As a philosophy major, I am deeply troubled when I come across such disregard for the literature. What follows is my response to an email from the Obama campaign received today, and below that the email itself.
I am generally strongly in favor of your mailings and read them with zeal. Further, I campaigned for Obama in 2008 and intend to vote for him next November. However, I have major reservations regarding the content of this recent mailing. My difficulties are not political or tactical, but rather philosophical. Let me elaborate.
In your mailing, you present an argument that, upon analysis, works like this:
1) A mathematical model has been published in a reputable newspaper suggesting Obama will not win the coming election.
2) The reliability of predictive models depends upon a deterministic universe in which each state causally necessitates one and only one proceeding state.
3) We do not like the results of the model.
4) Therefore, we live in an indeterministic universe and the model is unreliable.
I hope it is apparent that the introduction of premise (3), and thus the move to the conclusion (4), the acceptance of which requires far-reaching metaphysical commitments strongly at odds with our current best picture of our world, is disreputable. The body of scientific research to date strongly suggests a deterministic universe, and the philosophical consensus is that even the admission of quantum relativity does not seem to offer much hope for free will. If we accept science and value consistency in our beliefs, we must define free will in a way that is compatible with determinism (a conceptual project with many distinguished proponents).
There is, of course, the possibility that the published model, now part of the deterministic system, will spur Obama’s campaign and its supporters to action, rendering itself inaccurate. This, however, is all in principle explicable through the lens of determinism. There are myriad subtleties to unravel here, but I found your mailing to disregard them with a wanton frivolity and reckless unseriousness.
For further elucidation on these and other matters, please refer at your convenience to the following resources, courtesy of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Wikipedia:
Thank you for your work in service of our nation. I am confident you will make every attempt to refine your language to meet the standards of rationality maintained by your supporters.
On Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 3:24 PM, Jim Messina, BarackObama.com <email@example.com> wrote:
Peter —This weekend, The New York Times Magazine ran a long analysis of the 2012 election headlined, “Is Obama toast?”It uses a mathematical formula to conclude who will win this race.In other words, it says neither you nor Barack Obama has a role to play in this election, because the outcome is essentially predetermined.We disagree.The outcome will depend on what we do every single day between now and November 6th, 2012. And I want to give you an idea of how we know that.Our Republican opponents, from Mitt Romney and Herman Cain to Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, have endorsed the same set of Tea Party policies that drive the Republicans in Washington: letting Wall Street write its own rules again and giving special treatment to millionaires and billionaires while asking seniors and middle-class families to pay for it.All of them would return to the failed economic policies that led us into recession.
Yet the Times piece assigns each of them a score on an ideological scale, ignoring the obvious reality that there has been virtually no difference among the GOP candidates — or between them and the Republican congressional leaders who refuse to do anything to restore economic security for the middle class.
Whoever wins the nomination will no doubt try to appear more “moderate” as they compete for undecided voters in the general election. But they have all made their positions clear. And we will hold them accountable for that.
The only true difference in this race is between their agenda and President Obama’s. Facing historic challenges when he came into office, he has fought every day for a fairer economy where everybody who does their fair share gets a fair shake.
He’s stood up to credit card companies to ensure they can’t target consumers with hidden fees. He’s stood up to insurance companies, who can no longer deny health care coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition. He’s stood up to Wall Street to end taxpayer bailouts and rein in the kind of risky financial behavior that nearly toppled our economy.
These dramatic differences between the Republican nominee and President Obama will be crystal clear to Americans as the 2012 election approaches, because our grassroots organization in all 50 states will be having conversations every single day with their friends, families, co-workers, and neighbors.
That grassroots organizational advantage is a critical factor in this election that the Times’ “formula” doesn’t consider at all.
More than 1 million people have already taken ownership of this campaign. Millions more are organizing their communities on behalf of the President, online and off. This weekend, we had our single biggest day of action of the campaign — more than 2,000 volunteer events took place across the country, and more than 10,000 volunteers participated.
This work is already having an impact across the country.
We expanded the electoral map in the last election, fighting hard for — and winning — states like North Carolina, Colorado, and Virginia so that the entire election didn’t hinge on the results in a single state, as it had in 2000 and 2004.
We have no intention of returning to the old electoral map. And the organizing you’re doing means we won’t have to. Today, we are showing signs of strength in states we didn’t win even in the watershed election of 2008 — states like Georgia and Arizona, where a recent poll had President Obama beating every potential Republican nominee.
The map isn’t as friendly to our opponents, who won’t be able to compete in traditionally Democratic states because their organization won’t compare to ours. Whether you measure donors giving or doors knocked, there’s grassroots enthusiasm for President Obama that the other side can’t match — but that theTimes doesn’t consider relevant.
The truth is this isn’t the first time you’ve been written out of the story by many in Washington and the media — and it’s not the first time they’ve been completely wrong about that.
In the 2007 and 2008 campaign, almost everyone in professional politics said it wasn’t Barack Obama’s “turn” to be president. But millions of people like you took responsibility for the campaign — knocking on doors, making phone calls, and donating whenever you could.
You proved everyone wrong — not just about who was going to win the election, but about the ability of everyday Americans to come together and change the course of history.
The entire premise of the Times article is that you won’t — and can’t — do it in 2012.
The election is now less than one year away. No one thinks it will be easy. But there can be no doubt its outcome depends on how hard you and I work over the next 364 days. Right now, we’re opening field offices in key states, hiring organizers, recruiting volunteers, registering voters, and getting ready for what’s going to be one hell of a fight.
So, is Obama toast? It’s up to you.
Obama for America