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The comforts of third fourth and fifth place… August 9, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Here’s an intriguing article, from the Guardian recently on how in sport ‘finishing runner up may be the worst place of all’. How so?

For those who do end up with silver, it might have been better for their mental state if they had been soundly beaten – sometimes, it seems, it is better to lose by a lot than a little. New research suggests that athletes’ perception of their achievements is dependent on what they think might have been.


“Our findings show that medallists appear happier the better they perform, with the exception of silver medallists, who are happier when they have a ‘close call’ with bronze medallists”, said one of those behind the study, Georgios Kavetsos, assistant professor in behavioural science at the LSE.

And check this out:

The happiness levels of gold winners rated an average score of 6.65 out of 10. Silver winners were rated 5.92 and bronze 6.06. One possible explanation is that silver medallists are less happy than bronze medallists because they think about how they could have won gold, while bronze medallists feel lucky to be on the podium.

So winning big is actually closer to winning small than winning…er… medium.

And yet, this is oddly reminiscent, to me, of another dynamic entirely which may be familiar to many of us on this site. That is that the parties and formations and individuals we vote for simply do not tend to have a whisper of state power at elections. I’ve never given a first, second or third preference to party that has had any hope of a majority (almost invariably I don’t vote down the line other than to give left wing candidates a preference). And parties ‘of government’? While I did give a high preference to DL in 1992 and they did subsequently go into government, that seems anomalous. Other than that nada, those I’ve voted for have – so far – eschewed high office.

And yet, shouldn’t i be a wreck from this, election after election across four decades where none of those I support or have supported have troubled power?

Is it that I’m happy in my choice – even if that choice is one that doesn’t, as it were, make a lot of difference?

Is it worse to be supporting Fine Gael, or the Labour party? What does that do when those parties, at least in the case of the LP previously, were vying for power? To almost permanently be second and third must have some effect one would imagine.

Now granted there’s a distinction there between voting for and being activist for. I’m always fascinated by the dynamics of electoral politics. As a member of first the WP, then briefly DL and later a supporter and canvasser of and for Tony Gregory I saw TDs elected in the former instance, not so much in the second, in so far as the candidate I canvassed for didn’t make it, and obviously elected in the third. So even if none of those formations (bar DL by which stage I’d left them) achieved even a small measure of state power there was a consolation, and a direct one, in simple election of a TD.

Does that suffice? I’m not sure. In retrospect – and I’ve said it before, for all its flaws and the issues I had and would have in retrospect with the WP I don’t think electing those TDs was worthless. DL I have much more mixed feelings about. Gregory, no mixed feelings at all. His was a necessary voice.

Of course there’s a problem here. If the best the left does is simply win seats but not power it can potentially leave it marginalised, across great tracts of political time. Worse it can see its voice becoming one of many in parliaments. So being comfortable with being third or four or fifth best – even in a context of winning seats isn’t necessarily a good thing.

And party expansion is difficult. SF has done remarkably well across the last two decades moving from one TD to 23. But as polls indicate, at the next election that number could fall back. Exponential growth is not guaranteed.

How does that work on those involved?


1. Gearóid - August 9, 2016

I think it depends on the context. If Waterford had been behind for most of the match last Sunday getting a draw would seem like a great result, whereas now it seems like a massive missed opportunity because they led for most of the match.


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