Argument check: John Hickenlooper about consequences of not disavowing socialism

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On the night two of the Democratic Party’s first presidential debates ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, John Hickenlooper said:

Claim:

“If we don’t clearly define that we are not socialists, the Republicans are going to come at us every way they can and call us socialists.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/full-transcript-2019-democratic-debate-night-two-sortable-topic-n1023601

WikiTribune checks whether this claim is a fake. The suitable approach to do this are a deception analysis and detection. A fact check is not needed because the claim does not offer hard facts or data.

Claim Check: False, deceptive

Short analysis: The claim makes a statement in form of a conditional sentence. The core issue is the influence of the statement in the conditional clause (first phrase) on the consequence (second phrase). The condition-consequence-relation is stated as a fact. A limitation of scope is not specified.

  1. The claim is misleading in respect of the consequence which would follow if the Democrats would define that they are not socialists.

Subject of the fact check is the question, whether the claimed dependence of the second from the first phrase is true. Thereby is assumed – and only assumed without prior verification – that the two phrases as such are true: the Democrats don’t define that they are not socialists; the Republicans call the Democrats socialists whenever they can. Whether these phrases are really true shall not matter here. It is also assumed that Hickenlooper’s intention was to motivate the Democrats to do what the if-clause sets that they don’t do, so that the effect which is described in the consequent clause would not occur.

If Hickenlooper’s intention was as above said, the claim made only sense, if its’ reverse form were likewise true: “if we clearly define that we are not socialists, the Republicans are not going to come at us every way they can and call us socialists.”
But it is obvious, that this conclusion is not compelling. The Republicans could continue to watch the Democrats with Argus eyes and take every advantage for a socialism accusation.
This can be also demonstrated by indirect evidence, checking the äquivalence of the contraposition of the statement:
“if the Republicans are not going to come at us every way they can and call us socialists, we clearly defined that we are not socialists.”
This is obiously not true, too. What the Republicans are going to do is not necessarily dependend on what the Democrats definded.

The clue is that the conditional clause of the claim has the form of a negation. (Only) on the surface, the original claim might appear to be plausible. However, if the Democrats would “obey” Hickenlooper the reversed form of the claim would become the valid one. But thus converted, the statement is not plausible. This leads to the

Conclusion:

If there is consensus that the following statements, “if we clearly define that we are not socialists, the Republicans are not going to come at us every way they can and call us socialists,” and “if the Republicans are not going to come at us every way they can and call us socialists, we clearly defined that we are not socialists,” are not plausible,

then the claim has to be considered false in that the condition-consequence-relation is not true. Furthermore, the claim seems to be deceptive in so far as the statement is in a linguistic form which makes it sound plausible (negation in the conditional clause), whereas in its’ reversed form (reversion of the condition and consequence), the statement is obviously not plausible. But the reversed form is what Hickenlooper aimed at (the Democrats “obeying”) by making the statement.

Another variant, just mentioned as a thought, were if the Democrats clearly defined that they are (democratic) socialists or clearly stated that certain measures they decide to take are in accordance with a (democratic) socialist policy: what were the Republicans going to do?

2. The statement implicitely presupposes that there is consenus in that the Democrats have to avoid being called “socialist”.

With its’ inherent appeal the statement applies only conditionally, which is not explicitly indicated.

3. Avoiding political decisions which look like “socialism”.

The actual meaning of the claim is not clearly indicated in so far as its’ juxtaposition with Hickenlooper’s further executions raise questions.
Verbatim Hickenlooper called the Democrats to “define, …”, but his executions which follow the claim placed the claim in the context of concrete political decisions – concerning the New Green Deal and the health care. Herewith, on the level of a verbal action and with an anti-socialist stance, there was the “define” statement referring to the opinion of the opponent political party, and later on, it became evident that Hickenlooper had the same stance, now on the practical level of concrete policies.

By anology with the latter executions, the claim would be transferred in an advice to avoid real policies which the Republicans could take as an advantage for a socialism accusation.
The other point is, that within those executions, Hickenlooper positively pointed to his own policy in the State of Colorado. The line between the stance which in the claim was attributed to the Republicans and Hickenlooper’s concern about his own stance gets blurred.

Wikitribune’s fact check initiative:
Fact Check: Night Two of the First Democratic Primary Debates

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