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The close reason,

"This question does not appear to be about governments, policies and political processes within the scope defined in the help center."

Would seem to be applicable to any question on a candidate or politician which are the people running governments, and behind the policies and political processes. This nuance isn't clarified on the help page for topicality either.

I would ask that the site clarify its stance on biographical questions, and questions about candidates and politicians pertaining to their history, ethnicity, cultural background, and business dealings. I would argue questions of this sort that provide for an objective answer SHOULD be on topic and are probably assumed to be on topic, but do NOT currently fit into the enumerated topics of permitted questions: "Matters of Policy", "Working Themselves Out"

Another example of one such question which doesn't exist, but has been argued should NOT be allowed is this,

Did Donald Trump sexually assault women?

From my perspective, that would be an innocent question: you may or may not know the answer to that question. If it happened† it would impugn the credibility of Donald Trump (who claims to not have done such a thing). This kind of question profoundly impacts credibility and electability for many people, and that should be sufficient to warrant its inclusion.

  • † spoiler: it did, as determined by a jury to the degree required by a civil court -- albeit not yet determined to the degree required by a criminal court.
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    Your new Trump example would also be off topic for attempting to discredit someone and it doesn't matter that it is true or not. Also it should be noted that he has only been found guilty in the case of a single woman. "The primary purpose of this question appears to be to promote or discredit a specific political cause, group or politician. It does not appear to be a good-faith effort to learn more about governments, policies and political processes as defined in the help center."
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 26 at 18:02
  • As a note this question is about Does Republican Nikki Haley speak any Indian languages? on the main page and I am mentioning it because there is now a comment on it referring to this meta question as a discussion about it.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 27 at 16:21

4 Answers 4

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Q: Are questions about candidates and politicians on topic?

Mostly, yes. Particularly in the area of policy. What have they voted for? What have they said they would do? In general, how would they change the government, change the economy, etc.?

One could also ask about any corruption or scandals in which a candidate or politician may be implicated.

Many little things could be asked about any candidate or politician that would not apply to their government service — mostly trivia questions.

Does Vice President Kamala Harris speak French?

Wikipedia says Harris attended "a French-speaking primary school" in Canada. So probably some French.

There is nothing in the question or answer that would suggest any effect on the government, its policies, or its political processes. To my mind, such questions are off-topic.

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    It doesn't makes sense to me what whether or not she speaks french would be a "trivia" question. Especially if she claimed she was culturally French (and you thought speaking french was material to French-ness), or was applying to a job where French was useful, or said she could speak French (which would make it a highly important matter of character). That is to say, it would only be "trivial" for the purpose of politics if it could be shown that it would not influence a voter or policy. Commented Jan 26 at 15:00
  • I've DV because languages spoken by a politician are often important enough. They might not be in a US context, but they are almost everywhere else. True, a Q needs to be reasonably motivated as one might inquire why politician X does or doesn't speak language. Y. Commented Jan 27 at 16:31
  • @Fizz - There are contexts where asking which languages a politician speaks would be quite pertinent. For instance, if Nikki Haley had been the ambassador to India, it might be fair—and a question relevant to this site—to ask whether she spoke Hindi, or indeed Punjabi. This is not such a case, because knowledge of Punjabi is not central to being a USA politician. A user who is not of Punjabi origin and has no intention of voting for Haley is asking the question because they have taken upon themself the burden of adjudicating Haley's identity and wish to share that information with the world.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 29 at 7:47
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We have to be careful with questions like that. On the one hand, asking about the political positions of relevant politicians is certainly on-topic. But on the other hand, a blanket "if it's a question about a relevant politician, it's on-topic per-se" can easily be abused for covert agenda setting and discrediting.

Take, for example, the recent question "Does Republican Nikki Haley speak any Indian languages?". The intent behind the question appears pretty obvious to me. It's not about any policy or position of hers that affects the Indian-American minority in the US. It's about discrediting a politician by cherry-picking a personal fact to call her commitment to this demographic into question.

And considering that the author of the question self-answered the question, it's obvious that their agenda was to make as many people aware of this perceived flaw of this politician as posisble.

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    By defaming me and speaking of intent, you're in violation of the site's express rules to assume good will. It is not my intent to defame Nikki Halley. Cultural claims matters to me and other voters. George Santos may feel like he is Jewish or has a right to identify as being a Jew, because of his understanding of Jewish struggle. But regardless of his identity, people have proclaimed it unwarranted (as I do as a Jew). He was subsequently removed from Congress. reuters.com/world/us/… Commented Jan 26 at 15:10
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    Whether or not you think Nikki Halley's parents give her sufficient claim to Punjabi culture is a question for you, but material (though not entirely determinant) to that for me is whether or not she speaks the language. And, I find it somewhat delightful that the only interview I could find with her, with another Punjabi answers the only question I couldn't find an answer to: why do you identify as Punjabi and Indian and do you speak the language? And it is literally the first question they ask. Commented Jan 26 at 15:13
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    @EvanCarroll AS you made a comment on your question that had a question about how many Presidents didn't speak English which is the primary language of the country it does raise the question of why you asked the question in the first place.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 26 at 16:22
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    No, I asked a question there, and I asked a policy question here. That I didn't want to link the two together was because I clearly wanted to refine policy without dragging the drama from here (the policy question), to there (my own question). This is just propper etiquette across sites. The only reason why you got a link is because you inspired the policy question, and I didn't want you to feel excluded (like we were talking behind your back). Commented Jan 26 at 17:50
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    @EvanCarroll This meta question is clearly in response to that question and has been linked as such by a mod in the comments.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 27 at 16:22
  • Sorry, I get that you are not alone in this view, but I just don't understand how it is discrediting one way or another whether Nikki Haley speaks any Indian language. I think it was more discrediting for John Kerry that he did speak French because that kindda-sorta had an association with being an elitist. But Nikki Haley is obviously of Indian heritage. So this information about her just doesn't seem very relevant. Darrell Issa was once asked on Bill Maher's show if he spoke any Arabic (because his paternal grandparents were Lebanese). He said "a little" and that was the end of it.
    – wrod
    Commented Jan 31 at 4:47
  • My point is not that it shouldn't be relevant because it may be damaging. My point is that if the answer can't be damaging regardless of which way it goes ("yes" or "no") and it somehow piques voters' curiosity, then why wouldn't it be mildly on topic? And if it does somehow align her with or against a certain demographic (and I am just not getting how), then this can be explored in an answer which can be informative.
    – wrod
    Commented Jan 31 at 4:50
  • The intent behind the question appears pretty obvious to me - I'm downvoting this answer on this line. It's by no means obvious to me what the question-asker intended. What if, for example, the question-asker wanted to know if Haley would be able to market the US to India, by speaking in their language?
    – Allure
    Commented Mar 6 at 9:42
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Languages spoken by a politician are often important enough. They might not be in a US context*, but they are almost everywhere else. True, a Q needs to be reasonably motivated as one might inquire why politician X does or doesn't speak language Y.

The same goes for crimes, although for these it's much easier to get into controversial/discrediting questions. I'm in agreement with Philipp, though, that [self-answered] Q & As, particularly about a politicians misdeeds, are pretty hard to distinguish from posts intended to discredit someone.


*Interestingly though, Wikipedia claims sans citation alas that:

Carter sometimes spoke Spanish in 1976 television campaign advertisements, but in his native South Georgia accent.

And:

George W. Bush speaks some Spanish and has delivered speeches in the language.

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    Especially when comments are later added suggesting it is about their credibility because they claim to have pride in their heritage but don’t know a language from it.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 27 at 17:49
  • Considering that the querent suggested in the comments that Haley's Christianity makes her less Indian American (a position ironically in consonance with Modi's right-wing Hindu nationalism and ignoring both the millions of Indian Christians and Haley's continued attendance of Sikh religious celebrations), as does her failure to speak Punjabi (if a person without Indian ancestry speaks Punjabi, does that make them Indian?), I think the intent to discredit is obvious.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 29 at 7:55
  • If there is some actual information out there about Haley's support in the Indian-American community, that might serve as the basis of a good question, but one White dude's opinion about what makes someone a real Indian American ain't it.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 29 at 7:56
  • And the thing is, that information is out there, so it's that interesting that they chose to ask a leading question about languages rather than the much more straight-forward and politically relevant one of how Haley is perceived by prominent figures in Indian-American communities. Figures who, by and large, seem more concerned with Haley's lack of engagement with them than how many words she can say in Punjabi, I would note.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 29 at 8:06
  • Or with her seemingly somewhat retrograde positions on racial issues and her reluctance to center such struggles in the context of Indian American experiences. But, you know, surely there's space for leading questions from non-Indian-American folks that don't mention any of this information and focus on how religion or language are the true determinants of what makes someone Indian. Just, you know, on some other site.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 29 at 8:12
  • @Obie2.0: look, I'm not defending the OP's particular question, but the validity of the interest in the topic in general. So I don't see the point of you posing 4 comments about his Q under my answer. Write your own answer. Commented Jan 29 at 8:13
  • And I upvoted your answer, because it's correct. For instance, whether Zelenskii speaks Russian, Ukrainian, or both is highly important politically. Whether Haley (who is not even a presidential candidate yet!) speaks Punjabi, much less so. I think the answer is good, but needs a bit of a proviso regarding its limited applicability to the specific question at issue.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 29 at 8:15
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    @Obie2.0: and the only reason I wrote this answer is that (IMHO) Rick wrote too adamantly that they're just not important. Commented Jan 29 at 8:28
-3

According to the Help center, your question is on topic:

This means, the following items are on topic: [...] Conflicting Egos: In just about any policy of substance, there are particular personalities that are central to its understanding, as well as demographic data about supporters and opponents of legislation.

Let's assume the accusation in one of the answers is correct and that you asked the question to promote a specific agenda. Well, then your question must be political in nature precisely because you asked it. You did not ask whether she prefers pear or strawberry ice cream because nobody cares, but people, apparently, care about what languages she speaks. It's the political equivalent of the anthropic principle.

We should emphatically not be careful about questions like this. First, because it invariably leads to accusations of bias; "Why was this question covert agenda setting but not this one?" I don't think anyone can be impartial enough to make these judgement calls. Second, on a site about politics a certain amount of politicking should be allowed. If only for the simple fact that allowing politicking probably means less politicking than attempts to outlaw it.

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    Promoting a specific agenda is also off topic and it would just change the close reason but the question would remain closed.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 26 at 14:37
  • @JoeW I can not find that rule in the Help Center. Can you link to it? Commented Jan 26 at 15:08
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    There is a close vote reason around it. "The primary purpose of this question appears to be to promote or discredit a specific political cause, group or politician. It does not appear to be a good-faith effort to learn more about governments, policies and political processes as defined in the help center."
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 26 at 16:20
  • The input field in the VTC dialog allows people to vote to close for any reason they can think of so the existence of a specific option does not imply the existence of a rule. Commented Jan 26 at 16:35
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    That is a standard reason and is not something that users input. It is the second choice under the "A community-specific reason" option on the close dialog box.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 26 at 16:42
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    Conflicting egos requires two egos. D wants to ban guns. R wants people armed for their own protection. Those are conflicting egos. Also, VP Kamala Harris has a Tamil Indian mother. "Does Kamala Harris speak Tamil?", does not involve conflicting egos and neither does "Does Nikki Haley speak Punjabi?"
    – Rick Smith
    Commented Jan 27 at 16:27
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    In politics, the idea that "nobody cares" is not true. Some people care about things that may not be useful for this site (downvote and maybe close). President George H. W. Bush said that he didn't like broccoli and banned it from Air Force One. Democrats and broccoli growers responded. This could be seen as conflicting egos, even interesting for some (upvote and maybe answer). I would downvote.
    – Rick Smith
    Commented Jan 27 at 16:28
  • In another conflicting egos situation, President George W. Bush stated, "... German asparagus are fabulous.". Washington state representatives and asparagus growers, as expected, did not take it well. Again, I would downvote.
    – Rick Smith
    Commented Jan 27 at 16:28

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