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Game Theory and Politricks

Washington Post article, What game theory tells us about Wednesday’s debate and the Republican primary, briefed its readers on the strategy behind Republican debates. According to the article, people do not vote ‘sincerely,’ instead, they choose from the candidates they believe are more likely to win the general election. Though I was able to conceptualize this idea, I was still uncertain about the ways in game theory could be applied to politics (or politricks as I’ve affectionately dubbed it).

Politricks, like many other professions, is a game and revolves more around strategy than laws and community initiatives. The name of the game in the Republican race is to make it to the top and stay there. In the political world this is considered being a front runner. Front runners in political races are in a sweet spot because they’re able to garner support, whether it be sincere or not, because, in the eyes of voters, they’re more likely to win. Moreover, no one wants to waste their vote on someone who isn’t even worthy enough to be considered a true contender in the race – this is all subjective though. Candidates looking to oppose the front runner must coordinate support in order to become a true competitor in the game of politricks. To do this, they must stand-out and become a focal candidate (or focal point). Once that is achieved, they are able to compete with the front runner and sway voters. Seems simple right? Not so fast. When you consider the way(s) in which politricks are executed the game becomes a bit more complicated.

Firstly, politricks isn’t just a two-player game. There a multiple players and games going on at once, some of whom hold massive amounts of power. It’s acceptable to say that the stakes are high. When you consider the format of Wednesday’s Republican debate, the game becomes even more convoluted. The front-runners goal is, of course, to maintain attention and support. However, the debate enabled people to speak if they were mentioned by another candidate. “Thus, by mentioning another candidate, you’re helping make that candidate a temporary focal point.” This ruled forced the candidates to think even more strategically about the explanations of their platform – raising the stakes just one notch higher.

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