Expectation Management at the Voting Booth … It’s Tough

“If that’s your best, your best won’t do” – Twisted Sister, We’re Not Gonna Take It

(Right now, about half of you just had the above tune pop into your head and are mildly bobbing your heads back and forth to We’re Not Gonna Take It … glad I could help.)

A few interesting votes have come down recently (or will come down shortly). I’d like to briefly consider a few and the difficulties of expectation management at the voting booth. Here I’m not talking about expectation management for the voters -they understand why they caste their ballots – but rather expectation management from the outcomes.

Consider, for example, the French presidential election from yesterday. Sarkozy lost to Hollande by something like 52%-48%. It was an awful set of choices for the French people. You could either vote for greater pain on the backs of the workers to bail out the wealthy bank bondholders who backed stupid loans, or you could vote for greater pain on the backs of workers to support socialist utopian tripe. Boy, does that sound familiar or what? I’m thinking 2008 US presidential election, where America was given the choice of John McCain and the bank-bailout tolerant Republicans (“we had to sacrifice our free market ideals to save the free market”) – OR – Barack Obama and the bank-bailout, auto-bailout, union-health-care bailout pushing Democrats.

It is true that elections have consequences – as the winners are often fond of saying. Unfortunately, those consequences tend to look like preening winners who presume that victory is a mandate to enact every whim of policy that comes to their mind (Obamacare, anyone?) … because “the people” are with me. France was in a pickle and probably made the best choice. As Mish and many others pointed out, the election of Hollande likely speeds the demise of the Eurozone, which is a good thing. Note that it only speeds the demise, not causes it – this thing is going down either way, but here it can happen with less pain of bank bailouts.

Another vote, that is coming down tomorrow, offers a completely different set of options and pain. In my old home state of North Carolina, 8 May 2012 will see a vote on an amendment banning gay marriage. Actually, it bans more than gay marriage – the state already banned gay marriage 16 years ago. This bill adds specific language to ban domestic partnerships or civil unions or any such thing. Not ban in the sense of “you two can’t live together” (maybe that’s next) but ban in the sense of “you two can’t have any legal rights together beyond what any other random strangers have.”

This is a tough one. First, I really don’t go along with the notion of the government (which, in a democracy, consists of my neighbors) telling me what sort of legal contracts I can or can’t enter. But I also don’t go along with the notion that the government should demand behaviors out of me based on contracts others have entered. For instance, the notion that an employer must provide benefits to the spouse of an employee is absurd – why should the employer’s ability to make contracts be subject to the employee’s external contract behaviors?

So, to a zeroth order I probably don’t really like the NC bill and might actually vote against it if I still lived there. BUT, and this is the big one, there is the expectation management issue. If the bill fails it will look like a win for the pro-gay-marriage crowd, or that is how it will be interpreted by the ardent supporters of gay marriage and the news media. And this I also don’t want.

For clarification, I feel like I should point out that my opposition to gay marriage is not related to my understanding of Biblical morality. Gay sex is immoral, just as is any other sex outside of marriage. There is no Biblical provision for two men or two women to “declare” themselves married and obviate the ban against homosexual sex.

But those are moral arguments. I also don’t feel any need to use a clear Biblical understanding of sexual morality to make laws governing the behaviors of my neighbors. If they are adults, implying an ability to make decisions for themselves and bear the consequences themselves, then the law should stay out of it. Sure, they may well be headed for eternal separation from God in hell, but my laws won’t prevent that either. It is their choice (in both relationships) and the best I can do is try to convince them to choose the better way.

Having said that, as long as the government is a mechanism for one group to exact benefits (on a relatives scale) from other groups, I’ll gladly oppose the introduction of new groups in the oppression trade. So, I still oppose gay marriage – as long as there are any definitions, rights, and benefits of marriage enacted by majority rule.

So here we have just two examples of the expectation management issues with elections. The French have chosen a socialist, which likely means higher taxes, loss of wealthy citizens (those who can move will), and economic hardship. But it probably will also mean some shared pain by the bankers who have been getting bailout after bailout on the backs of the tax payers.

The NC amendment is likely to pass. Current polling puts about 55% in favor. I’m not exactly sure how to spin that as better or worse in terms of outcomes. I will say that the hand-wringing on facebook should be epic in either case.


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