Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sunk cost and treason

There's this thing called the sunk-cost fallacy -- that once a person has put a lot of time, money, effort, or emotional investment into something, they are unlikely admit that it didn't live up to its expectations.

This is the only thing I can come up with to explain why Republican leaders are still sticking with Donald Trump, even after credible allegations that not only did the Russians tamper with the election results, Trump encouraged them to do so.  Giving a foreign power access to our government for malign purposes is, I thought, the definition of treason.  Imagine, for example, if there were evidence that Barack Obama had allowed a foreign government to manipulate election results.  These same people who are giving Trump a pass on this, or ignoring it completely, would be calling for reinstating crucifixion.

To be fair, some Republicans are aghast at this.  Lindsey Graham has been outspoken in his call for an independent investigation of the allegations.  John McCain went even further, saying that if the claims are true, it could "destroy democracy" in the United States.  Even Mitch McConnell, who has been one of Trump's biggest supporters, has joined in the call.  Much as I hate to admit agreeing with Joe Walsh on anything, he hit the nail on the head a few days ago with this tweet:

Which is it exactly.  I would think that anyone, regardless of party affiliation, would be appalled at the idea that the Russians may have influenced a national election, and would want it investigated.

But astonishingly, that isn't what's happening.  Other than a few outspoken conservatives who want the issue looked at -- if for no other reason, to clear Trump's name and get rid of any taint of illegitimacy -- most Republicans are shrugging their shoulders and saying, "Meh.  No biggie."

Now wait just a moment.  These were the same people who were chanting "Lock her up!" because of allegations that Hillary Clinton mishandled some emails.  Instead, what has been the overall response?

An increase in the positive ratings of Vladimir Putin.

I'm not making this up.  In a poll conducted by The Economist, favorable ratings for Putin tripled in the past two years, most of the increase being in the last month.  In fact, Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California made the following astonishing statement: "There’s a lot of negative things about [Putin] that are accurate but there are a lot of negative things about him that have been said that are inaccurate.  At least the other other side of the coin is being heard now...  Finally there’s some refutation of some of the inaccurate criticisms finally being heard."

So instead of people being outraged that Putin and his cronies may have interfered in the election, they're saying, "Well, maybe Putin's not so bad after all."

I can't think of anything but sunk cost as an explanation for this.  These people have already overlooked so much in the way of Donald Trump's unethical behavior, evasions, and outright lies, not to mention his blatant lack of qualifications for the job, that to admit that this finally drives them over the edge would require a huge shift of perspective.  I've never seen a candidate that elicits such an enormous emotional response from ordinary citizens; huge investments of time and energy have been put into seeing him in the White House.  For the pro-Trump cadre to say "Okay, we were wrong about him" is apparently a bridge too far.  Easier to say, "Trump's got to be right, so we were wrong about Putin."

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, agrees.  He said, "The Republican base, particularly the Trump part of the Republican base, is going to regard anyone and anything that helped their great leader to win as a positive force, or at least a less negative force."

I hope that wise heads prevail and that the allegations are at least investigated.  And although I don't like Trump, I hope they turn out to be false, because the idea that the Russians (or any other country) are able to manipulate our government so boldly is profoundly terrifying.  But if they are true -- if the evidence supports the Russian hacks -- we have to act.  I'm no constitutional law scholar, but there has to be some provision for invalidating an election's results if the outcome was affected by a foreign power.

Especially if a cold, calculating villain like Vladimir Putin is responsible for it.


  1. I personally don't think they're enlightened enough to do the math on it. I see it as a classic Republican, "I got what I wanted in the end and I'll be okay going forward so I don't give a fuck about anyone else," kind of move.

  2. I have to wonder whether the Republican leaders aren't just waiting for Trump to get into office and then immediately impeach him. Don't you think they'd much rather work with Pence? And he's easy to impeach. I could write a three page outline of grounds for it off the top of my head.

  3. So now we are blaming the Russians? Can you please tell the audience how the Russians tempered with the election results?. How? in what manner?. What did they say to the millions of uneducated, white sexists, homophobes, bigots, and some misguided minority members, as well as some females from fly over country, that they already did not know?. You think that when Hillary talks about the evil Wall Street people, the millionaires and billionaires, about how much she is going to make them pay, while at the same time receiving so much money from them, that the stupid uneducated middle class don't know that she is dishonest and full of shit?. How about the entire media, it doesn't matter who, they tell us that we should not vote for a man, a man who talks about grabbing women by their vaginas, yet they want us to vote for a woman whose husband inserts cigars in women's vaginas? and she continues to stand by him?. Do you think that the "uneducated" middle class needs the Russians to see the hypocrisy? Come on Gordon, you are a man of science, put on your critical thinking hat, this Russian thing is a distraction. Stop listening to the very same media that told us that Hillary would be President. The Democrat Party needs to do an "autopsy" on the failed Presidential Election, with honesty and integrity. It would be nice as well, if the people of this town start getting out of the "bubble" and out of the safe spaces. Be skeptical!