Would You Rather: Politics Edition

In the classic game of “Would you rather…?” the premise is simple: you must choose between two options and state which you would rather have/do/be. If both options are undesirable, as they often are, it can become a pretty tough choice to make — and subsequently, also a pretty awesome game.

Some examples:

  • Would you rather give up coffee or alcohol?
  • Would you rather eat 50 crickets, or 400 ants?
  • Would you rather be ultra rich and terminally ill, or ultra poor and immortal?
  • Or as this Buzzfeed article asks, would you rather have Cheetos fingers for the rest of your life, or have a popcorn kernel stuck in the back of your throat for the rest of your life?

Maybe tough choices for some, and not so tough choices for others.

With the 2016 election year kicking into high gear already, I wanted to offer a politically themed “would you rather” query — either as a real question for people to answer, or just food for thought.

So, for Democrats:

Would you rather have a GOP candidate who is likely to perform poorly in a national election (e.g., Donald Trump) OR….

Have a GOP candidate who is a stronger political opponent, but would make a better president if elected?

Bear in mind that this is a “would you rather” that is predicated on actual current political conditions with unknown outcomes (read: the weaker GOP candidate might really get elected to the presidency. Would it be worth the risk?). Which one would you choose?

Likewise, for Republicans:

Would you rather have a Democratic candidate who is less likely to perform well on a national scale, but whose policies you’d find more worrisome if elected (e.g. Bernie Sanders), OR…

Have a Democratic candidate who is a stronger political opponent, but would support more moderate policies upon election?

These questions are somewhat hard to pose — and probably also to answer — given that their hypothetical tinge is likely distorted by real world circumstances at the moment. Many people right now have visceral emotional reactions to actual candidates to the point where their answer might change with the insertion of different names, regardless of a candidate’s political leanings or policy positions.

But I think it’s still worth reflecting upon, even just on a more general hypothetical level: in a political contest, when considering an opposition candidate, would it be preferable to have someone who is easier to beat (but still might win), or someone who’s harder to beat, but better for the job if elected?

Answers to this will depend upon personal preferences and political priorities. If you find it more important to support your party candidate and give him or her the best possible chances to win, then perhaps the weaker opposition candidate is preferable. If you’re more concerned with mitigating risk in potential outcomes, then perhaps a contest between two strong candidates — even if it makes things tougher for the nominee you support — might be a more appealing option.

Which is the case for me? At least regarding the presidency, I think I’d lean toward the latter. I’d much rather lose to a qualified candidate than run the risk of electing someone with very real potential to seriously bungle the job.