Label each entry as you do them whether it’s the title or numbers.  Take a look at the requirements


Label each entry as you do them whether it’s the title or numbers. 

Take a look at the requirements and example below and what’s attached.  

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What’s required?

Three learning journal entries per week (described below). At least one journal entry per week must address our semester reading, Our Own Worst Enemy, and other readings related to our special focus this semester: threats to US democracy and ways those threats can be mitigated.

Read the prompt details below and reach out if any questions. You aren’t graded on your political views. You are graded on whether you support your views with credible sources and evidence. Credible sources do not include opinionated commentators like Tucker Carlson or Michael Moore. They can be fun to listen to but are not college assignment sources. So too social media memes and conspiracy theories. I’m not joking. People have cited them. Provide evidence and citations to back up your claims to help others fairly evaluate your arguments. Anyone should be able to go to the materials you relied on upon and see for themselves to confirm, disconfirm or challenge your reading of that material. Then, and only then, can a free and open, and INFORMED discussion take place. No one is limiting your right to free speech by asking you to back up your claims, for additional evidence, or questioning the credibility of your sources.

Avoid logical fallacies

You’ll also find common logical fallacies (aka BS arguments) defined on the second part of this page. Once again, use it as a checklist and make sure you are making the best possible case for your point of view in your journals. 

Questions to address for each idea in a learning journal

Once you have your three ideas (plus one optional extra credit idea) for the week answer the following four questions for each idea:

1) What was the one idea that struck you and why?

2) How does it connect to what you are learning about in class?

What does this mean? Step 1: As you read each section introduction and each page keep notes on the main idea- something that can be written in a sentence or a short phrase. Step 2: What is the main idea of both the module and the section on your topic page is located in? Step 3: What is the main idea you are writing or about or addressing in your journal entry? Step 4: Go back to your notes. What are the other main ideas from this section or module? Step 5: What main idea is your topic an example of? How does it compare to the other main idea(s)? How is it the same? How is it different? Your answer to Step 5 is your answer to question 2 on how your journal entry connects to what you learning in class.

3) How did it expand your understanding?

4) What would you like to learn more about?

Here are the journal entries

#1: Institutions, Polarization and Threats to Democracy (see attachment below)   

#2: Presidential Power and Its Limits  (see attachment below)

#3: Section Introduction Governing Institutions  (see attachment below)

Institutions, Polarization and
Threats to Democracy
This is excerpted from the introduction to the edited anthology: Democratic
Resilience: Can the United States Withstand Rising Polarization? (Cambridge
Press, 2022). The introduction provides a helpful introduction to the broad
themes of threats to democracy and democratic resilience without the deep
dive into the weeds of the individual chapters. I will provide definitions and
introductory remarks as needed to help understandings for those new to
political science. The introduction is titled How Democracies Endure: The
Challenges of Polarization and Sources of Resilience. It is by Robert C.
Lieberman (Johns Hopkins University), Suzanne Mettler (Cornell University)
and Kenneth M. Roberts (Cornell University). This section is fairly
straightforward and the authors carefully define their terms. If you have any
questions or have any trouble understanding a part of it please reach out. I
am here to help.

Introductory remarks and terms to know

In this section the authors show how the concerns of comparative political
scientists about weakening democracies globally have influenced American
politics scholars to reassess the longtime view that the American system
was immune to threats to democracy. While our fragmented system was
designed to avoid any particular approach from dominating the system,
polarization is now overwhelming our institutions and weakening
democracy. Will congress continue to be an effective check on the powers
of the presidency?

Terms to Define

Mass and Elite Actors: Mass refers to the public/citizens. Elites refer to
those in power inside and outside of government. Actors means anyone
engaged in political action from citizens (public) to elites, including private
sector and elected leaders. Actors’ perspectives are shaped by political
beliefs, culture, education, history, geography and social position.

Bridging Institutional, Behavioral, and Historical Analysis

The central questions of this volume are whether contemporary polarization
presents a serious threat to US democracy itself, and whether the nation
has the institutional and political capacity to resist or recuperate from the
harm it may experience. It is well known that polarization has transformed
numerous aspects of government and politics, for example, by altering
standard operating procedures in Congress, deterring policy enactment, and
prompting voters to align their policy preferences with one party or the
other. Might it also endanger the United States’ character as a democratic
regime? Both polarization and democratic resilience, as we have seen,
engage multiple dimensions of American politics. Polarization presents a
challenge to American politics at the system level, as mass and elite actors
affect one another, and numerous institutions and political processes come
into play and interact. Resilience, too, involves both mass and elite actors
and the institutions and political practices that connect them and foster (or
undermine) democratic accountability. Understanding polarization’s impact
on democracy and evaluating democratic resilience, therefore, require a
system-level response that brings together diverse analytical threads. Yet
scholars of American politics typically study the political system through
what Paul Pierson calls a “pizza-pie approach,” concentrating on a particular
part of the political system and specializing deeply in it.42 This has led to
the accumulation of sophisticated literatures on each part of the system,
and yet it leaves us ill-prepared to analyze developments that transcend
particular components; in fact, we may even fail to recognize their
emergence, much less understand them. As we have argued elsewhere,
both history and comparison are essential to meeting the system-level
challenge of understanding the dynamics of democracy and democratic
resilience in the United States.43 Throughout its history, American
democracy has weathered numerous shocks that have threatened the
integrity of democracy – from the nearly ruinous polarization of the 1790s
and the conflict over slavery to the violent rollback of voting rights for
African Americans after Reconstruction and the presidential excesses of the
twentieth century such as the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans
during World War II and the misadventures of Watergate. In each case,
certain features of the democratic regime have proven resilient, while
others have sustained serious damage. Frequently, these two dynamics
have co. might compare to that of other countries where democracy has
been under threat. The resulting analyses take us far in understanding the
dangers to US democracy posed by polarization and the capacity of the

political system to prove resilient. The next two chapters – the first by Paul
Pierson and Eric Schickler and the second by Jennifer McCoy and Murat
Somer – address the question of polarization’s consequences for resilience
from this broad historical and comparative perspective. American political
institutions, including the structures of separation of powers and federalism,
have long been regarded as fragmenting political power by facilitating
widespread access to the political system and at the same time impeding
efforts by one side or the other to stage a takeover. Nevertheless, the
escalation of polarization threatens to overwhelm these institutions.
Polarization is not static; rather, it can take on a life of its own and
eventually generate different effects than earlier on, as it intensifies and
metastasizes. Pierson and Schickler demonstrate this in their developmental
analysisincided; the resolution of democratic crises in American history has
often entailed a compromise of democratic values that reaffirmed or
perpetuated racial hierarchy and exclusion.44 Historical inquiry can be
useful as a way to examine these patterns of resilience and backsliding in
American democracy and probe their causes. A historical approach can help
identify the processes of change that drive resilience and might (or might
not) be at work in the contemporary crisis of American democracy.45
Polarization in particular, as Pierson and Schickler have argued, has been an
ever-changing and dynamic force in American politics that has become
increasingly self-reinforcing in recent decades, heightening the challenge of
resilience.46 The problem of democratic resilience is also a global one, and
comparison can also illuminate it. Events around the world suggest that the
challenges to democracy in the United States are not unique. Previously
democratic regimes are under threat or have turned in an authoritarian
direction around the world in countries such as Russia, Hungary, Poland,
Turkey, Venezuela, and the Philippines. Viewing the United States in a
comparative context provides more data with which to develop and test
theories of democratic resilience. Although the prospect of democratic
backsliding or breakdown has long seemed outside the realm of reasonable
speculation in the United States, comparative scholars have made
substantial progress toward understanding and explaining why democracies
emerge, how they fail, and under what conditions they might survive.47
Comparative studies have shown that several conditions pose especially
grave threats to democracy: conflict over the boundaries of membership in
the political community, particularly on the basis of race, ethnicity, national
origin, or other “formative rifts” that predate democratization; high and

rising economic inequality; the decay of democratic norms and institutional
restraints; and high levels of political polarization.48 Guided by this
analytical framework, we have gathered first-rate scholars of American
politics, both students of institutions and of political behavior. Our aim has
been to bring them into dialogue with one another, by asking them to think
about how each other’s research findings might have a bearing on their own
area of study. We have also encouraged them to think about how time
matters in their analysis, as circumstances unfold and change dynamically.
The authors in this volume probe the historical currents and developmental
processes that have helped produce current conditions, asking how the
American experience. might compare to that of other countries where
democracy has been under threat. The resulting analyses take us far in
understanding the dangers to US democracy posed by polarization and the
capacity of the political system to prove resilient. The next two chapters –
the first by Paul Pierson and Eric Schickler and the second by Jennifer
McCoy and Murat Somer – address the question of polarization’s
consequences for resilience from this broad historical and comparative
perspective. American political institutions, including the structures of
separation of powers and federalism, have long been regarded as
fragmenting political power by facilitating widespread access to the political
system and at the same time impeding efforts by one side or the other to
stage a takeover. Nevertheless, the escalation of polarization threatens to
overwhelm these institutions. Polarization is not static; rather, it can take on
a life of its own and eventually generate different effects than earlier on, as
it intensifies and metastasizes. Pierson and Schickler demonstrate this in
their developmental analysis of polarization, in which they show that the
United States’ “meso-institutions” – including interest groups, state parties,
and news media – have ceased to operate as countervailing mechanisms
that constrain polarization, and have either weakened or turned into
engines of polarization. As a result, partisan public officials increasingly run
roughshod over checks and balances, seek to delegitimize and incapacitate
the political opposition, and aim to rig the system to cement their
dominance. Growing social polarization that emanates from ordinary
Americans, moreover, may also increasingly affect how these institutions
operate. It may undermine national unity and constrain political elites from
working across the aisle, effectively exacerbating harmful consequences.
Put differently, mass and elite polarization may feed each other, leading to a
spiraling of both. McCoy and Somer view the United States today as subject

to “pernicious polarization,” a process that transforms the incentives of
political actors in ways that can lead to the demise of democratic resilience.
Surveying polarization in countries around the world, they observe that it
can be most corrosive to democracy when it revolves around unresolved
“formative rifts,” debates over who is considered a citizen that may date
back to the nation’s origins, as is the case in the United States. Such
developments raise the question of whether the political system can
withstand these mounting challenges and permit democracy to survive.
National Institutions To investigate whether the dispersion and
fragmentation of power underlying the US constitutional system remain
sufficient to weather the onslaught of threats the nation is confronting
presently, we then shift to a focus on institutions themselves. In three
chapters, specialists examine the extent to which polarization hinders or
obstructs the capacity of national institutions, along with the arrangements
of separation of powers, to protect democracy. Rising polarization in
Congress and its impact on the policy process has received considerable
attention from scholars, but notwithstanding these problems, Congress may
still remain the most resilient of the national institutions to democratic
erosion. Frances Lee observes that the political parties in Congress,
reflecting their membership across the nation, have grown more socially
sorted, more differentiated along lines of race, gender, and religion. Yet
while she agrees with Pierson and Schickler that cross-cutting cleavages no
longer play the role in ensuring democratic stability that they did in the past,
Lee argues that US institutions themselves retain consensus-promoting
abilities, enabling them to thwart and restrain such social divides. The
separation of powers, strong bicameralism, and federalism still promote
power-sharing between the parties and therefore safeguard democratic
stability. Some chapters (such as Pierson and Schickler’s and McCoy and
Somer’s) point out that growing dysfunction in Congress impedes the
policymaking process, but while acknowledging these concerns, Lee
maintains that the institution continues to force bipartisan compromise and
negotiation. Some scholars suspect that ascendant polarization and its
accompanying legislative gridlock and failure of responsiveness are leading
to the greater assertion of unilateral power by presidents, as they seek
alternate means of delivering to the public. Certainly the rise of presidential
power is nothing new; presidents of both parties, at least since Franklin D.
Roosevelt (and with precedents dating back to George Washington) have
exerted it in efforts to respond to the public’s demands. Examining trends

since the mid-1970s, however, Douglas Kriner finds only slim evidence that
contemporary polarization has exacerbated presidential power grabs in the
form of executive orders, memoranda, and proclamations. He then
investigates the Trump presidency and finds it to be neither imperial nor
exceptional in these respects, largely because Republican leaders in
Congress themselves have pushed back on several of Trump’s key policy
initiatives. Yet when it comes to oversight a critical factor for democratic
resilience – Kriner explains that the Trump administration has engaged in
almost total obstruction of Congress, in ways that might have the “most
dangerous and long-lasting consequences for the balance of power
between the branches.” Such developments, if they pass judicial muster,
threaten to decimate the capacity of Congress to check the power of
presidents and the administrative state, especially when executive
malfeasance and obstruction are aided by the president’s own party in
Congress. Taken together, these assessments offer a fair amount of
confidence in Congress’s ability to restrain presidential unilateralism in
policymaking, but Kriner raises grave concerns about the effectiveness of
legislative checks on executive misconduct in a context of acute partisan
polarization. Such polarization threatens to neutralize congressional
oversight or render it strictly partisan in character, posing a risk to
democratic resilience. By contrast, Thomas Keck’s chapter on the courts
indicates that democratic erosion is already long underway in that domain.
It is often assumed that courts can act as guardrails of democracy by
restraining the partisan excesses of the “political” branches of government.
In the face of worries about the Supreme Court’s “countermajoritarian”
tendencies in the postwar era, for example, Robert Dahl famously argued
that the Court tends to be constrained by the political system and, given the
political method of judicial selection, eventually catches up with political
majorities.49 But as Keck explains, courts can also be effective agents of
democratic erosion. The long history of court-packing in the American past
offers instances of efforts at facilitating both outcomes. In the
contemporary era, since the 1970s, Republicans in particular have taken
action to stack the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, and
conservatives now stand to dominate it for years to come, regardless of the
outcome of elections. This dominance threatens democracy given that the
courts in recent years have often proven willing to block efforts at
democratic renewal and to permit unfair procedures to persist.

Presidential Power and Its Limits
As you can see, presidents have power (or can abuse power) and are also
limited. Here are some common themes mentioned by presidential scholars.
Note that presidents have both formal power (granted by the Constitution)
and informal power (based on precedent, popularity, and talent for persuasion).
Some highlights are below:

• The president’s role as party leader can be both a source of power
and a limitation. It is a source of power when the president’s party is
relatively unified and can back a president’s legislative agenda.
However party control has been in decline for several decades and
both presidents and legislators can be independent of the party or
some cases exert control over what party officials are chosen.
Members of congress are often wanting to be seen as more
independent by voters.

• Mass media. Mass media enables the president to use “the bully
pulpit” to persuade citizens to support initiatives in ways that did not
exist prior to the 1930s (FDR’s fireside chats on radio helped to sell
his New Deal to the nation). In the age of the internet and television
the potential for influence is even more so. But, and there is big but,
for all the reasons we looked at with the media and the Time news
magazine covers, popularity can also sink quickly. The system favors
those who are photogenic and able to perform well. Those attributes
may exclude qualified candidates.

• Overly high expectations. Public expectations of what presidents can
accomplish are unrealistically high. Presidents often get both more
praise and more blame than they really deserve. For instance, a
president may share blame with congress or the bureaucracy may
play a significant role in a poor policy choice. Issues are complex and
not easily fixed by any branch of government, let alone a single
individual, even if that individual is the symbolic face of the nation.

• Popularity. High poll numbers showing support for a president means
more people want to ride the presidential coattails and support
presidential policy choices. Witness President Bush’s popularity in the
post 9/11 2002 midterm elections. And compare 2002 with the last
years of the Bush presidency. Republican members of congress

charted their own reelection course and even voted against the
president to claim some independence in the hope of being reelected.

• Interest groups. The power of interest groups limits presidential
power. Presidents are often forced to bargain with various interests
to achieve goals. Depending on their particular talents some are more
effective at this than others (for example President Johnson moving
Civil Rights legislation through congress). Some presidents are very
good at twisting arms in Congress and putting on pressure.

• In a certain sense, where the Constitution is vague, presidents
can assert a prerogative to a previously unclaimed power as the Chief
Executive. Unless the courts or congress push back, presidential
power is expanded. This is often tied to times of crisis.

• The president oversees a massive Executive Branch bureaucracy.
Bureaucrats, even those in the executive branch, can resist or slow
their implementation for presidential directives they don’t favor .

• In the presidential role of Commander in Chief, presidents have
initiated military action without the approval of Congress though the
Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to declare war while
the president is Commander in Chief. (Here is a Wikipedia overview
of the War Powers Act passed in 1973 during controversary over the
conflict: Links
to an external site.The act requires presidents to inform congress
within 48 hours of committing US troops and requires a
congressional authorization for commitments of more than 90 days.
In general, presidents give lip service to the act and change the
language slightly so as to mostly comply with the spirit but not the
letter of the act because they regard it as unconstitutional. Congress
meanwhile tolerates some presidential neglect of the act believing
that they have more power with it than without. Neither side has
mounted a legal challenge on its constitutionality because they don’t
want to risk losing power. Learn about the controversy over the War
Powers Act and President Obama’s Libya strategy click
the-war-powers-act Links to an external site. ) Presidents also have
wide latitude in determining foreign policy. Still presidents can face
constraints in negotiating international agreements. For instance
negotiating a global warming agreement would be, as one scholar put
it, “playing a two-tier chess game” in trying to reach a compromise,

but also having to keep in mind what would be accepted by interest
groups back home.

• Presidents appoint judges, ambassadors, cabinet officials etc. Many
appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

• Presidents can veto legislation. The line item veto (i.e. to veto parts
of bills rather than whole bills) to attack pork spending has been
sought by presidents of both parties, but each party is reluctant to
give a leader of the other party that degree of power.

Section Introduction: Governing
The Governing Institutions Make Policy Choices: Here the Presidency, Congress, and
the Courts come in. Ideally, all parts of the American political system from citizens up
have some say in what government chooses to do or not via being informed by the
media and political parties, joining interest groups, voting, or engaging in protest. In the
following weeks we will explore each branch of the federal government in more depth
beginning with the presidency which is made up not just with the president, a cabinet
and advisors, but also a vast network of federal agencies. One example would be the
Environmental Protection Agency charged with enforcing the nation’s laws on the
environment and protecting citizens from toxic emissions and waste.

Those 3 journal entries are a minimum of 250 words for each idea
reflection per idea reflection. You can go longer on text or video if needed.
If you are doing text it would run about 2000 words for the three weeks of
reflections and about 2750 words in the final journal which will cover four

The format is your choice depending on your comfort level with technology
and what you feel best fits your topic and creative inspiration. It could be a
written Word doc. It could be a video. You could include your own creative
work such as photographs, memes, graphics, artwork, poems, songs,
graphs, diagrams, and tables. You can also use PowerPoint (link from
Google Drive in your assignment post), Prezi, or an audio file. Include links
to what is being discussed in your reflections when its from something
other than our course. If you are using video and it is a file smaller than 500
mb you can upload it directly to Canvas.

This can be a painless and enjoyable learning process if you do it regularly.
If an idea grabs you as you are reading the Canvas site or the Our Own
Worst Enemy book, do a short write-up. If you wait until a day before it’s
due, or worse, the day of, it will be unpleasant.

Credible sources are a must

As you analyze the different ideas, your evaluation of the pluses and
minuses of each idea is up to you. You will not be graded or judged
on your beliefs and values. This course is about reflecting on critical
political questions and issues and learning how to think, not what to
think. You are required to include citations and supporting evidence
for all your views. See the next page for definitions of credible
sources. Use it as a checklist. If it meets all the criteria use the
source. If it doesn’t meet all criteria don’t use it. You are responsible
for vetting your sources before using them in this course!

How to Get a Better Grade on an
To improve your grade on assignments use the following list of things to do
and things to avoid. Use it as a checklist as you edit your assignment. The
more checks the better your grade will be.

Above all remember as you analyze different perspectives, your
evaluation of the relative strengths and weaknesses of any political
position is up to you. You will not be graded or judged on your beliefs
and values. This course is about teaching you HOW to think, not
WHAT to think. I do not care if you are Republican, Democrat, Right or
Left or none of the above. What is important is to make the best
possible argument you can for your position. The tips on this page
will help you do just that. It begins with the six most common
mistakes that I’ve seen in assignments.

A) The Big Six:

1: Thoroughly read through the assignment prompt and make sure
you have done all required parts of the assignment. Don’t throw away
grade points unnecessarily. If you have any questions, or if something is
unclear to you, reach out. I am here to help.

2: Define your terms. For example, writing “President Biden is making the
US a socialist and maybe even a Communist country.” (I heard this from a
friend on Facebook so it is a real life example). Possible responses: How
are defining you “socialism?” It’s thrown around like a political football as a
loaded word. But what defines it? What does it look like? How do you know
when you see it? Thomas Dye, a conservative political scientist, defines
socialism simply as central government control of the market. He goes on
to say many of his fellow conservatives define any governmental economic
regulation as socialism, but that is inaccurate as a capitalist system with
some government regulation isn’t socialism. Is a government run utility
company or garbage service socialism? What is the difference between
state central socialism, democratic socialism and social democracies?
Know terms before throwing them around.

3: Examples help clarify meaning and definitions. Continuing our
example above socialism above. For one example, Bernie Sanders

identifies as a socialist, but isn’t a socialist. He is social democrat. Why?
For example, he would leave free market capitalism in place, but have
more social programs. Social welfare programs with a capitalist economy
aren’t socialism. Social assistance programs historically were created to
counter the appeal of socialism to workers. We’ll have more on this later in
the course.

4: Avoid generalizations. To use a simple example: All dogs have curly
hair. Generalizations are the easiest statements to disprove. Find one
exception and poof, it melts. By the way, did you know all the superheroes
in the Marvel cinematic universe are ethical and serve only to help people?

5: Cite evidence. We all have opinions. Its fine to swap opinions over a
cup of coffee. A school assignment is different because it requires
evidence. Evidence raises an opinion to the level of reasoned argument. In
the socialism discussion above above I don’t just assert Bernie Sanders
isn’t a socialist, and let it go as an obvious truth. I give reasons, examples
and evidence. My sources are on the page linked. Which leads us to the
next point.

6: Use credible sources. You are responsible for vetting your sources
before turning in your assignment. My PSCI department colleague
Sasha Breger Bush has excellent and concise advice on determining what
a credible source is in her book Global Politics: A Toolkit for Learners (pp
80-81) co-written with Kay M. O’Dell. Hint, a Q-drop is unlikely to be
credible. Her checklist is as follows:

-Identify the author. If author is not identifiable, do not use the
source/information (author can be a credible organization, government, or
other source, such as the WTO as an author);

-Identify the author’s credentials and ensure they are experts in the subject.
Credentials need not be academic but could also include relevant life or
work experience, or time spent researching the subject matter. Don’t use
source/information without good reason to trust the author’s credentials;

-Identify source information. Does the author reveal where they get their
information, such that their findings could be replicated? If not, don’t use
the source or the information provided;

-Identify possible interests or affiliations. Is the source affiliated with a
company, interest group, political party, or political persona? If so, factor

this into analysis of the author’s/publisher’s bias in conveying information in
the text.

B) Other sure fire ways to weaken your arguments (i.e. more logical
fallacies to avoid). This advice from the Perdue University writing lab is
worth reviewing.

Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of
your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant
points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports
their claim. Avoid these common fallacies in your own arguments and
watch for them in the arguments of others.

Slippery Slope: This is a conclusion based on the premise that if A
happens, then eventually through a series of small steps, through B, C,…,
X, Y, Z will happen, too, basically equating A and Z. So, if we don’t want Z
to occur, A must not be allowed to occur either. Example:

If we ban Hummers because they are bad for the environment eventually
the government will ban all cars, so we should not ban Hummers.

In this example, the author is equating banning Hummers with banning all
cars, which is not the same thing.

Hasty Generalization: This is a conclusion based on insufficient or biased
evidence. In other words, you are rushing to a conclusion before you have
all the relevant facts. Example:

Even though it’s only the first day, I can tell this is going to be a boring

In this example, the author is basing his evaluation of the entire course on
only the first day, which is notoriously boring and full of housekeeping tasks
for most courses. To make a fair and reasonable evaluation the author
must attend not one but several classes, and possibly even examine the
textbook, talk to the professor, or talk to others who have previously
finished the course in order to have sufficient evidence to base a
conclusion on.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc: This is a conclusion that assumes that if ‘A’
occurred after ‘B’ then ‘B’ must have caused ‘A.’ Example:

I drank bottled water and now I am sick, so the water must have made me

In this example, the author assumes that if one event chronologically
follows another the first event must have caused the second. But the illness
could have been caused by the burrito the night before, a flu bug that had
been working on the body for days, or a chemical spill across campus.
There is no reason, without more evidence, to assume the water caused
the person to be sick.

Genetic Fallacy: This conclusion is based on an argument that the origins
of a person, idea, institute, or theory determine its character, nature, or
worth. Example:

The Volkswagen Beetle is an evil car because it was originally designed by
Hitler’s army.

In this example the author is equating the character of a car with the
character of the people who built the car. However, the two are not
inherently related.

Begging the Claim: The conclusion that the writer should prove is
validated within the claim. Example:

Filthy and polluting coal should be banned.

Arguing that coal pollutes the earth and thus should be banned would be
logical. But the very conclusion that should be proved, that coal causes
enough pollution to warrant banning its use, is already assumed in the
claim by referring to it as “filthy and polluting.”

Circular Argument: This restates the argument rather than actually
proving it. Example:

George Bush is a good communicator because he speaks effectively.

In this example, the conclusion that Bush is a “good communicator” and the
evidence used to prove it “he speaks effectively” are basically the same
idea. Specific evidence such as using everyday language, breaking down
complex problems, or illustrating his points with humorous stories would be
needed to prove either half of the sentence.

Either/or: This is a conclusion that oversimplifies the argument by reducing
it to only two sides or choices. Example:

We can either stop using cars or destroy the earth.

In this example, the two choices are presented as the only options, yet the
author ignores a range of choices in between such as developing cleaner
technology, car-sharing systems for necessities and emergencies, or better
community planning to discourage daily driving.

Ad hominem: This is an attack on the character of a person rather than his
or her opinions or arguments. Example:

Green Peace’s strategies aren’t effective because they are all dirty, lazy

In this example, the author doesn’t even name particular strategies Green
Peace has suggested, much less evaluate those strategies on their merits.
Instead, the author attacks the characters of the individuals in the group.

Ad populum/Bandwagon Appeal: This is an appeal that presents what
most people, or a group of people think, in order to persuade one to think
the same way. Getting on the bandwagon is one such instance of an ad
populum appeal.


If you were a true American you would support the rights of people to
choose whatever vehicle they want.

In this example, the author equates being a “true American,” a concept that
people want to be associated with, particularly in a time of war, with
allowing people to buy any vehicle they want even though there is no
inherent connection between the two.

Red Herring: This is a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issues, often
by avoiding opposing arguments rather than addressing them. Example:

The level of mercury in seafood may be unsafe, but what will fishers do to
support their families?

In this example, the author switches the discussion away from the safety of
the food and talks instead about an economic issue, the livelihood of those
catching fish. While one issue may affect the other it does not mean we
should ignore possible safety issues because of possible economic
consequences to a few individuals.

Straw Man: This move oversimplifies an opponent’s viewpoint and then
attacks that hollow argument.

People who don’t support the proposed state minimum wage increase hate
the poor.

In this example, the author attributes the worst possible motive to an
opponent’s position. In reality, however, the opposition probably has more
complex and sympathetic arguments to support their point. By not
addressing those arguments, the author is not treating the opposition with
respect or refuting their position.

Moral Equivalence: This fallacy compares minor misdeeds with major
atrocities, suggesting that both are equally immoral.

That parking attendant who gave me a ticket is as bad as Hitler.

In this example, the author is comparing the relatively harmless actions of a
person doing their job with the horrific actions of Hitler. This comparison is
unfair and inaccurate.

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