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The Nash Equilibrium of Trump and Obama’s Midterm Strategies

With the midterms fast approaching, former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump have begun pushing to appeal to voters with very different strategies and messages. While Obama urged a return to traditional conventions of democracy during his speech at Illinois, President Trump has remained steadfast in shunning convention. The article noted the completely opposing strategies that these two employed to appeal to their voter bases.

From reading this article, I felt that a variation on the Hawk and Dove game could be constructed from Obama and Trump’s midterm strategies.

We have two players: Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

They each have two strategies available to them: Taking the stance of the more diplomatic “Dove”, which stands in agreement with conventions; or, taking the aggressive and disruptive stance of the “Hawk”, which opposes conventional operations in the White House.

The payoffs of each strategy are difficult to quantify, but the strategies that each person will take are quite clear based on social expectations and projected payoffs.

First, we can look at what Obama’s strategy should be: If Donald Trump plays the strategy of a conciliatory “Dove”, then Obama will still play the strategy of the “Dove” because he will appear to have been correct in encouraging convention and diplomacy. If Trump plays the “Hawk” strategy, then Obama will still play the “Dove” in order to maintain the Democratic Party’ current attempts at appearing as a voice of reason in the midst of Trump’s volatile behavior. Therefore, we can conclude that being a “Dove” is Obama’s dominant strategy.

A similar situation occurs with Trump: If Obama attempts the “Hawk” strategy, then Trump can say that he was right all along to be distrustful of the government and disruptive of White House conventions. If Obama plays the “Dove” strategy, then it is Trump’s best interest to maintain the strategy that won him the 2016 election; to be an aggressive “Hawk”. Therefore, being a “Hawk” is Trump’s dominant strategy.

Now that we know the two individuals’ dominant strategies, it becomes immediately apparent that Trump and Obama have a Nash Equilibrium where Obama plays the “Dove” strategy and Trump plays the “Hawk” strategy, which is exactly what we see demonstrated in the tones of the two men’s comments and speeches for the midterms thus far.




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