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The Scarlet & Black

Life During Wartime: The Convenient Kremlin

By Max Fenton

The English Franciscan friar William of Ockham was a titanic philosophical figure in the fourteenth century and involved himself in the raging political and theological debates of his time. Despite his significant contributions to Catholic theology and medieval thought, he is most commonly remembered for the problem-solving method of Occam’s Razor. Its basic principle is that the simplest, least assumptive explanation for a particular occurrence is most likely to be true. Inversely, the more assumptions one must make, the less likely something is to be true. Though most attribute the Razor as a scientific heuristic, it remains a good general rule in everyday logic when seeking to explain a particular event or phenomenon. 

Nevertheless, people often choose to ignore inconvenient simple truths for convoluted, yet comforting, assumptions. Our increasingly shambolic political life exemplifies this in modern society. Though a short two-and-a-half months into the Trump presidency, it appears as if American politics has become its most disorganized in recent memory. The simultaneous explosion of domestic scandal and international crisis, coupled with the relative ineptitude of this administration, has left many pondering how we ever got here in the first place. Democrats lose sleep wondering how the former Secretary of State could lose to a man that once received a “Stone Cold Stunner” from the wrestler Steve Austin himself. And yet, we are here.

The initial shock of Nov 9 continues to reverberate throughout politics and has manifested itself in diverse reactions. The Democrats’ dark night left many clamoring for a comforting but complex explanation — one that removes any risk of their party being at fault. The indignant have taken to social media to express their rage, railing against Donald Trump and anyone who dares to criticize the Democratic Party’s tactics in 2016. This cadre defends Hillary Clinton both from real attacks by Republicans as well as from left-leaning journalists who provide meaningful, constructive criticism of the Democratic Party. 

The arguments of these pro-Clinton Twitter militants boil down to a few key points: first, the Clinton campaign is sacrosanct and blameless for its loss in 2016. Rather, the Russians interference solely gave Trump an advantage in the race. Second, any criticism of Hillary Clinton or her campaign makes the critic either “divisive” or a Kremlin shill. The Twitter militant immaturely makes these connections. Some are so talented that they have “proven” that the Kremlin has spooky kompromat on everyone from Bernie Sanders to journalist Matt Taibbi. (By the way, I categorically deny any connections with the Kremlin). Finally, all information related to the Russia story must be true, because it’s “so obvious” considering what has already been insinuated and reported by the Twitter echo chamber.

Not only is this line of argument fundamentally contrived, but it replaces inconvenient facts with as-yet unproven assumptions about the 2016 race. While the links between Trump and Russia seem extensive, we should sort out facts from assumptions. Occam’s Razor is of paramount importance in sifting truth from fiction when looking at the 2016 race. Though investigations are ongoing, and though there’s a lot of smoke, no fire has yet been found. Proof of Russian collusion with Trump to interfere in the election has yet to be found. But many Democrats act as though it is a done deal, demanding Trump resign over the Russia scandal, rather than the multiple other under-reported scandals in his administration thus far. 

Not only is it intellectually dishonest to base factual arguments solely on unproven assumption, but it is a dangerous game for the Democratic Party. In failing to recognize the Clinton campaign’s shortcomings in favor of a mythology about as-yet unproven collusion with Russia, Democrats are ignoring the political realities that caused their defeat. At the end of the day, what we must use to explain the Democrats’ stunning loss are often uncomfortable facts. The Clinton campaign’s disorganization in Michigan and other “Blue Wall” states cannot be denied. Nor can the Democratic Party’s failure to reach to out white working class voters. Nor should FBI Director James Comey be used as a scapegoat. Instead of owning up to these real failings and political circumstances, it seems that many Democrats would rather blame Russia than update their strategy for the better. Ultimately, political discourse needs a shave from Occam’s Razor for its own good. If the Democrats hope to bounce back, they need to learn from facts instead of placating themselves with unproven assumptions.

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