Worst Damage Theory
I recently wrote about a theory about how people have a single, Primary Concern for their politics—such as immigration, or LGBT rights, or a strong military—which determines how they’re likely to vote in an election.
I put this idea forward to explain how someone could vote for Trump even if they find him revolting in one or more ways. So if someone’s Primary Concern is not letting gay people have equal rights, then they’re likely to vote for someone who’s anti-gay even if they don’t like their other positions.
I also just read Peter Strzok’s new book, Compromised.
I just spent the last week reading Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, and I now have a different model to put forward, which I call Worst Damage Theory.
This model says rather than people having a single issue they’re most concerned about, instead they’re imagining the worst-case scenarios that could result from each candidate being elected. So maybe they really hate Trump, and can see many bad things happening if he’s elected, but they think Biden being elected would result in transgender superheroes, all guns being confiscated by the military, and everyone gets a number tattooed on their forehead.
That’s bad, according to their calculations. Really bad. So at that point it doesn’t matter what negative things they believe about Trump, because they’re comparing bad outcomes. They can’t imagine anything Trump could do being as bad as Satanic tattoos.
And for someone on the left, they might not like a number of things about Biden—such as his senescence, or his history with being touchy-feely—but they may think those are minor compared to Trump selling the country out to Russia, or destroying our reputation abroad.
In short, people don’t maintain an exhaustive ledger of positives and negatives in their heads. There is simply too much information about candidates to do that. Instead, that opinion remains fluid and emotional based on all the various inputs to that opinion.
But when it comes to voting in an election like 2020, where the candidates have such violently competing ideologies, I think many voters will use the mental shortcut of imagining each potential presidency after 4-8 years and ask themselves which would cause the Worst Damage based on their personal values.
This, combined with the Primacy Concern model, is what allows people to vote for people they don’t really like.