It’s hard to decide whether the narrative that Democrats who oppose education reforms championed by Gov. Bobby Jindal are trying to establish is born of simple paranoia, or actual introspection that admits the weakness of their argument.
Yesterday, in public at the Capitol caucus leader of the party state Rep. John Bel Edwards with others launched another round of criticism of the reform, using the same tired and discredited arguments as they have ever since it became obvious this legislation was coming. At the commencement of the tirade, Jindal Administration officials arrived, and quietly listened.
Yet perhaps Edwards had some kind of falshback and thought these guys wore white suits and held restraining devices intended for him. One might have thought so given his remarks afterwards, where he said the polite listening constituted “part of a pattern of trying to intimidate legislators.”
Of course, we can’t trust Edwards to discern properly “intimidation,” for he said nothing about it when it actually happened right in front of him last week. Teachers’ unions urged school employees to abandon their students, right before crucial testing this week, planning to cause disruption to intimidate school boards and other officials into not opposing their self-serving agenda against the reforms. Nary a peep came from Edwards condemning this genuine instance of intimidation in action, making him either dense or a hypocrite.
The latter seems more likely, even if he actually is paranoid. As the fearsome physiques of the Jindal crew seemed highly unlikely to excite within Edwards (a West Point graduate) physical fear, this leave only one motivation for him to have felt apprehension: that he knew his argument was weak and would fail in the marketplace of ideas. Understand that human beings feel intimidated only when they see themselves in a vulnerable position. If in the battle of ideas you know fact and logic are on your side, you feel no threat because, as long as you demonstrate that adequately (a matter entirely under your control, not anybody else’s), you know you will triumph in any debate (that victory defined as certainty in demonstrating superior command of facts and their logical use, if not in an actual caucusing).
But if you know your arguments have holes in them, and/or that the facts are inconvenient to your side, the demonstration of any opposition brings forward that doubt, and feels intimidating. Maybe Edwards explicitly understand this, or perhaps it is at a subconscious level where he has yet to realize it, but, regardless, to make the kind of assessment that he did shows an intuitive grasp of the shortcomings of his position.
Edwards and his allies hope that people will just swallow whole what he’s selling, without critically appraising the argument. The presence of opponents to collect his information, signaling that this analysis will occur and be disseminated to assist thinking people in seeing the weakness of his argumentation, if called “intimidation” tells us more about the foibles of reform opponents’ agenda than describing any valid phenomenon present in the political process surrounding the question of reform adoption.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 09:10