It is not surprising that President Obama, a strong proponent of doing more to equalize incomes, would speak about voting as the “best revenge.” After all, as I explored in “What Drives Views on Government Redistribution and Anti-capitalism: Envy or a Desire for Social Dominance?” (available at SSRN), strong proponents of income leveling are more likely than strong opponents to admit that when they are angry, they plot revenge. The data come from the 1996 General Social Survey, which asked about 900 respondents about their emotional and psychological makeup.
On revenge, the paper reports:
Not only do redistributionists report more anger, but they report that their anger lasts longer. Further, when asked about the last time they were angry, strong redistributionists were more than twice as likely as strong opponents of leveling to admit that they responded to their anger by plotting revenge. [p. 36]
This is part of a general pattern of greater anger and less happiness among redistributionists (pp. 32-26):
In terms of relative odds (Table 3-3), compared to strong anti-redistributionists (category 7), strong redistributionists (category 1) had about two to three times higher odds of reporting that in the prior seven days they were “angry” (2.0 times higher odds), “mad at something or someone” (1.9 times), [and] “outraged at something somebody had done” (1.9 times) . . . . Similarly, as Table 3-4 shows, anti-redistributionists had about 280% higher odds of reporting being happy (3.8 times) and about 110% higher odds of reporting that they were at ease (2.1 times). Overall, favoring income redistribution positively predicted 9 of 12 superficially negative emotions and negatively predicted 4 of 7 superficially positive emotions, which was a remarkably consistent pattern. The data are consistent with redistributionists in the general public being considerably more angry, sad, lonely, worried, and restless, and less happy, at ease, and interested in life.
The problem with many gaffes committed by both President Obama and Mr. Romney is that a politician’s true beliefs may be revealed too clearly.
Because when they get angry, redistributionists are much more likely to plot revenge, for them voting might indeed be the “best revenge.”
If I am correct about the psychology of the “revenge” gaffe, then Obama is unlikely to get much criticism on this front from his fellow redistributionists, who may share his attitude toward revenge.