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RFD for GOP Party Symbol Debate

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9/19/2015 7:02:20 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
This is an RFD for the debate between imabench and MagicAintReal given here:

Well, neither of you is making this particularly easy. I'm not seeing any specific reasoning as to why any one particular issue should matter most to Republicans (i.e. whether a representation of gun rights should outweigh a representation of a military powerhouse) beyond a few bare assertions about what people view as most important. There's no clear reason to support any given issue above all others, or even above another specific one.

Beyond that, I'm not seeing any burdens analysis prior to the final round, where Pro asserts that his burden is simply to prove that the change is a net improvement, and where Con asserts that the change must be to something that is essentially perfect. That late in, I won't be swayed by either argument, but based on the resolution, I assumed the burdens Pro asserts, and thus those are the ones I go with.

The cases themselves are replete with assertions as to what's important to Republicans. It seems to me that this debate could have gotten a lot more interesting if the debaters had spent more time focusing on why voters are leaving the party, and what could be done to entice new voters to join. This would have been a great opportunity to focus on what matters most to Republicans, instead of just talking about what they care about in vague generalities. Both sides also could have brought up various polls, which would have been less convincing than the focus on voter movement, but still would have been more successful in supporting these arguments than anything either debater actually did.

Beyond that, what I find confusing is the view that any of these forms of support need to be represented visually by the party symbol. Both debaters seem to place a lot of stock in interpretation of the symbol as what the party stands for, but I'm constantly left wondering why the party's clear support for these issues is insufficient to convey those views. Is the Republican party really viewed as so wishy-washy that they need to have a more powerful symbol to show their clear support for a set of given issues? I suppose this is really just a missed opportunity for Con, since it was a clear option for him to argue that the GOP should be changing how they portray themselves in media rather than focusing on the party symbol, but it just seems like the elephant (pun intended) in the room to me.

Still, I work with what I've got. I'll go through all of the reasons why Pro supports the change and the various rebuttals to it, and then shift into the Con arguments.

Pro's Contentions:

1) Guns

I see Pro's point here, which is that the fact that he's carrying guns, and the fact that Republicans would support that image of him sporting them, would be sufficient to show that Republicans support gun ownership. All of the arguments Con makes against this with regards to aim really have no bearing on the point that it emphasizes gun ownership " that will come up again under Con's arguments.

What does have some bearing is the negativity of the image. He's an angry, little man with tiny pistols. This probably could have been used to great effect by Con, since external groups could use this image to paint the GOP as gun-toting hotheads who are attempting to compensate for something by shooting at anything that moves. It could have been used to really malign gun ownership, since Pro's only argument is that the presentation of guns is good enough. Unfortunately, Con never applies this point to the gun ownership arguments, choosing to focus on the foreign policy angle when it comes to these responses. As such, I'm still buying that this is a positive image for gun owners.

2) Appeal to Younger Voters

This point is dropped, which is a shame. It's actually the only point in the debate that talks about recruiting to the GOP, though it's never clear exactly how it does that, and this point vanishes from the debate after R1. I'm not really sure whether new voters would be more likely to join the GOP, or whether it just revitalizes a certain portion of the voting bloc for the GOP, giving them reason to become involved again. It was also a missed opportunity for Con, since I could easily see the argument working that making a cartoon the party symbol makes voters take the party less seriously, but that never comes up.

3) Elephant not best

This is really where a lot of the discussion goes forward because both sides generally don't contend that their opponent is wrong on Yosemite Sam. Each of you argued that different aspects of Yosemite Sam were more important towards different ends, but I don't see much from either of you about how the other side is wrong, just how you're right in your interpretation of how Sam would be viewed.

On elephants, it becomes a different story. Each of you is painting dramatically different images of what elephants look like to the general population, but neither is particularly convincing. Both of you point to a good deal of information on how elephants are without talking about how they're perceived, at least beyond your own views. Even if I do take much of these views as assured, the negative or positive outcome of those views is uncertain. Con even challenges Pro's view that irrational fear is something to be avoided, turning the point to say that it's actually beneficial since it applies to such great figures as Ronald Reagan. By the end of the debate, I don't view the elephant as a particularly effective symbol, but I do view it as a net positive symbol, which means Con is winning this point. Whether that positivity is better than Sam's, however, is what will decide this debate.

4) Religiosity

Pro really likes to hang his hat on this point, arguing that one of Sam's catchphrases showcases two things: a) that he's Pro death penalty, and b) that he's religious. I actually don't think either of those is true. A desire to kill sentient animals doesn't seem to showcase any support for the death penalty, nor does a willingness to allow them to say their prayers, as that simply seems like a strange bit of mercy. It also doesn't necessarily showcase religiosity, since it only means he's acknowledging the target's potential to be religious. It's not a statement of his own religiousness, and even if it was, it's unclear to whom he's praying. And I could easily see a solid response being that being associated with religiosity is harmful to the GOP, as it excludes non-deists and paints them as radicals.

But these responses don't come up, so I'm forced to work with what I have. Con's first response to the point on the death penalty comes out in R3, too late for me to include it. Nor does any response to the religious aspect. So while I'm not getting any clear reasoning as to why these particular aspects matter most to the GOP, I'm buying that Sam upholds them better than an elephant.

5) Winning a race

This is another point that doesn't get addressed, though it's also the most flippant. There's really nothing beneficial about this point except the symbolism. Pro seems to be arguing that if the GOP visualizes winning, they're more likely to win, or at least to be perceived as winners. Both sides drop this point as the debate goes on, so while Pro is clearly winning it, there's just not a lot I can actually do with it.

Con's Contentions:

Before I get into these, a note.

I was surprised at just how much Con granted as beneficial to the GOP's image from Pro's case. I already mentioned how religiosity could easily have been turned. It could also have easily been argued that Yosemite Sam represents all that is male and masculine, which might lead many women to feel excluded from the party. Almost Pro's entire case was based on that masculinity, yet that was sort of just accepted as beneficial.
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9/19/2015 7:02:50 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Anyway, onto the arguments.

1) Traditionalism

This probably could have become more important if the burdens analysis came up earlier. The idea that tradition is what's most important to the party really doesn't get the kind of analysis that it should. Merely pointing to conservatism and saying that not changing best upholds it doesn't really support the notion that not changing is hugely important. I mean, Con's winning this, but there's no clear weight to it.

I was waiting for a set of arguments that would have made this potent. I could see Con arguing that using Yosemite Sam as a symbol locks Republicans into a set of viewpoints that they cannot alter so long as he remains their symbol. That would have required a step away from traditionalism, arguing that Yosemite Sam is so specific that it creates new problems for the party, while the elphant is more amorphous and up to interpretation. I could also see Con taking his argument on tradition one step further " what happens when we view a symbol as malleable, and then change it to something we know isn't perfect? Well, we're going to change it again and again until we find that impossible perfection. If we're always seeking better, then suggestions like this will dominate discussions of how to improve the Republican party, effectively turning every meeting of this sort into a marketing meeting that avoids the key issues that make Republicans a difficult party for many to get behind. That's not to mention that the Democrats may follow the same line, turning it into an image popularity contest rather than an opportunity to better either party by appealing to like-minded voters.

2) Foreign Policy

There just doesn't seem to be a lot of cross-talk between this point and the gun ownership point. Both debaters basically grant the others' argument because they spend so much time defending their own that they can't seem to notice that that defense often feeds into the other's offense.

Case in point, when the discussion turns from Sam's ownership of guns to his incapability with them, Pro stays focused on ownership while Con focuses on effectiveness. The former point has a lot to do with gun ownership and nothing clear to do with foreign policy. The latter point is the exact opposite. My point being that Con is taking down this contention just as assuredly as Pro is taking down gun ownership. Yosemite Sam appears to represent an impotent threat, a spastic little man who shoots first and asks questions later but never actually hits anything, someone known for making a scene.

What prevents this from being the stand-out argument is a lack of analysis on the implications. Why do we care if this is how we're perceived " as a short person with an inferiority complex who is ineffective, constantly angry, and toting around weapons as a constant, impotent threat? If all Con had done during the last two rounds was focus on the implications for foreign policy " the ways in which a Republican president would be perceived on the world stage and how various countries are likely to react " then this would easily have been the biggest point with the most real world implications of anything taking place in this debate. Lacking that, it just appears as yet another thing the GOP should be concerned with, a vision that focuses solely on how they're perceived by voters and how they perceive themselves, but without any clear idea of the effects.

3) Patriotism

This one just seems like a bit of an afterthought, and not one that's well-examined. I buy that the elephant has already been made to be patriotic, whereas Sam has not, but this seems strange since Sam could get a flag pin or wear different colors and still be the same basic character. The elephant seems more patriotic, but it's unclear how Sam will remain less so. Admittedly, Pro doesn't give me that response, so I give Con some ground here, it's just unclear both how much patriotism matters and why Sam is invariably less patriotic than the elephant symbol.


I've obviously written a lot longer on this than I intended to. Imabench made the rounds short, and the topic doesn't appear particularly serious from the outset, since we're discussing the inclusion of a cartoon character as the chief symbol of a major political party. It sounds comedic.

That doesn't really change whether or not it comes out as reasonable by the end of the debate. I think the foreign policy and gun ownership issues cancel out. Neither debater really takes the time to make them stand out, and both debaters practically concede the reasoning in the others'. Patriotism and winning a race are both dropped points with little actual value to the debate and, on closer inspection, don't appear to have a lot of logical analysis to them. Traditionalism and religiosity cancel out as well, since neither side really takes the time to emphasize their importance and they're both nebulously important to Republican voters. That just leaves the appeal to younger voters, and while I'm distrustful of this point and its importance, it's also the only point in the debate that gets close to actually proving that there's a tangible benefit to changing the party's symbol.

So now I just compare that with the benefits of keeping the elephant as the symbol, and in that there are scant few. The best explanation I get is that irrationality is good, but both sides seem to grant that Sam can be irrational as well " in fact, that practically seems to be a part of Con's argument. So it seems non-unique to me, not to mention that that benefit doesn't stand to gain any sort of tangible benefit in increased voter turnout to counter the appeal to younger voters.

Thus, I vote Pro.