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Game Theory Applied to the GOP


With just over a month left until the election, this year’s presidential race continues to dominate the news cycles as it has for months. One of the prevalent ongoing stories has been the fluctuating tensions within the GOP. Many prominent Republicans have wavered in their support for Donald Trump after a series of scandals have mired his campaign. With such a great amount of the establishment having to weigh the decision to support Trump or not, it is viable to look at this phenomenon through the lens of Game Theory.

Game Theory is the branch of mathematics concerned with the analysis of strategies in for dealing with competitive situations. A competitive situation is one in which the outcome of a participant’s choice of action depends critically on the actions of other participants.

Game Theory can be used to explain the long timeline of the many different changes of heart experienced by various members of the GOP. Initially, GOP members made the competitive choice to not voice support for Trump in the primaries because he was dismissed as not a serious candidate. As he continued to win primaries and the chances of him winning the nomination grew, it became increasingly obvious to his critics that they had made the wrong choice in dismissing him. These critics were once again faced with the same game of whether to support him or not once he won the nomination, and again after every subsequent scandal. Choosing to support the nominee entailed donations, approval from Trump voters, and the possibility of appointments or access in a Trump administration. Not choosing to support Trump is a riskier decision as a Republican, but is also potentially the better long-term decision, as the likelihood of a Trump presidency grows thinner and thinner.

The decision is obviously more complex than just these two reasonings, but the thinking behind the decision remains largely the same. Republicans face an increasing amount of pressure as the election moves on, and they will be forced to decide whether they are personally better off by voicing support for their polarizing nominee or dissociating themselves from him in order to preserve their own images and ideals. Game Theory shows us the different options these GOP members face and their potential outcomes.


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