powerful rich guy opposed to a $15/hr minimum wage to vote for the Democrats-only Climate Catastrophe mitigation and social spending infrastructure bill after the bipartisan bill, which addresses long overdue disasters in waiting like crumbling bridges and treacherous roads, is passed.

His reason for not signing on to Build Back Better — he insists he is concerned with the cost of the radically scaled down proposal. In all the months he’s been fighting against it and making progressives cut programs from it, he tells us he has not had a chance to grasp the finances of the proposal.

These are not arguments that can be countered successfully by arguments based on fact. The Build Back Better plan was intended to pay for itself by increasing taxes on billionaires and corporations to just under what they were before Trump slashed them in a $1.9 TRILLION dollar giveaway to America’s wealthiest. Manchin is against raising taxes on the wealthiest and expresses concern that the unfunded bill will be far too expensive.

He takes up the Republican mantra of “fiscal responsibility”, whenever “tax and spend” Democrats have the presidency and majorities in Congress. What kind of Commie economy destroying bullshit is trying to get a $15/hr. minimum wage?!!

Republicans are also united against increasing the IRS budget for law enforcement so that tax evasion by corporations and billionaires can be detected and the scofflaws can be fined, taxes collected. Figure that one out. Manchin, apparently, is also against this, along with funding for enforceable ethics standards for members of Congress .

Now, without taxing the wealthiest, since we can’t pay for this (and it’s not like the $7.8 TRILLION [1] — over ten years– for our military, don’t even suggest that!) we have to cut some of the things that will unfairly impact the wealthy, even if they also help millions, including millions of children growing up in dire poverty.

Dental, vision and hearing as part of healthcare for seniors? COMMUNISM! We all know that the teeth, eyes and ears have nothing whatsoever to do with a person’s health! Same for those too poor to afford decent childcare, eldercare, go to junior college, a few weeks of paid leave for new parents and so forth. HOW WE GONNA PAY FOR IT? DON’T TELL ME TAXES OR ENFORCEMENT OF THE TAX CODE OR TIGHTENING UP ETHICS RULES ON SITTING LOBBYISTS/SENATORS!

You can agree or disagree with Manchin’s conservative positions, his constant, roosterish sabotage of Biden’s presidency, but it is difficult to find coherent reasons from someone iike Manchin. They will say or do anything to maintain their position and their power. Incoherence is no longer any kind of handicap in public life.

Look no further than the new governor of Virginia, former CEO of the Carlisle Group, just a regular dad in a vest concerned with “parents’ rights.” You see, he is strongly against the teaching of Critical Race Theory to Virginia kids, since it is a divisive theory that views American history through a lens that makes former slaveholders and those who took up arms on their behalf look like bad people and presents a false view of a racially divided nation where racism is embedded in every aspect of our legal and social system.

The theory is not taught in any Virginia school, except perhaps a law school here or there, and the only exposure any child or parent will ever have to it is in the denunciations of cynical, dog whistling politicians like Mr. Youngkin, and around the clock on Murdoch’s FOX news, but IT WORKS. White people as a group are afraid of the voting power of Black and brown people and demonizing Critical Race Theory works wonders mobilizing that terror. It is a terror former governor of Virginia Thomas Jefferson knew well:

“Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever…”
—Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1782

Jefferson was referring to the “hideous blot” on our nation’s ideals and morality that was represented by chattel slavery. Glenn Youngkin has vowed that ugly shit like this polarizing history will never be taught in his state, where (victimized, “white”) Parents’ Rights will be respected.

Coherent? Not particularly. A potent political message? Indeed. Particularly when Joe Manchin III is on board, fighting the president’s signature policy initiative in the name of imaginary “bipartisanship” — he stands with the solid 50 vote GOP bloc that will oppose anything that would make Biden look like a competent deal-maker.

Like the filibuster Manchin is devoted to, his kind has been a feature of our democracy since the days when slavery was being debated in the Senate. For a few generations they were known as Dixiecrats, guys who protected the right of angry mobs to lynch what are now politely called “n-words” without the damned federal government swooping in tyrannically to crush States’ Rights.

Personal anecdote:

Someone expresses anger, judges you harshly for being narcissistically unaware of your ongoing violation of a long standing moral rule they made years ago and never told you about. When they tell you about this long violation, you can apologize, but you are still accountable for violating an agreement you never even knew about!

How fucking dare you?!! You don’t get to use the fucking f-word, you fucking fuck, because you use it abusively while I only use it as a last resort, in justified outrage. My right to continue being angry at you, in spite of your so-called “apology”, is not in dispute.

Without the guide of Reason, in other words, laying out an argument based on things that can be reasonably agreed on, we are only flailing emotional creatures subject to being inflamed by appeals to loyalty from those who speak loudly to our anger, fear and other strong emotions that keep us from asking reasonable questions, confident that we will get a reasonable answer.

A quick look around confirms that we are living in largely incoherent times where a strong, angry argument — denying there is anything that can be fairly talked about — is enough to carry the day, whatever the merits, or senselessness, of that argument may actually be.


The House passed a $768 billion 2022 defense policy bill on a 316-113 vote late Thursday — authorizing a $24 billion increase to topline spending over the Biden administration’s budget proposal — a move that potentially lessens debate conflict as the legislation moves forward.


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