Three Can Play This Game: the Logical Fallacy of Faulty Generalization

Of the many logical fallacies that masquerade as analysis in the duopolized discourse of Democratic-Republican politics, generalizing from the particular is one of the most common. It would not be much of an exaggeration to state that in the corporate media, but most egregiously on cable news programming, fallacious generalizations from the particular constitute political commentary as such. In this, the talking heads are difficult to distinguish from the public relations flacks of the parties themselves. Consider the response to the results of a special state senate election in Minnesota held earlier this week. The seat opened up after career Republican politician Dick Day resigned to pursue his dream of becoming a lobbyist. In the three-way race that ensued, Republican Mike Parry garnered 43% of the vote, defeating Democrat Jason Engbrecht, who ran second with 37%, and Independence Party candidate Roy Srp, who was supported by 20% of the voting electorate. Politics in Minnesota relays the official Republican and Democratic Party responses to the results:

The state Republican party issued a statement lauding Parry’s victory:

Senator-Elect Mike Parry’s victory tonight is the latest indication that 2010 will be a great year for Minnesota Republicans as nearly two-thirds of the voters in Senate District 26 rejected the tax and spend policies of the Democrats in St. Paul . . . Following impressive Republican victories in deep blue Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia, Mike’s victory shows Republicans have all the momentum this year . . .

The DFL also issued a statement from party chair Brian Melendez:

In a district with so many Republican voters, Jason Engbrecht certainly had the deck stacked against him . . . it was an uphill climb from the start. But with hard work, good ideas and by talking directly to the voters in Senate District 26, Jason Engbrecht ran a campaign to be proud of and has a bright future in politics.
But three can play this game. At the Pioneer Press, Jason Hoppin has a different view of the race. He writes:
First, to get to the two-thirds number Republicans say rejected the tax and spend policies of Democrats, you'd have to add Parry's figure (43.1) to Independence Party candidate Roy Srp's (20.3). That gets you almost to 64 percent. The Democrats could just as easily crow that an overwhelming majority (56.8 percent) rejected the anti-tax stance of Republicans in St. Paul, by adding Srp's totals to Jason John Engbrecht's (36.5).
After breaking down the results of the race by county and comparing them with those of the 2006 election, Hoppin concludes:
It's hard to see a great deal of Republican momentum here. They won a seat they had, by a margin they could have expected. If anything, this special election bodes well for third-party candidates.

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