Is this a fair hypothetical question?

In this Pit thread I was posed the following hyopthetical question by Shodan:

My response to this question was that it could not be answered without some specific information as to the nature of the “losing side’s” complaint. I don’t see how the question can be analyzed without any data as to what legal objection is being lodged. Shodan is essentially stating that two parties are involved in a legal dispute and asking me to pick a side without giving me any information as to what the dispute actually is.

I have stated my position multiple times in that thread that the question can not be answered as asked. Shodan’s position is that I won’t answer it because I don’t know who the “winner” is. I have even asked him to restate the question with some more specific information about what the legal complaint is (and without revealing the “winner”) but thus far, Shodan has demurred, preferring to claim victory based on his (unsupported) conclusion that I just want to know who the winner is.

So I’m posting his hypothetical here to get some other opinions on it. My question for debate is this: Can Shodan’s hypothetical be fairly answered given only the data presented?
(I am only interested in debating the fairness of this question. It is not my intention to rant against Shodan and I’m not looking for a pile up based on any of the other issues in that thread)

No, you have it. It’s an expanded case of excluded middle. The question assumes the reasons for the responses, implicitly excluding not only other possible responses but other possible reasons for the ones given.

The question isn’t really fair, but he does reference two specific reasons why the supposed lawsuit was filed. (I haven’t follow the Pit thread, so I’m just going by what was quoted in the OP.)

1 - files a lawsuit to “change the rules.” – Under no circumstances would I support a lawsuit to change the rules while votes are being counted.

2 - files a lawsuit because the “margin was too narrow.” I don’t think a close election is a reason for a lawsuit. A recount, yes, but not a lawsuit – but questions about the process for a recount can certainly be challenged in court.

However, Shodan then goes on to say “etc.,” as if all legal challenges to an election count are in the same boat of being a dubious political ploy.

Strictly speaking, I could answer Shodan’s question: based upon the specifics he gave, no, I wouldn’t support such lawsuits.

However, is basically a loaded question, because there are only three possible answers from the way it was phrased: 1) be a “strict constructionist,” in the manner that I described above, and have others infer from that answer that all legal challenges are of equal merit; 2) just flat-out agree that ALL legal challenges are of equal merit (or lacking in them), regardless of the circumstances; or 3) answer “no” and be labelled as a partisan.

In short, complex question, a bit of a false dilemma, and without a doubt poisoning the well.

**Shodan ** was clearly trying to say that your support or lack of support for challenging an election, all things being equal, would depend on which party was the challenger.

Probably a better way for him to have phrased it would have been: suppose there were two state elections that were equally close and were challenged by the loser for exactly the same reasons. Now let’s also suppose that in one state the loser was a Democrat and in the other state it was a Republican. Would you support/oppose both efforts equally?

I think you answered him clearly that you were more interested in accuracy than in your own side winning unfairly.

Of course it’s not a “fair” hypothetical question, by your standards or by mine.

I left out the only piece of information that will (IMO) determine the reactions of extreme partisans. In questions of “fairness” regarding the circumstances of the election, it will be pretty much what it was in the election of 2000 - almost entirely a question of whose ox is being gored. That’s why the Democrats kept changing the rules for how the election in Florida should have been counted. They were not motivated by an intense desire to be sure the election was as fair as possible - they wanted to win. Both sides did. It’s just that the Supreme Court ruled the way the Democrats wanted to do it was un-Constitutional.

But as I said, for a lot of folks, who is asking makes all the difference in deciding how to think. Is it a bad thing to violate security rules? Yes if it is Sandy Berger, no if it is whoever outed Valerie Plame. Is sexual harassment a terrible thing? Yes if it is Clarence Thomas, no if it is Bill Clinton. Is attacking Iraq based on the belief she had WMD a horrible crime? Yes if it is Bush, no if it is Clinton. Is it a ghastly lie to say that Iraq posed an imminent threat? Yes if it is Kerry, no if it is Bush. And so on.

But yes, I asked you an unfair question. It was the Pit.

And you are the one who asked me a direct, yes-or-no question, and when you got a “Yes”, called it weaselling and chicken-shit, so I rather doubt if a fair question was going to go over any better.


I’m not exactly sure what was so unfair about the question as quoted. The point of the question was so obvious that the OP even included it after quoting the question itself. One doesn’t need more information to state whether one would judge a contentious political/procedural question on the basis of an ad hominem.