The Rise and Fall of Trump as Explained by Game Theory



Like pretty much all of you, I can’t take my eyes of this train wreck otherwise known as the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. On a daily basis, I often find myself typing “trump” on Google news eagerly awaiting what terrible thing he will do next to further ruin his candidacy.

One of my favorite pieces about trump was this article by Rolling Stone Magazine entitled “What Game Theory Tells Us About Donald Trump”. In it, the writer describes how Trump is basically like this four line computer program that could beat simulations of the prisoner’s dilemma. It goes like this:

“Game theorists have studied the counter-punching strategy Trump is now known for. In 1980, political scientist Robert Axelrod invited colleagues to design computer programs that would compete against each other in a contest of cooperation and betrayal known as the prisoner’s dilemma. In the game, two criminals are offered immunity to turn the other in. If only one snitches, he goes free, and the other receives a five-year sentence. If both inform on each other, they get four years. If neither talks, they get two years. The game is played repeatedly, so each player faces the same choice over and over, whether to be a nice guy who protects his accomplice or a nasty one who betrays him.

One of the tournament contestants was a four-line computer program called Tit for Tat. Its strategy was simple: Whenever the other player snitched, Tit for Tat retaliated by informing on that player in the next round. Whenever the other player kept silent, Tit for Tat returned the favor by staying mum the next round. By maximizing cooperation with “nice” players and punishing “nasty” ones, Tit for Tat outmaneuvered its opponents and won the tournament.

This election cycle, we have Tit for Trump. From politicians to journalists to pollsters, Trump is quick to praise anyone who speaks favorably of him, and even quicker to denigrate those who don’t.”

The piece goes on to explain that this was how Trump won the primaries.

“So far, the tit-for-tat strategy seems to have paid off. Trump’s reputation for ferocious counterattacks helped dissuade opponents from tangling with him early in the Republican primary. Other GOP leaders refrained from criticizing him out of fear that he would retaliate against “unfair” treatment by launching a third-party campaign. As Trump’s opponents fell behind, they were finally forced to engage. One by one, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz entered Trump’s tit-for-tat universe and went down under a hail of insults.”

Now in order to beat this four line computer program, the article recommends Hillary deploy surrogates to distract Trump and keep him off message.

“Clinton can exploit Trump’s propensity to retaliate against anyone who crosses him by deploying surrogates to batter him with a fusillade of insults. If Trump were smart, he would ignore them and focus on Clinton, but his reaction to Elizabeth Warren’s tweets suggests he cannot resist the urge to counterpunch, even when it doesn’t serve his interests. With every over-the-top smackdown, he will distract voters from his message and deflate whatever presidential gravitas he manages to muster.”

I find it amazing that this was written back in May and since the summer conventions, it’s exactly the strategy Hillary Clinton has been using to tremendous success. Since the convention, Trump has taken the bait to all of Hillary Clinton’s traps. He fueded for weeks with a gold star family when all he had to do was be quiet. Recently Hillary dropped the name of a former miss universe in the first debate, describing how Trump was being sexist to her and he again took the bait retaliating not even against Hillary but with the contestant which proved Hillary point that he was sexist.

Now Trump is completely unhinged and in a death spiral. Retaliating against every single accuser, his own party, the media.

On Thursday, Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s biggest supporter called him pathetic. “Donald Trump has one opponent. Her name is Hillary Clinton. Her name is not Paul Ryan. It’s not anybody else,” he said.

Barring a catastrophic collapse, Hillary has learned that Trump really is just this basic computer program. One that can be mastered using something that used to be his strength in the primaries: His penchant for retaliation.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s