Thursday, October 22, 2009

Collaborationist philosophy

Apparently, men who voted for the losing side in an election experience a sharp drop in testosterone when the result is announced.

At least, this was the case for the last US presidential election. Among certain experimental subjects, who knew they were being monitored while they watched the whole thing. To what extent that finding can be generalised to all men watching all elections remains a mystery for future research grants.

There's a very plausible animal-behaviour theory that says: when you've just lost a pissing match, it's a good time to sit quietly and reflectively and not make any aggressive moves, lest the winners feel motivated to make an example of you. But that only accounts for half the story. How does that concept translate into a non-violent contest involving proxy champions a thousand miles away? Is it different if you're sitting quietly at home and not being monitored? Is the effect more or less marked in younger or older voters? Would it still work if they didn't hear the result at once, but some hours after the event? Would Democratic voters have been similarly affected if Obama had lost?

Most of all: are they taking the whole thing just a leetle too personally?

The president - allegedly - is the leader of the whole country, not just those who voted for him. To see one candidate's victory as a defeat suggests that your identity as an American is taking a back seat to your identity as a Republican. I know modern democratic (small-d) politics encourages this sort of tribalism, but why do we play along?

Perhaps our countries would all do better if we all took a more measured approach to politics. Whoever is in government, it is probably not a good idea to oppose them automatically in everything they do. I know you think that by making their job more difficult, you're hampering their ability to fulfil their promises and win the next election; but you're also making your own country a nastier place.

It's like pissing in your own soup to spite the cook.

By all means argue against your government when it's doing the wrong thing. But make the arguments measured and focused. Ranting and railing is very satisfying, but all it does is inspire your opponents to dig deeper into their entrenched position. If you really want to change their minds, you need to persuade them that you're on the same side.

Speaking for myself: I'd rather have a government led by a party I dislike, but can influence, than one led by a party I like, but that only listens to its own trusted apparatchiks.


Evil Mammoth said...

I think one of the big problems in America is that there are essentially two countries trying to control one country. Furthermore, they'll fool you into thinking Democrats = liberals and Republicans = conservatives, but the truth is that the Democrats are a centrist party. Liberalism, for the most part, doesn't exist in the halls of the Capitol.

That's a bit of an aside and a little off topic, I'm afraid. As per your point, I think America is slightly (not much) more sensible than it might look on TV. A lot of crazies make it onto the television because that's what hooks viewers, but when you look at the debates we've been having about various issues, you'll see that for some odd reason the government is pandering to fringe groups for fear of being called unpatriotic.

There is an array of political opinion in the country that doesn't necessarily get a lot of coverage.

Nice post. I regret that I've lapsed in checking in on fellow bloggers. I hope to do a better job now that I'm, in a sense, back on the job. Hope all is well.

vet said...

I saw a study last week that claimed that people with more extreme views on any issue were (a) louder, and (b) more than averagely convinced that their views were in fact mainstream. The evidence was a tad flimsy, but I thought the conclusion was quite persuasive.

So all those loonies we see on TV are, in fact, convinced that they represent the real silent majority of Americans.

Sad thought, isn't it?

Anonymous said...


By definition, "they" can't represent the Silent Majority because "they" are Vocal.

hmm, Vocal Majority isn't so compelling...