Who do I Want to Win or Us vs Them
Gary Johnson, of course. But he isn't going to.
The more interesting question is which of the two major party candidates I want to win. What I find interesting, looking at my own feelings, is that there are two different answers.
The rational answer is that the worst outcome might be Obama in control of both houses of Congress, but that that is very unlikely to happen. The second worst is probably Romney in control of both houses, a little more likely. Beyond those two, the order is unclear. On the one hand, my guess is that Obama would want to do more things I disapprove of than Romney. On the other, Romney, if elected, will almost certainly control the House and might control the Senate, or get control of it two years from now. What matters is not what people want to do but what they can do, and Romney might well be able to do more things I disapprove of than Obama.
A further argument is that when Romney talks a free market line but fails to act it, those of us who actually believe in free markets will get blamed for the resulting failures. That, after all, is what happened with the Bush administration. I do not expect either Obama's policies or Romney's to succeed, and if policies are going to visibly fail, I would prefer that they be blamed on someone else. That is an argument in favor of Obama.
My conclusion is that I have little reason to want Romney to win, some reason to want him to lose. I am not confident of that conclusion—one can argue that Romney would be likely to appoint better Supreme Court justices, a point some libertarians have been making in his favor. One can speculate that the influence of the tea party Republicans might push Romney into being a better president than he wants to be. But the spectacle of the Bush administration is a strong argument on the other side.
If I switch the question from what I ought to want to what I do want, from reason to emotion, the result changes. I will be happy if Obama loses, unhappy if he wins.
Human beings have a tendency, perhaps unfortunate, to view the world as us vs them. Obama's supporters are, on the whole, people whose political views are more sharply opposed to mine than those of Romney's supporters. Insofar as my hardwired instincts are trying to sort political struggles into the categories of friend and foe, it is clear which side they put me on. If I think of the election as a football match, I may not be cheering one side, but I am definitely booing the other. Obama's defeat will be a crushing blow for a lot of people who I am inclined to disagree with and disapprove of—and a good thing too. That's my gut level response.
This is not the only time I have observed myself reacting in this fashion. I have spent a good deal of time over the past few months arguing with people in a usenet group devoted to issues of global warming. One of the things that struck me early on was that, although participants represented a range of views on the subject, almost all of them could be grouped, by behavior if not by views, into one side or other. That was how they thought of themselves.
I was not an exception. My actual view was and is intermediate between the two ends of the dispute. I think it is reasonably clear that global temperatures have been trending up unusually fast for the past century or so, and the most plausible explanation I have seen is the effect of human production of carbon dioxide. On the other hand, I do not think there are good reasons to predict that warming on the scale suggested by the IPCC reports for the next century or so will have large net negative effects, a point I have discussed here in the past.
Although my views put me somewhere in the middle, disagreeing with one side on some questions and with the other on others, that is not how I felt or how I was viewed. I spent enough time criticizing arguments made by the believers in global warming to get classified by them with the skeptics (who they labeled "deniers"). That produced enough attacks from the believers to trigger my built in friend/foe detector. I posted criticisms of arguments on the other side when I thought the argument was wrong and I had something to contribute. But, on the whole, I was happy to see believers post bad arguments, since they could be refuted, unhappy to see critics do so; emotionally speaking I was a partisan.
The latest episode in this particular drama involved a point of very little importance for the question of global warming but considerable importance for the egos of the participants in the debate. Various people described Michael Mann, a climatologist associated with the IPCC, as a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Other people, myself among them, pointed out that it was not true. Mann's claim, made by him as well as his supporters, was based on the fact that the IPCC won a Nobel peace prize and had sent a letter with a copy of the prize certificate to various of the people who had contributed to its work, thanking them for their contribution to its winning the prize. Mann exhibited his copy online.
The IPCC, however, does not have the power to give out Nobel prizes, and the certificate quite clearly stated that the recipients were the IPCC and Al Gore. A heated argument followed.
Eventually it became impossible for Mann's supporters to maintain their position, when first a representative of the Nobel Committee and later the IPCC provided unambiguous statements that contradicted it. At that point, most of those who had argued the position dropped it, in at least one case trying to pretend to never have made the argument. One, but only one, tried to insist that the statement from the Nobel Committee, reported from at least two independent sources, must be a fake.
The part of the story relevant to this post was my reaction. The fact that a prominent supporter of global warming had been inflating his credentials implies very little about whether global warming is real, anthropogenic, and dangerous. It was, however, a humiliating defeat for "them," hence a victory for "us," hence a development I enjoyed.
Which is one reason I decided to drop out of that news group and that conversation, at least for a while.