Post-Election Stress Syndrome

Tyler Durden's picture

There is one thing that is certain come Wednesday morning; there will be just as many losers as winners and as ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, while the main-event remains too close to call, the psychology of 'losing' will become a critical part of the domestic political process from November 7th onwards. We suggest the Post-Election Stress Syndrome (PESS) will follow the Kubler-Ross model - which means initially 'Denial' and 'Anger' will dominate people's deeds and words. None of this is good news for an efficient resolution to the political Gordian Knot know as the 'fiscal cliff' or to the stability of capital markets going into year-end as politicians and plebeians alike will be PESS'd off.


Via Nick Colas of ConvergEx: I'm A Loser Baby, So Why Don;t You Kill Me

If there is one certainty about the Presidential election tomorrow, it is that it will be a close contest.  Only the most partisan of observers seem to feel differently.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.  It is just that the numbers point to a long Tuesday night.  A few points here:

  • The Real Clear Politics average of national polls is split virtually down the middle, at 47.5% for President Obama and 47.3% for Governor Romney.  The state-by-state map shows 201 “Safe” Electoral College votes for the President, and 191 for Romney.
  • Intrade, the gambling/prediction website, currently places the odds of President Obama’s reelection at 65%.  That might sound promising for those who favor this outcome, but it is a far cry from a lock.  As an aside, some $30 million is on the line at Intrade over just the Presidential race.
  • In the important battleground states, the story is much the same.  Ohio polling places the President with a 2.8 percentage point advantage, but the Intrade odds are just 66% in favor of Obama winning the state.  Virginia and Colorado and straight-up coin flips on Intrade – 50/50, within a point or two – and the state polling in both is within a statistical dead heat. 
  • Two closely watched political pundits – the Republican Party’s Karl Rove and The New York Times Nate Silver, who both essentially nailed the 50-state predictions in 2008 – are on opposite sides of the trade this time around.  Rove, in a piece for The Wall Street Journal last week, called for a Romney victory.  Silver sees an +80% chance of President Obama keeping his job for four more years.

The bottom line is that both sides feel they have a real chance, and that means one Party will take a hard loss out of this contest.  A loss for the Democrats means that they will be very much an opposition party, with (likely) only the Senate to call their own.  As for the Republicans, the mere fact that this election is as close as it is must be a disappointment.  The U.S. economy is still operating distinctly below its potential and unemployment is right on the historical cusp of assuring any challenging party a solid victory.  A loss on Tuesday for either party - and one will certainly draw the short straw – is going to go down very poorly indeed among the faithful and their representatives in government.

That’s a problem for the country, because there is a lot of heavy lifting to be done in the coming months with respect to the package of tax increases and spending cuts known as the Fiscal Cliff.  Numerous studies of the impact here total 2-4 points of growth in Gross Domestic Product should the entire “Cliff” come into law.  Since that measure of economic growth is only currently running 2% or so, failing to address the “Cliff” all but assures a recession in early 2013.  The threads of the debate about this problem very much resemble the ancient story of the Gordian Knot, a tale from antiquity that promised great things to anyone who could untie an especially large and complex mass of rope.  Alexander the Great, passing through the Knot’s hometown in what is now Turkey, tried his luck and untangling it.  When he failed at the attempt, he simply took out his sword and cut through the knot, fulfilling the challenge with what management consultants would now call “Out of the box” thinking.

So will the losing party in Tuesday’s election feel like being part of a decisive action on the Fiscal Cliff?  Observations from the world of psychology offer some warning signs on this question.  A few points to expand on this:

  • The most often quoted psychological paradigm for how humans cope with loss applies to everything from the death of a parent or spouse to a nasty romantic breakup.  It was first described by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying, published in 1969.

    If you assume that the loss of an election has the same emotional impact on a political party that grieving has on an individual, the Kubler-Ross model lays out the path ahead for either Democrats or Republicans.  The good news is that “Acceptance” is the final step – the person (or party) that suffers a loss almost always learns to cope with it over time.  The bad news is that there are four antecedent emotions, which are denial, anger, bargaining, and depression – in that order.  There is no set time frame associated with the Kubler-Ross model.  Every individual is different, as is every loss.

    The first two steps – denial and anger – seem especially ill suited for a quick political compromise on the Fiscal Cliff.  They also seem to follow naturally from such a close campaign.  The best outcome, ironically, is for a blowout result favoring either side.  The losing party would feel the sting, of course, but it could hardly argue that they had enough popular support to oppose the winner’s proposals for resolving the “Cliff.”  The polling data argues against it, as I noted above, but polls have been wrong before so this outcome still has a chance.

  • From the world of sports psychology, specifically Mixed Martial Arts (MMA, for short), comes this trenchant bit of wisdom: “It’s all about the money.”  Two university professors (Drs. Butryn and Masucci, of San Jose State) have put in +5 years in studying MMA fighters and what motivates them.  As it turns out, they are more aware of the economics of their sport than athletes in other disciplines.  A November 2012 article in Fight! Magazine about the pair’s findings quoted Dr, Butryn saying. “Sports psychology 101 is about process, not outcome.”  But since money is inextricably tied to wins and losses, many fighters have trouble staying on the right psychological path to success.

    Elections are inherently about outcomes, but whichever party loses will likely come to the conclusion that they didn’t spend enough money to win.  That might sound amazing, given that both sides are reported to be laying out $1 billion each to assure victory.  Whether the losing side also thinks about process – the ideas and positions that motivate voters – remains to be seen.  Like a battered and bruised (and losing) MMA fighter, they will probably worry about the money first.

  • A loss in a sporting contest doesn’t just sting the losing players – it lowers the testosterone levels of male fans that back the unhappy team.  In studies going back to the 1990s, researchers have found that witnessing a loss of your favorite team doesn’t just mentally upset fans that happen to be men; it also lowers the production of endocrine hormones such as testosterone.  How this relates to political races, I am not brave enough to predict.

We have, in summary, a worrying confluence of psychological pressures shaping up around the election on Tuesday.  No matter how close the contest, there will be a winner.  They will garner all the customary attention, and their backers will be rightly happy with the outcome.  But it may be the losers that capital markets will have to watch more carefully in the coming months.  That Gordian Knot isn’t going to cut itself. 

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Mercury's picture

If Obama doesn't win he, or someone just like him will win next time.

Mercury's picture

"or someone just like him"

redpill's picture

Most ZH readers, who understand the world enough to realize most of us can't really have a dog in this fight since both these guys will fuck us in various ways, have far more important things to worry about, like what should be the ZH Drink Words in the concession/victory speeches.

no taste's picture

As Redpill says, this election isn't about getting somebody who will do anything good for the American people.  It is about who will be the next piggie at the trough.


Recognizing this there is no reason for the election to induce any more stress than any other day in your life.  Do something good and don't worry.

Mercury's picture

By 2016 the electorate may still be sharply divided but the difference between the Democrat and Repuiblican parties (on the national level at least) will be limited to their MSM-assigned color codes.

kridkrid's picture

Divide an conquer. It's pretty simple, really.

redpill's picture

The goal of slanted cable news is to go from "people watch us based on how they vote" to "how people vote is based on watching us"

MachoMan's picture

Exactly.  Same thing happened with MTV.  Initially, it might have been somewhat consumer driven...  once the market was monopolized, it began dictating what music was successful... 

Dr. Engali's picture

The empire has grown very efficient at it.

MachoMan's picture

All good things suffer diminishing returns...

BLOTTO's picture

Your on to something krid...


Every major front we - the masses - are being attacked on by the global elite is to break down everything solid and 'good' in life...

Break down families...

Break down genders...

Break down nations...


Divide and conquer indeed.




Mercury's picture

No, it’s simply: go where the votes are.

Demographics alone have permanently tipped the scales toward those who want a lot more government in their lives (or think they do). As a politician/party you either tip that way too to “stay relevant” or you die. There remain only two or three amendments in the Bill of Rights with enough teeth left to prevent the government from controlling everything, everywhere, all the time but we’re almost there.

And guess who wants a different Bill of Rights?

kridkrid's picture

Don't be fooled into thinking that one party is in favor of the bill of rights and the other is not. "Support of the constitution" is just another tool meant to divide. R's have as much disdain of the document as the D's; the Rs pretend to care because it helps to keep the numbers fairly equal. "R's care about freedom, D's care about people"... And the sheeple line up behind the letter.

Thulsa Doom's picture

I get what you're saying, but to claim that repubs have as much disdain for the constitution as the demos is not based whatsoever in reality. At least the repubs have a small glimmer of respect for the constitution and our nations history and ideals - the demos routinely use the constitution for toilet paper, tampons, or kindling, depending solely on their own whims in the moment. It is a question of magnitude, and the demos are so far gone they are beyond reason or help.

MachoMan's picture

The patriot act wasn't unconstitutional because it was about america and patriotism!  USA USA USA

kridkrid's picture

That's the narrative provided to you in order to keep you locked up in one of the two camps, which is really just one big camp. You are in the system. Statistically, you can be counted on.

Spastica Rex's picture

Interesting link.

So, Obama has done a great job moving wealth up the scale through redistributive framewoks bennefiting the financial industry, but if he had his way, he would be redistributing it down?


Perhaps to BO, redistribution is a scalar goal, not a vector goal.

A Nanny Moose's picture

If we have to pay them, can't we just pay them to go away?

We should be able to deduct pay, for every law passed.

Gully Foyle's picture


yep. everybody gets a bone thrown to them.

Lost Wages's picture

Didn't you see Jim Cramer's call? Obama will win in landslide of 400+ electoral votes vs. 98 Romney.

Zer0head's picture

that was Cramer's quid pro for his rant against Obama in 2009


"Obama's agenda is destroying the life savings of millions of Americans"

"we elected a Leninist"

bank guy in Brussels's picture

As we see in Europe, people who leave the USA have Post-America Stress Sydrome

krispkritter's picture

I'll be experiencing a post-election hangover...because it's going to take an extraordinary amount of alcohol to get me to Wednesday...

Doubleguns's picture

Zip down to the gun store and purchase a couple boxes of ammo. That should cure what ever ails ya, or comes at ya.

krispkritter's picture

Got plenty of that on hand. I'm more concerned that I'm out of Tullamore Dew and beer...

toady's picture

There's an idea! I inherited a 30.06 a couple of months back, and that's not one of my common rounds, so I need to start a new stockpile.

My guy never wins, and he won't this time. I voted for Ron Paul.

So I'm just going to accept whoever wins and think happy thoughts. Who knows, there is still a .00000001 chance that the collapse can be averted, maybe oromba can pull it off this time!

Thulsa Doom's picture

Sandy has been a good test run in implementing emotional indifference. Obama wins, and it's emotional indifference 100%. Romney wins, I might be forced to care about other people's misery when the collapse comes. That's all the election means to me - it only changes my outlook towards the country and if it has the small chance of being saved.

Gully Foyle's picture


I agree, be sure to hold a cup of water in your mouth when taking the leaqd cure.

I hear it makes the head explode and one doesn't have to worry about a through that allows one to live.

TPTB_r_TBTF's picture

i asked google

"if you were full-o-shit-or-not?"

and found a thread in the Mythbuster's forum:

PRO:  So I'm reading this book, "The Company", by Robert Littell. At one point, it's claimed that if you fill your mouth with water prior to attempting suicide with a small-caliber pistol, you'll blow your head up. I guess the technique is to fill your mouth with water, put the gun in your mouth, pull the trigger, and BLAM, that's it. Seems a little fishy to me, but I'd still really like to see it tested - nothing like a good head explosion. (by rodan32)




CON:  The water will do nothing to excacerbate the effects of a bullet going through your skull. There is plenty of hydrostatic pressure in your skull to cause a spectacular splat..... (by armynurseboi)


i guess we'll have to wait for Mythbusters to test this...

Dr. Engali's picture

My prediction is Mitt will win the popular vote and Obama will win the electoral. We will have a divided nation with another president who is seen as illegitimet. This time the reds will lose confidence in the process like the blues did in 2000. TPTB will have succeeded in making sure the whole nation has no faith in the U.S institutions.

DeadFred's picture

And of course it will take a month to get the recount and challenges resolved. All entirely bullish. The rating agencies will be thrilled.

toady's picture

Assuming sarcasm, I agree. That particular scenario will be hell on 'fiscal cliff' and likely lead to another downgrade, leading to more calls to 'please, won't someone please think of the children!'

Spastica Rex's picture

Worst possible outcome.

Best possible outcome: Mittens will win a close upset and the right-plebs will be soothed. TPTB want the plebs under control, not burning shit down.  

Dr. Engali's picture

I guess I see it as TPTB want us taking each other out. It saves them the trouble and keeps the finger of blame away from them. It also helps knock down the country down so we fit into the new world order. Besides us breaking stuff provides for a lot of broken windows...very Keynesian.

Spastica Rex's picture

After it's over, the results will show what TPTB really wanted 'cuz I think it's highly unlikely that they won't get what they want. It's hard for us to really know - wars in heaven and all.

kridkrid's picture

I think that's right. Both guys are their guy, but one guy can advance the ball better than the other. I have a friend who votes R based solely on 2nd amendment. I told him if gun rights are ever taken away, it will be by a republican president. Obama can't take away gun rights, it would be war... It would have to be passed by an R after some sort of horrific event. Unless, of course, war is what the want.

Spastica Rex's picture

And the Ds can bomb the shit out of anybody in the world with impunity. The psychology is brilliant. Edward Bernays is chuckling from his grave.

kridkrid's picture

Hidden, in plain sight. It's remarkable to watch... My peacenik liberal friends with Obama stickers on their Prius. Sometimes it seems funny, sometimes I want to vomit on them.

Dr. Engali's picture

I hear you. I have to to a lot of tongue biting when I point it out to them. Most of them act like it never happens, or ëven try to deny it's hppening. It's really mind boggling.

Spastica Rex's picture


is that a German word?

Shizzmoney's picture

Huge irony here if this happens, b/c Mitt's boy John Sununu argues for the electoral college:

Even better than the popular vote

Those who argue for scrapping the Electoral College insist that relying on the national popular vote would be simpler, more modern, and egalitarian. They are wrong.

Unless of course HIS guys loses.  Then it will be an argument.

kridkrid's picture

The fact that both sides seem equally confident provides me with ample evidence that the losing side will claim that the election was stolen. Politics is the ultimate diversion... They might just as well get all of the mileage that they can. If I had to hazard a guess... All of the "statistical certainty" over an Obama win is the setup for the Romney win, complete with post election fireworks.

Ms. Erable's picture

I want to see a red team win so I can watch some heads 'asplode' at MSDNC. Should also be interesting to see what Rachel Madcow will do when her testosterone level drops.

Dr. Engali's picture

Maybe she won't have to shave as often.

Ms. Erable's picture

Would be for the best, then; I do sometimes have difficulty distinguishing Rachel from Geraldo.

lakecity55's picture

She is the one who uses mustache remover.

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

tax units loose middle class americans become the new poor. no NWO goon will change THAT.