It's the start of the presidential election season in the US again. In several news articles I have read this week, the phrase "political calculus" has been used. This must be an acceptable phrasing for several publications' style guides or as jargon in the domain of political science, but this particular sense is not explicit in dictionaries, and I find the meaning when I read it to be indistinct and slippery. My inclination is to substitute "calculation" and consider it jargon or flowery language except this doesn't always fit.
What exactly does "political calculus" mean?
The earlier question on this site for calculus answers "calculation" can be interchanged with "calculus" but doesn't go deeper into the "political calculus" phrase
Urban Dictionary is the only internet search result to return the phrase "political calculus", all other sources just list "calculus". I'm not convinced by the single UD definition.
- Slate.com: "That means that if the court agrees to take an abortion case right at the heart of primary season, it could be setting up the issue as a big fat loser for the GOP. Far be it from me to suggest that the justices take that kind of political calculus into account when planning their election-year dockets, but do the court’s conservatives really want to use this fall to force GOP candidates to own the worst anti-choice stereotypes?"
- Rolling Stone: "Cuomo's administration is sufficiently impenetrable that those trying to deduce his motivations are often reduced to a sort of Kremlinology of guesswork and tea-leaf scrutiny, but no one questions his strong sense of which way the wind is blowing. "The governor wakes up and looks at the political calculus, and sees if there's a need to do something," says a New York political operative who spoke on condition of anonymity."
"Calculation" doesn't work as a straight substitution. I read this as Cuomo is looking at the polling values. Maybe it's just an awkward quotation, implying if he makes a decision, then the polling will improve, by some calculation Cuomo is estimating. But if the idea is that if the polling is below a threshold, he must take an action, I don't see the calculation unless "if..then" Boolean logic is covered by the phrase.
- Financial Times: "Analysts and investors disagree, however, on just how far the rot will reach. What Puerto Rican debts may have to be restructured, and how deep the pain will be, is an extremely complex financial, legal and political calculus that has led big-name investors down differing paths."
"Calculation" mostly fits, but it seems "decision" or "process" might be more direct.
- National Journal: "On the other, it could be tough for Hoyer to vote against the vast majority of his caucus's members—members whose votes he'll need should he run to be their leader someday. Hoyer says this political calculus plays no part in his thinking. "My vote's going to be made on the substance of what I believe, not on any ramifications that it might have," he said in a Tuesday sit-down with reporters."
As a sentence, "calculation" flows, but it seems too precise unless the calculation could encompass calculating an entire statistical distribution (which, maybe it should?).
- The NY Times has a blog byline titled Political Calculus
A blog titled "Calculation" would probably not get as much click traffic. Should I just consider this embellishment?