Belmont Club

Calculated Risk

Although many would regard the 2016 election as depressing that is because it has been, far and away, the most information rich campaign in memory. The crucible of events have thrown penetrating lights on the strengths and weaknesses, characteristics and flaws of Rubio, Cruz, Trump, Hillary and Sanders.

Most of the time voters see elections as contests between two opposing statesmen.  By contrast, statesmen is probably not the word the public would use to describe the candidates who are now shown not as they wish to be perceived, but the way they would prefer not to be seen. The collapse of the Narrative, the breakdown in party discipline and the general chaos of 2016 has basically thrown the choreography and costumes out the window. We see the contenders pretty much as they are. The sight is not necessarily pretty, but it’s true. There’s a saying that the truth shall make you free, but only after it makes you miserable.

If both Trump and Hillary are so nearly equally flawed, the logical implication is that the 2016 election cannot be the solution, but at best only the necessary prelude to a real one. In the same way the wrecking-ball precedes the construction of the actual building perhaps the role of this election is to destroy politics as usual to make way for something different.

The question of whether Hillary or Trump will create more favorable opportunities down the track is interesting one to consider. The argument for Hillary is that she is a known catastrophe; that one should vote for her because she is bad and electing her will bring bring on a crisis that would make genuine reform unavoidable. On the other hand voting for Trump runs the risk that that he might not be as bad as the press portrays him; in which case he might actually delay the crisis which Hillary will reliably precipitate, without being skilled enough to fix the current dilemmas.

The case against voting for Hillary is that it is like taking a serum that might kill you before effecting a cure. Whether you accept such a serum depends on how risky you believe it would be.  Are the odds 50-50 that it will cure you before it kills you, or more like 1-99?  The case for voting for Trump is the belief that he may buy time and in that time something good may happen.

The probabilities are ultimately unknown.  Each person must ultimately weigh the probabilities himself — and choose.  America is in a place of great peril because it made bad choices in the past.  Now it must take a chance if it is to win redemption. Nothing is guaranteed.  The choice in 2016 is ultimately one of calculated risk, which Nimitz famously defined as accepting loss for likelihood of greater gain.  But don’t worry.  Remember that however bad the odds are, that means there’s a chance.

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