One of the things that greatly irks me in political discussions (including answers on Politics.SE) is the habit of people to state something like:

"X side of political spectrum is for Y, and the other side is against Y" - with no rigorous definition or what being "for Y" means, nor ANY evidence to back the claim up.

A typical example (on Politics.SE but quoted from Wikipedia) is the classic "left wing is for the Working class, right wing is for the wealthy".

Notice the problems (if you are being objective):

  • Your statement is impossible to either prove or falsify, due to lack of precision.

    • How do you define "working class"? Do I as a software developer work? Do only people performing physical labor "work"? (and does standing around the conveyor belt watching robots assembling cars considered physical labor? Does sitting in a cabin of a subway train pushing buttons count? Does it all over a sudden make me a worker if I'm a sysadmin and have to carry around servers once in a while? Do surgeons count? Do unemployed count - which according to Wikipedia some people include in "working class". Do unemployed bankers count?)

    • What is "left wing"? Do you include the Greens, who severely hurt workers in logging, coal and other energy industries? Do you include illegal immigration advocates, whose policies are generally considered left wing, but are a lot more supportive of wealthy employers who want cheap illegal labour, than poor workers whose face competition from that cheap labour? (yes, I know, that's a controversial statement. I'm using it as an example of a nuance, not as absolute truth).

    • What do you mean being "for" working class? There are well founded arguments that the poor on average - in absolute way - live a significantly better life in USA than USSR. Are the union people who helped run Hostess into the ground "for" the poor who now have 15,000 jobs less for them? (again, this is an example, not an invitation to discuss if it was more the fault of the union, management, or "healthy eating" advocates that drove Hostess into the ground).

    • If a policy benefits the wealthy short term at the expense of the poor, BUT benefits the poor long term, are you for the wealthy or for the poor?

  • Most importantly, even if you define "working class" and "left" and even "being for" precisely, what is your proof that "left wing" satisfies these definitions and right wing does not???

    • Did you include a well executed poll among what you defined as "right wing" that shows their preference to hurt the working class? Or statements from political leaders of "right wing" that claim they are against "working class"?

    • Or the opposite, do you have any proof that policies officially advocated (with proof) by what you defined as "left wing" demonstrably benefit "working class"? With proof that they are the cause of benefit (as opposed to correlation)? With proof that the policy is sustainable?

      • In other words, you can probably argue solidly that taking 100% of net worth from individuals whose net worth is >$1mm and evenly dividing them between those with
    • Did you present (or at least hint at) the proof that the policies advocated by however you defined "right wing" hurt the poor long term, with causation chain? Have you made a clear distinction between "hurt the poor" and "increase the wealth disparity"?

My question is, how do we as a community feel about such vague unsupported claims presented as "facts" in answers?

Do we prohibit them and strong encourage to downvote any answer which relies on such a claim?

Do we not care?

  • The difficulty with the examples is that you are taking general statements, and breaking them apart at the nit-picky exceptions level. Every general statement will contain exceptions that will always break the intent of the statement. In 'general' the example statement is fairly well agreed upon. So I don't necessarily find fault with it at that general level. Now, in specific context, sure, that's where the exceptions can be nit-picked and more supporting citations would need to be provided to defend it. – user1530 Mar 5 '13 at 22:35
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    @DA. - that's the whole point I'm making. Your "fairly well agreed on" is completely false, since it's only agreed on by one side of political spectrum. Dismissing concerns about incorrect statements designed to negatively paint one political side as "nitpicking" does nothing to address such concerns. – user4012 Mar 6 '13 at 1:33
  • It's fairly agreed upon by political scholars. Nothing is agreed upon by partisan pundits. – user1530 Mar 6 '13 at 1:41
  • Let me rephrase my earlier comment: the details you point out are exceptions. Valid exceptions, but exceptions that don't in any meaningful way invalidate the general statement. – user1530 Mar 6 '13 at 1:45
  • Maybe a specific answer to the initial question: I'd suggest rephrasing it to "In general, the left wing supports the causes of the middle class and organized labor, and the right wing supports the causes of business and industry." As for proof, I think the fact that unions overwhelmingly donate to Democrats and Business Leaders overwhelmingly donate to Republicans would suffice to allow that general statement to remain. But, in the end, context matters so I guess it really comes down to: in what context is that statement being used? – user1530 Mar 6 '13 at 1:48

The answers should be down voted. Explain that the problem with the answer is not that it is necessarily wrong but that it is not explained well enough to be accepted as correct. Suggest points that should explained and referenced in order to make the answer acceptable.

  • Unfortunately this seems to just result in comment arguements here... – SoylentGray Mar 8 '13 at 19:05

The challenge here is that politics, by the nature of the beast, tends to invent terminology and definitions continuously--and the particular terms being used will often differ based on the POV the person is coming from.

In fact, I've seen both you DVK and Chad do that, and I'm sure I've done it myself as well. I don't see an easy way around that as it's very much a part of the political machine.

So, I suppose one can only do what Chad suggests...downvote, and explain why. A typical response may be to simply ask that the user 'neutralize' their terminology a bit, or address the terms used by the opposition equally.

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