Change and Variance, a Statistical Look at Politics

Change is the big buzz word in this election, but let me raise up instead variance, a statisticians way of thinking about change. If you are for change you are for having things vary. The more they vary the less predictable they are. Thats a statistical fact. The more Obama succeeds at convincing us he’s all about change, the more fear we will see however, from Joe Public. Because while some change is good, in times of stress most people also want some predictability too. The Republicans have in recent years played the fear card, and McCain, who stands for “just a little change” is trying to offer change thats not scary, while the other guy’s is dangerous. The fact that he is the traditional white male surrounded by lobbyists and big oil is in some way reassuring to some who might otherwise take a gamble on a black man or an idealist but not on an idealsitic young black man who wants to change several things.

I was teaching my introductory class in psychology today and realized this basic tension is being played out in our election. I was talking about how research that is predictable and close to the ground serves one purpose, and innovation typically results in research with greater variance, and this research typically does not get published as easily. If McCain is re-elected it will because he sold the USA on just a little change, and not anything scary. If Obama wants to counter that he should consider labelling McCain’s change as scary as well. I bet his better minds could scare up (ahem) some examples of scary McCain change.. like what he will do with Iran, and with nuclear waste, and with his choices for the supreme court.


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