I have twice flagged this answer, first with a NAA flag, and secondly with a custom flag. The response to my custom flag was that it is a valid answer because it challenges the premise of the question. I don't think this is a good reading of the question or answer.

So to start: the question asks for the logic the Republicans (including the President) use to blame the Democrats for the current US government shutdown. A classical valid answer would attempt to try to explain Republican logic for the Republicans. A question-premise-challenging answer would have to challenge the premise that Republicans are actually blaming the democrats, showing they blame someone else, or blame no one. This answer does neither.

This answer has three sections. Lets consider each in turn.

The first section, titled "19th December, 2018" considers the first senate bill. It says that several conservative media entities blamed Trump. This section does not discuss the response of Republican party officials or elected politicians to the failure of the bill to pass the house, so I cannot see how it can answer either the question of Republican blame, or challenge the question's premise.

The second section, title "20th December, 2018", explains Trump's reasons for not accepting the previous senate bill. It then explains that the House's bill did not pass the senate, noting it would need 60 votes, more than the 51 the Republicans possessed. This could be implicit evidence that the Republicans blamed the Democrats for not passing the the bill and therefore causing the shutdown, but it's pretty flimsy. I think that it does not really contribute to a valid answer. It states the facts of the votes, but does not attempt to contribute to the question of who the Republicans are blaming this shutdown on. Is it blaming Trump for not accepting the senate bill, or the Democratic Senators for not passing the house bill? Both seem equally possible to me, so I don't know how the mod who declined my flag can be so certain this is a premise challenging answer. If you have to rely on what the answer implies, then it simultaneously supports the premise of the question and refutes it! Nonsense!

The third section, titled "3rd January, 2019", describes the new Democratic house bill, which was blocked by Republican senate leader Mitch McConnell. Does the author intend this to imply that the Republicans accept blame on themselves for the shutdown? Does the author intend this to imply that the Republicans blame the president for not accepting a compromise bill from a Democratic house? Does the author intend this to imply that the Republicans blame the Democrats for passing a bill, perhaps intentionally in bad faith? I don't know. I don't think anyone other than the OP does either.

This answer lays out the facts of the three bills, but it does not clearly answer the question either by explaining who the Republicans blame, or by refuting that they're blaming anyone. I cannot see how it's a valid classical answer or a valid premise challenging answer.

Furthermore I think the OP's behaviour has been very unhelpful, having stubbornly refused to elaborate. They apparently consider their answer a premise challenging one, so it should've been pretty straightforward to edit the post to explain who the Republicans do blame (or that they blame no one.) But I can't see much evidence of a genuine good-faith attempt to actually address the issue of who the Republicans blame.

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    Re: the question asks for the logic the Republicans use, as I read the current question, it's asking something similar, but not quite what you said: what actions by the Democrats could give the Republicans a logical reason to place blame on them? The first version – when this answer was posted – asked yet a different question: If Republicans have a majority [..], how could it be possible that the Democrats could be responsible for the shutdown? [..] wouldn’t the shutdown be the Republicans fault?. – user11249 Jan 7 '19 at 8:01
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    @MartinTournoij I was going more off the question title, which asks "through what logic are Republicans able to say..."... which is more direct to what they are purported to actually be claiming rather than what actions could be used (which I think would make the question too opinion based as it's so open to hypotheticals) – curiousdannii Jan 7 '19 at 8:25
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    In general I would consider the title to be a summary of the body, and the body to be authoritative. In some cases where the title and body vastly disagree the question should be closed as unclear, but that's not the case here. Here, it's just a slightly-too-concise summary/title. – user11249 Jan 7 '19 at 9:06
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    @MartinTournoij It's tricky because the title is a straightforward objective question about the stated reasoning of a group, while the body is a much worse, subjective question that asks us to define what a good "logical reason for blame" would be. – lazarusL Jan 7 '19 at 21:42
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    @MartinTournoij - exactly. If you consider the body canonical, the question should have been closed as subjective from the get-go – user4012 Jan 9 '19 at 15:22
  • NAA is for "answers" which are actually additional information to the main question, or for "answers" which of the form "We have a similar situation in XXXX, what are the solutions" (We get a lot of those in ExPats:SE.) – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jan 17 '19 at 15:29

I agree that it does not completely answer the question. I have left a comment explaining what information I felt the answer lacked. However, how well an answer is answered is a qualitative concern which is meant to be addressed through appropriate commentary suggesting how an answer might be improved and voting.

Flags are really only supposed to be used in cases where a post should be deleted:

What happens when I flag a comment?

In addition to bringing the comment to the attention of the moderators, a sufficient number of flags on a single comment will cause it to be deleted automatically. The number of flags required for deletion varies based on the number of votes on the comment, as well as the content of the comment itself.

Similarly the flag guidance itself states:

not an answer This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.

However that does not seem to be the case here. The help center's deletion guidelines indicate that answers should be deleted if an answer is:

  • commentary on the question or other answers
  • asking another, different question
  • “thanks!” or “me too!” responses
  • exact duplicates of other answers
  • barely more than a link to an external site
  • not even a partial answer to the actual question

Most of these provisions do not have any evident applicability. You might try to argue that it is just commentary, but it contains facts which could be construed as reasons for why what happened happened, which may or may not be reasons the republicans hold the democrats blameworthy. That is information characteristic of an answer than a comment, which is primarily supposed to be reserved for improving the post under which it appears.

Also the answer includes relevant information which could be used as the basis of an answer, so it is at least a partial answer to the question if nothing else and granted impunity from deletion for that reason too.

Indeed, how to write a good answer in the help center suggests that if you are having the same problem that you should:

Help us find a solution by researching the problem, then contribute the results of your research and anything additional you’ve tried as a partial answer.

It stands to reason that people who do not know the complete answer may contribute their findings as an answer. Somebody else may use those findings as the basis of a better alternative answer if they believe the existing one is inadequate.

If in the help center you click through to usage guidance for not an answer, then click on the canonical answer to the duplicate question it ultimately leads you to this answer to How Do I Properly Use the "Not an Answer Flag" which seems to verify these assertions at a cursory glance.

It seems to be that declining the flag was the appropriate course of action, and this probably would have happened on English Language & Usage too to be honest, predicated on what I have seen moderators mention there before. They only delete posts which do not even attempt to address the question in any way whatsoever, except for discriminatory action against single line answers (which this is not).

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    I genuinely cannot comprehend how anyone could consider this an attempt to answer the question considering it never discusses Republican thinking (other than what McConnell thinks Trump will veto) or blaming. The question doesn't ask who you or me or anyone else would blame, it asks how the Republican party can justify blaming the Democrats. The answer really does not touch on that. – curiousdannii Jan 7 '19 at 5:26
  • If you want to defend the answer's continued existence by saying that the facts it presents can be reasonably construed as reasons for why the Reps blame the Dems, what do you think of what I wrote above, where I conclude that the facts the answer presents can be fairly read as implying several contradictory positions? – curiousdannii Jan 7 '19 at 5:29
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    If it doesn't answer the question, but holds valuable information, I agree keeping it might be a valid option. Nevertheless, IMHO the "Accepted answer" mark should be removed in any case, as it doesn't answer the question. – Sjoerd Jan 7 '19 at 19:22
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    @Sjoerd The accepted answer mark is the question asker's privlidge to use as they see fit. Nobody else can change it short of an SE employee, which I've never heard of them doing before. – Alexander O'Mara Jan 7 '19 at 20:04
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    @AlexanderO'Mara Well, 20k users can delete accepted answers if the score is low enough; and moderators can deleted accepted answers regardless of the score, so "nobody else can change it short of an SE employee" is not quite accurate. – TylerH Jan 7 '19 at 22:37
  • @TylerH True I guess. I thought it would still remain accepted if deleted, but I guess that's not the case. Asking for deletion is different from asking for the accepted check mark to be removed though. – Alexander O'Mara Jan 7 '19 at 22:54
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    @curiousdannii - it never discusses Republican thinking - So you are looking for a mind reader? You intend to delete an answer, which is currently at 64 positive votes and is marked as accepted, and go as far as creating a thread in meta for that purpose and vehemently do everything possible. It appears to me that nothing will satisfy your demands except getting your way: Deleting the "democratically" most favored answer. Just give up - you aren't doing anything productive anyway. – Battle Jan 9 '19 at 10:24
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    @Battle No, like most people I just want to know what arguments (if any) they have put forward. No need for mind reading when politicians love to talk. – curiousdannii Jan 9 '19 at 11:26

As long as it's an attempt to make an answer, the not an answer flag will usually be declined. This is the case even if the answerer misunderstood the question and posted an answer to a slightly different question.

The reason for this, I think, it that interpreting the question, and making the answer in the form the OP needs, is a thing that people who are not subject matter experts(and some who are) can get wrong. That includes moderators. Moderators are not the deciders of correctness. If an answer is wrong, or if you think it misunderstands the question downvote. If you flag it as not an answer, that flag will usually get declined.

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  • Sure. But that's why there are review and escalation options, like posting to Meta, so that the community can decide together whether they think an answer is valid. I don't have access to flags of course, but from comments at least 13 people think it's NAA. I've posted a detailed case above. I'm hoping those who think it is a valid answer will also post a detailed case. – curiousdannii Jan 7 '19 at 6:48
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    BTW, on many sites in the network, answering slightly different questions is a valid and common use of the NAA flag. It's fine if this site has different conventions, but I do feel this particular answer is particularly egregious because the poster has refused to elaborate in any way whatsoever. – curiousdannii Jan 7 '19 at 6:49
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    Moderators are not the deciders of correctness: No one asked the moderators to be this. If I ask "how fast can a horse run?" and the answer is "a platypus can jump up to a metre", then you don't need much expertise to conclude that it's simply not an answer to the stated question. I'm not sure if I agree with @curiousdannii about this particular answer based on the question's phrasing, but I do agree with the basic premise that non-answers should be removed. In fact, my well-received answer the other day said exactly that. – user11249 Jan 7 '19 at 8:05
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    @MartinTournoij That's the obvious and common sense interpretation of the flag dialogue, but in practice the CMs have inexplicably stood fast on the side of "NAA only applies to answers that cannot possibly be a valid answer to any question on any site", in other words, the most broad interpretation and application that is humanly possible. Shog himself even admitted in a comment yeras ago on MSO that the flag dialogue should be changed to clarify its intent but didn't change it, because... it wasn't a high enough priority. – TylerH Jan 7 '19 at 22:40
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    @TylerH That's not true. See this MSE discussion. Shog9 himself edited the other answer to the question, and I've chatted with him in chat about the use of NAA. The line between answers to other questions and partial answers can sometimes be fuzzy, but answers to other questions is definitely a valid use of the NAA flag. – curiousdannii Jan 8 '19 at 0:00
  • @curiousdannii What's not true? Btw, the answer you link to has no input from Shog. And if you look at the comments, you'll see links to clear contradiction of that matter on MSO. At any rate, the argument that it's different doesn't hold much water so long as those with the power to act on them continue declining them for the aforementioned reasons. This is the crux of why I mentioned Shog's comment on MSO (wish I had bookmarked it)... he agreed the flag dialogue was problematic, but essentially refused to do anything about it. In the end it's more economical to tailor actions to reality. – TylerH Jan 8 '19 at 14:54
  • @MartinTournoij But if you ask "how high can an elephant jump?" and an answer says "here are some reasons why an elephant can't jump very far", that's still a valid answer. Not a great answer, because it might not directly answer the question, but it does provide information which is relevant to the question. – Graham Jan 8 '19 at 16:56
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    What if the question is not misunderstood? What if the answer specifically starts out by saying that it will not answer the question asked? And what if the answer then gets accepted? This seems exactly like an "exception condition" that should be handled by "human exception handlers" that are moderators. – grovkin Jan 9 '19 at 1:08

Here's what I consider to be the most-important part of the question:

If Republicans had a majority in the House and the Senate at the start of the shutdown, and also have control over the executive branch, what actions by the Democrats could give the Republicans a logical reason to place blame on them?

(Granted the question has been edited to be more clear about this, but that's what I always understood it to be asking)

The body of the question doesn't really ask about logic. It asks about factual actions that could give Republicans reasoning to place blame. That's what I aimed to do in my answer, provide facts and facts only about the notable actions related to the shutdown. If those facts make it logical to blame someone, I consider to be a subjective question which I leave the reader to decide for themselves.

The only place that asks for logic is in the title:

Through what logic are Republicans able to say that the current American government shutdown is “the Democrats’ fault”?

I consider that to be a rhetorical question which may not be directly answerable. Is it asking for the logic Republicans use? If that's the case, then which Republicans, who may have a variety of reasons? Is it asking if it's logically sound for Republicans to blame Democrats? That's also quite subjective.

Generally I consider titles to be a summary of the canonical question in the body. In some cases, that summary may not be 100% clear. I think this title may be setting some people up for a certain expectation from answers, which may be the source of some confusion. I would maybe edit it, but I don't want to step on other answerer's toes

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    If you considered the question title and body so inconsistent you should've refrained from answering until it was clarified... – curiousdannii Jan 7 '19 at 8:25
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    @curiousdannii But I didn't really find the question unclear. I concluded the question title was rhetorical. – Alexander O'Mara Jan 7 '19 at 8:26
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    Okay, I kind of get where you're coming from now. But I don't think think the title is rhetorical, and if it was intended to be, then I don't think I'd be comfortable with that. Even so, if the bold phrase is what you consider most important, then why the first section? How does the second section contribute, considering it's about a Republican bill failing to pass a Republican controlled senate? Even by your own standards I don't see why most of it is there. – curiousdannii Jan 7 '19 at 8:29
  • I think the first section provides important context to understand the later sections, like where things broke down in the second section. – Alexander O'Mara Jan 7 '19 at 8:50
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    I think it's clear the question title was not rhetorical, especially considering the original revision of the post indicates OP finds the notion of blaming Democrats a little incredulous. Of course, now the question title has been edited heavily by a 3rd party to ask something substantively different, rendering this entire Meta Q&A moot. – TylerH Jan 7 '19 at 22:42
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    @TylerH I would consider that the motivation for why they asked the question, rather than the actual question. – Alexander O'Mara Jan 7 '19 at 22:45

There is essentially only 2 ways to interpret the gist of the question itself. Either it is a rant (which would make it off topic), or it is an inquiry made in earnest.

The author of the question plead ignorance of the topic. So from that perspective, the facts outlined in the answer help to illuminate the topic.

However, the question's author didn't ask "what are the facts which would help me better understand the situation." They didn't ask for facts which would help them make up their own mind. They asked for "logic" which could be used to arrive at a certain conclusion. The question was later edited to ask for "arguments" which would lead to the same conclusion.

This answer is considered good by many up votes because it does shed more light on the situation at large, but that wasn't the question.

What I find particularly telling is not the number of up votes the answer received, but the fact that it was accepted. There is little doubt that the answer does not answer the question either in its original form or in its edited form. In fact, the answer started out by explicitly saying that it would not answer what chain of reasoning could lead to the conclusion claimed by the Republicans nor what chain of reasoning could refute the conclusion claimed by the Republicans. I do realize that the answer's author believes that the question was using the word "logic" colloquially, but that belief is irrelevant because it assigns a motivation to the question's author rather than addressing the question as written. In other words, such assumption reads more into the question than what is there.

This answer may be a good answer to some question, just not to the one which was asked. It may be deemed high quality content, but that doesn't make it an answer to the posited inquiry.

And yet, the answer was accepted. And herein lies the rub. If the question's author accepted an answer which didn't answer the question, but which only provided further evidence, it is reasonable to assume that the question's author didn't make a genuine inquiry. The answer was accepted because it validated the question author's frame of mind. Yes, this does seem like I am trying to read someone's mind, but I am doing something else. I am saying that any time that an answer is accepted and it does not answer an inquiry posited in the question, it must be seen as a question's author validating their own previously-held beliefs. This isn't the only possibility, but in the context of political discussions, it is the most likely possibility. And, therefore, it must be treated as the most plausible one.

And such behavior is a fairly common in political discussions. People are personally invested in their politics. So seeing their egos validated does please them and they do want to reward those who please them with positive feedback. However, this site tries to shun away from validation in favor of elucidation. At least, that is the stated goal.

Regardless of whether the question was originally asked as an earnest inquiry or as an attempt to rant (a la "Republicans just don't have a leg to stand on amiright?), by accepting the non-answer answer the question's author turned the question into rant.

If the question and the answer are separated as suggested in JJJ's answer, both the quality of the question and the answer would be improved. The question would again become an actual question (rather than what it looks like now -- a rant). At the same time, this answer would then be answering an actual question rather than look like a validation of the questioner's ranting.

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This answer lays out the facts of the three bills, but it does not clearly answer the question either by explaining who the Republicans blame, or by refuting that they're blaming anyone. I cannot see how it's a valid classical answer or a valid premise challenging answer.

I agree with this assertion. On the other hand, I think it would be a waste to delete the answer as it does provide a good timeline. Perhaps the moderators could create a different question (on the timeline of events) and transfer it to that question?

This practice is also outlined in the Help pages regarding deleting a question with a good answer we don't want to delete:

Before voting to delete, please check whether there are any good answers; if so, then the question should be flagged for moderator attention as a potential merge candidate. We don't like to lose great answers!

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  • Considering the question asker accepted the answer it would also be possible to edit the question to match the answer, however that probably wouldn't be a good option as it might invalidate some of the six other answers. – curiousdannii Jan 7 '19 at 4:54

Think of it this way: you want to single-handedly get an answer you didn't like to be deleted, while 68 people (including the OP) found it useful and upvoted it. No mod in their right mind would support you on this. Otherwise, imagine what happens if a mod acts on your flag: in all likehood they will instantly receive a flag and/or a meta post from the author asking to restore the answer, with a lot of support from people who liked it. What do they do now?

Downvote posts you don't like. Feel free to explain in a comment why the post isn't up to your standards. Just don't expect everyone to have the same standards as you.

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    "Liking" has never had anything to do with answers meeting or not meeting the standards required of answers, such as actually answering what the question asked rather than giving related information. No Stack Exchange site works like a popularity site. – curiousdannii Jan 16 '19 at 9:24
  • @curiousdannii And the proof is how the mods have acted on your flags? I may agree with you on how it should be, but the reality is different. You can choose to accept reality or keep flagging answers that miss the point as NAA and getting your flags declined. It's up to you. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jan 16 '19 at 9:49
  • And yes, "liking" is an important aspect of the site. If an answer doesn't answer the question but provides relevant information on the topic, it is useful and it will be upvoted. Remember that the OP is just one user, everyone else reading Q&A will never have the exact same question, and they will upvote what helps them, even if that's technically NAA. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jan 16 '19 at 9:54
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    I am not arguing either in favour of keeping or removing this answer (I am probably too biased to really make a judgement here), but I do know that this is not a very good argument. Just because an answer is popular doesn't automatically mean it meets our standard requirements. This site is for explaining politics, not discussing it. Just because the viewpoint in a particular answer is popular doesn't mean it actually explains the asked question. – user11249 Jan 16 '19 at 10:00
  • @MartinTournoij You're missing the main point: nobody gets to single-handedly decide what's good and what's bad. Whether popular content should stay if it violates some rules is another question, but again, my experience with SE shows that the site would rather keep such content. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jan 16 '19 at 10:31
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    It's not a decision of "good" or "bad"; the answer could be very good or insightful, but if it doesn't answer the stated question then, well, it doesn't answer the question. Personally I think that especially on a site like Politics it's important to be strict about this. – user11249 Jan 16 '19 at 10:57
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    This is objectively wrong. Philipp in particular is happy to bring down the delete hammer on highly upvoted answers. On this question he deleted multiple highly upvoted answers. – lazarusL Jan 16 '19 at 19:45
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    @lazarusL - I've had not only popular, but correct answers deleted (and had to loudly complain to get them to un-delete) because people flagged them for purely partisan reasons. – user4012 Jan 16 '19 at 20:16
  • @user4012 That's why mods are becoming reluctant to act on such flags. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jan 19 '19 at 16:45

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