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winning by default

Win by default: looking for an Alternative idiom

I’m looking for a word or an idiom expressing the fact that an agent (Athlete, Company, Country, etc.) suddenly ranks first, not because he performed better but because the former champion’s performance slumped.

(Something other than winning by default/forfeit)

Here is the context:

Many think that soon enough the USA is going to produce more oil than Saudi Arabia. But others think that it’s going to be because SA’s production is going to decrease. It’s like saying your country is going to bring renewable energies from 10% to 50% of the national energy mix. If you reduce overall energy consumption while keeping the same volume of renewables, then statistically you become a much more eco-friendly country.

See what I mean?

3 Answers 3

In sports, a team which achieves a victory by virtue of luck or of a supposedly superior opponent’s failures is often said to have backed into (or in to) the win or the playoffs or the championship. The idiom is common enough to have been extended beyond sports:

Not even Bob Dole’s dismal 1996 candidacy generated less enthusiasm in GOP ranks than McCain’s 2008 effort. In winning the nomination when he’d been counted out after the disintegration of his campaign structure, he showed more fortitude than skill. He was blessed by weak competitors, who eliminated each other and left him the last man standing. . [Recent polls] have prompted speculation by GOP political practitioners that McCain can back into the presidency, as he backed into the nomination. —‘Can McCain Back In To Another Win?’, Robert D. Novak, New York Post, July 28, 2008

[Other factors]can also have a substantial impact on the fortunes of a new small business. [. ] Blind Luck — The Small Business Hall of Fame contains more than a few stories of people who backed into success because of their incredibly good timing. —John L. Duoba, ‘Are You Ready to Be Your Own Boss?’, Small Business News, July 03, 2012

If by “winning” you mean “leading”, and if you mean to say that the numbers don’t necessarily tell the full story, then there is an expression (with some variations) that may apply:

Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.
Statistics never lie but liars use statistics.
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

The quote is often attributed to Mark Twain, who reportedly gave credit to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

These wry expressions underscore how some people will use numerical data to present a conclusion that may be factual from a strictly mathematical perspective, but in a way that is somewhat misleading. One example might be a resumé that says:

Our sales doubled in the two months when I was manager of the showroom.

when, in fact, the showroom had only sold one unit previously, and two more while the person was manager. When dealing with sales statistics, we don’t usually imagine a single-unit increase when we hear the word “doubled” – but that word was chosen because it sounds more impressive than the actual results.

Such truth-bending happens quite often in politics. For example, a candidate running for reelection might boast, “Our city was once the worst city for crime, but now, we are no longer in the Top 10!” (In reality, though, the crime rate has gone up – but, because it went up even faster in 10 other cities, in terms of ranking, that city fell from #1 to #11.) Yet notice how the words were carefully crafted, so that the reality of crime being still on the rise is never even mentioned (until the opposing party runs their ad, which will probably skew the data in a similar manner, only in the other direction).

Win by default: looking for an Alternative idiom I’m looking for a word or an idiom expressing the fact that an agent (Athlete, Company, Country, etc.) suddenly ranks first, not because he

‘Winning’ by Default

Peter Arnold

Donald Trump did not win the US election. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s an accurate description of what happened in November, 2016. All the politician candidates lost. The prize went, by default, to the one non-politician.

Mimicking ‘the Trump phenomenon’, Emmanuel Macron did not win the French presidential election. The politicians who had, for decades, governed the country, lost.

Mark Rutte’s governing party lost seats in the Dutch parliament to Geert Wilders and other small parties. Matteo Renzi’s governing party lost the 2016 plebiscite to change the Italian constitution. Theresa May’s governing party lost ten seats to minor parties. Malcolm Turnbull’s governing party lost seats to minor parties. As further proof my thesis, Angela Merkel will lose seats next month.

What is it about governing politicians in these democracies that has caused their electorates to vote against them? The French have a word for it, a word which emerged after Mr Macron, although lacking a political party, saw his opponents fall by the wayside – dégagement. ‘Disengagement’.

The driver of a car equipped with manual gears (a rare bird nowadays) knows what happens when you disengage the clutch. There is now no connection between the motor and the wheels. What we are seeing in politics around the democratic world is a disengagement of the engine (the power of the electorate) from the parliamentary wheels which move the country.

If the electorate has, indeed, become disengaged from the politicians, why?

Edmund Burke made it clear to the electors of Bristol that he was not, in parliament, a mere mouthpiece for their views. If they had confidence in him, if they trusted him, then, once elected, he would do his utmost in the best interests of the nation as a whole.

Trust, confidence, faith.

How do today’s electors view our current politicians, whether in government or thrusting to become the next government? Federal members of Parliament ranked 23rd out of 30 professions in a recent Roy Morgan poll. State MPs took 24th place.

Reinforcing the dégagement is the spectre of senior politicians in a number of countries being successfully prosecuted for corruption or other crimes. What happens, in such circumstances, to trust, confidence and faith?

Is it any surprise that, when polls turn into elections, small parties, even small single-issue groups, take away votes from the ‘disengaged’ major parties which have presumed an entitlement to govern?

Aided and abetted by an uncaring, disinterested internet, bereft of moral scruples or ethics, facilitating the spread of ‘fake news’, ‘ false facts’ and anonymous libellous ‘blogs’, many voters now focus, when casting their votes, on “What is best for me?”, rather than “What is best for the country?”

Adding to their moral confusion is the new ‘identity politics’. Not simply the selfishness of “What is best for me?”, but also the selfishness of “What is best for people like me?”

And who, today, are ‘people like me’? Decades ago, Australian politics was torn by Catholic/Protestant rivalry. Today, in our multi-ethnic, multi-coloured, multi-religious and multi-sexual society, this last question has come to the fore. We are identifying ourselves with the narrow group to which we feel we belong (or to which, to be politically correct, we think we should belong), rather than as seeing ourselves as individuals concerned for the wellbeing of the nation as a whole.

Regrettably, many democratic electorates have, when similarly disengaged from their politicians, opted for strong leadership of one sort or another. They want to know that the person in charge actually cares about them. They turn against the democratic process to appoint, sometimes through revolution, a strong leader whom they believe will actually ‘deliver the goods’. However, as GK Chesterton put it:

“The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.”

Is the ‘Trump phenomenon’ reversible, and if so, how? How can public confidence be restored to a cadre of men and women who are held in such low esteem by the people who installed them in their powerful positions? Frighteningly, the process might only start with a strong leader prepared to clean out the Augean stables.

But then, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

‘Winning’ by Default Peter Arnold Donald Trump did not win the US election. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s an accurate description of what happened in November, 2016. All the ]]>