Thursday, November 02, 2006

Enough with the whining, already!

Andrew Cunningham has responded to my pinko-endomorph taunting of people unwilling to make election predictions, and promises that he will have some thing up on the US midterms shortly.

He notes something I have observed as well: the preponderance of pro-Democrats with pessimistic takes on what looks to be a blowout in their favour. Few pollsters think the Republicans will pick up a single Democratic seat in either the House or the Senate. The number of seats the Democrats will win is obviously subject to reasonable dispute, and I admit I'm going out on a limb to think the Dems will actually take the Senate, but you have to be a lily-livered liberal to seriously doubt that Nancy Pelosi will be  the next Speaker.

Humans have their cognitive biases, of course. Generally, people tend to wishful thinking (I want it to be the case that X -> X). If your team loses too many times though, you get the opposite form of bias, which doesn't seem to have a name (I don't want it to be the case that X ->X). Logically, for events that you can do little to change, there is no relationship between your wanting them and their happening, but we're all superstitous.

What is interesting is whether the tendency on the left (at least in the US) to counter-wishful thinking is something that hurts them. Karl Rove obviously thinks that looking like a winner increases your chances of being a winner, and I suspect he's on to something.

This must partiuclarly be the case among Americans. America is the most optimistic place on earth. Russia, by contrast, is the land of the hard luck story. If Russia ever had genuinely competitive elections, maybe there would be some electoral advantage in thinking you were going to lose all the time. But who has met a normal American who thinks that way in business or any other non-political endeavour? No, Americans tend to think that if you believe in your dream, you can accomplish anything.

The overwhelming lesson of human history, and the second law of thermodynamics, is that Russians are right and Americans are wrong. And Iraq is a good example of how American can-do spirit can go horribly wrong. Still, optimism does seem to be the secret of American greatness, and whatever else you think of American civilization, it surely is great, indees super-great. You surely can't win a country by being untrue to the secret of its success.

So knock it off, Dems, and stop being such whiners!

Update: I realize that BKN will be able to totally ridicule me if the Dems don't at least take the House. My shame will be eternal!

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