The “Wrong Time” Fallacy
by David Matthews 2
Once upon a time there was a girl that I knew that I was really attracted to. She was close to my age, very attractive and mature, and she gave the impression that she really liked me too. She worked at the nightclub I used to visit regularly, and we would talk about how we wanted to go out and hit the other clubs after she got off work. She used to tell me all of the wild and crazy things that went on with some of those clubs, and some of the things that she would love to show me in those places.
The problem was that every time we made plans to do just that, something always “came up”. There was always some last-minute thing that went on that would be used to ruin our after-hour plans. Some last-minute phone call, some spur-of-the-moment celebration, some “unexpected company”, some new complication would always arise. But there was always “next week”, right?
Eventually she quit her job at the nightclub. She didn’t tell me, though… and apparently with good reason. It seems that she was just stringing me along to get better tips until she could finish her college work, get out of the club, and then marry her fiancée.
Such is my life.
But that experience also gives me a unique opportunity to debunk one of the more toxic arguments that many people use to sabotage support for third party political groups.
Now contrary to what the two dominant political parties and the media would like you to believe, there have been more than just two political parties in American history. Some of those parties were single-issue ones, such as the Suffrage Party and the Prohibition Party, but others came up because their views were not being expressed by the dominant parties of the time.
Did you know, for instance, that the Presidential Election of 1860 had candidates from four political parties? It certainly made the Electoral College deliberations real interesting, especially since the eventual winner was a member of a brand-new party at the time called the Republican Party.
Of course the media wants us to believe that there have always been “Democrats” and “Republicans” and that it would be “great” if there was a “third party alternative”. What they don’t want you to know is that there have been “third party alternatives” all this time. And “fourth party alternatives” and “fifth party alternatives” and so on and so forth. The fact that the media refuses to let you know they exist does not mean that they don’t.
Here’s a little tip: the media sort of has a problem with telling the truth, especially when it comes to things that could imperil the status quo.
Now politicians know that their own satisfaction level – at least as a vocation – is abysmal. One poll has Congressional satisfaction at thirteen percent, although I suspect it’s actually in the low single digits. The Democrats are seen as being mealy-mouthed, spineless surrender monkeys, as was recently demonstrated with their own party’s platform fiasco. The GOP have been engaging in acts of political insurrection and sabotage, doing everything in their power to get rid of the current White House occupant, even if it means destroying what microscopic credibility they have left, as well as destroying what’s left of the nation.
People just plain do not like politicians and political gridlock, and the American political system is not only the sullen example of this, but they are, without a doubt, the standard-bearers of social failure.
And, year after year, we hear the wish of a “third party option”. But for most people, it’s just a wish. Even though their eyes will see more than two options on the ballot, their brains will refuse to recognize that third option.
That refusal to recognize alternatives can come from two reasons. Either they are intentionally lying to themselves and other people about what they really want, or they are systematically conditioned by other people to go against what they really want through some lofty promise that will never be made real. Either way, we do ourselves and society in general a huge disservice when we do this.
One of the biggest passive arguments used against third parties is this idea that it’s just not “the right time” to consider those “alternatives”. It is part of the whole “lesser of two evils” excuse and it goes something like this:
“I agree with (insert platform or position or message from other party here), however we have a bigger threat to deal with. We have to prevent (insert other party candidate) from getting elected/re-elected. Now is not the time to explore any other option. (Insert other party candidate) will destroy this town/county/state/country/species if he/she is elected/re-elected. Once we get rid of this threat, then we can consider alternatives.”
Notice how they give a tacit acknowledgement of your position or stance. They may even claim to actually support that position or stance themselves. But that empathy is short-lived.
“… however, we have a bigger threat to deal with.”
With that negation, your standards, your stances, your values, the things that you treasure, are summarily dismissed on this myth that there is “something worse”.
You wanted better leaders? Tough! You wanted ethical politicians? Tough! You wanted real reform? Tough! You wanted a candidate with a better record of governing? Tough! We don’t care if your candidate is better for the nation; we have a “bigger threat” to deal with than what you want!
Think about it: you are being told to give up what you value in order to support a candidate and a party that does not represent what you value, on the distorted belief that there’s “something worse”. And if you can be convinced to give up the things that you value, then how valuable are they really?
This goes to the very heart of political corruption! Never mind corrupt politicians; you are being told to give up the very things that you value for a political party that clearly does not treasure those same things! There isn’t even any money involved in this surrender of your principles!
You guys are some really cheap political whores, you know that? No money exchanged; no power given; all you get is the promise that “maybe” later on down the line they “might consider” some “alternatives”.
PT Barnum is laughing in his grave over this kind of arrangement! Even a street walker wouldn’t roll over this cheaply!
And that brings us to the biggest flaw in this “wrong time” fallacy: “when” it would be “the right time”.
Let’s get brutally honest here… using their own argument, there will never be “the right time” for third party groups! Ever!
I say this not just out of frustration, but from decades of political experience. And the facts show that it is the GOP that uses this “bigger threat” argument the most!
In 1980, we were told by the GOP that “the bigger threat” was Jimmy Carter being re-elected.
In 1984, we were told by the GOP that “the bigger threat” was Walter Mondale getting elected.
In 1988, we were told by the GOP that “the bigger threat” was Michael Dukakis getting elected.
In 1992, we were told by the GOP that “the bigger threat” was Bill Clinton getting elected.
In 1996, we were told by the GOP that “the bigger threat” was Bill Clinton getting re-elected.
In 2000, we were told by the GOP that “the bigger threat” was Al Gore getting elected.
In 2004, we were told by the GOP that “the bigger threat” was John Kerry getting elected.
In 2008, we were told by the GOP that “the bigger threat” was first Hillary Clinton getting elected, and then Barack Obama getting elected. (Yes, the GOP actually had two so-called “bigger threats” that year.)
And now in 2012, we are being told by the GOP that “the bigger threat” is Obama getting re-elected.
So you tell me, GOP, since yours is the party that has been using this argument the most; when would be the “right time” before you “graciously” welcome third-party alternatives? Huh? When?
I’m not expecting an answer, because we all know that the correct answer is “never”. There will never be a “right time” for a third party to come in, because there will always be some “bigger threat” looming at every election! As far as some people in the GOP are concerned, even two political parties are still one party too many.
Look at the so-called “Tea Party” group. Ever since they got started after Obama’s inauguration, they have pretended to be an “independent” group from the GOP. They claimed to represent that fictional “silent majority” that were angry at the “old guard” for “letting them down”. They claimed to want to “clean house” and get in “their” people, and if that wasn’t done fast enough, they supposedly were ready to start their own political party.
But did they? No. They failed to show the same courage that the Know-Nothings had in the 1850’s.
When push came to shove, the so-called “Tea Party” people surrendered to the tired and old argument that “now is not the time”, and they voted for the GOP, even voting for the very career politicians that they had previously complained about. Sure they voted in some “new blood”, but they didn’t shake up the party like they swore they would. For all of their bluster, they proved to be just as morally bankrupt as the rest of the party.
That was in 2010, and now they’re doing it all over again for 2012. And they expect the rest of us to do the same thing.
Again, if your values are supposed to be so “important”, then why are you so willing to sacrifice them for a promise you know will never be kept? And why are you convincing others that they “have” to do the same?
The truth of the matter is that there is never a “right” or “wrong” time for alternatives to the two dominant political parties. They don’t want competition. They want compliance. Much like the girl in the nightclub, it’s about stringing you along until there just isn’t a reason to do it anymore.