Friday, August 30, 2019

Quickies: Minimax And Mainchance In Political Strategizing

     Every course of action has a downside. Sometimes the likelihood of that downside is what matters most to the person(s) contemplating it. Sometimes, however, it’s the depth of the pit that matters most – or should.

     The Democrats based much of their 2016 electoral strategy on defaming Donald Trump. Part of the defamation was of course the allegation that he was colluding with the Russian government to tip the election in his favor. However, that didn’t prevent Trump’s election. That put the Democrats in the awkward position of needing to defend their allegations – and those who made and propagated them – both from legal redress and in the court of public opinion. As should be unanimously acknowledged at this point, they failed on both counts, such that today several high-profile persons stand disgraced and might even face prison terms.

     The above was the heart of a mainchance strategy: i.e., betting everything on the outcome that would produce the highest return, with no provision for the consequences of losing. Mainchance planning is uncommon, as most of us would like to be reasonably certain that no matter how the dice might fall, we’ll survive what follows. Concentration on the possibility of losing results in a minimax strategy: i.e., playing so as to minimize the maximum possible damage from losing.

     The Democrats’ strategists believed, probably correctly, that winning their bet would bring them full control of Washington while exiling the Trump-led GOP to the political margins. Today, they’re suffering the consequences for losing. Those consequences will thrust them into the political wilderness for at least an election cycle. (If you doubt this, ponder their slate of presidential aspirants.) The most they can do to mitigate their suffering is to have their media allies reframe the story or strive to deflect attention from it. So far, that’s not doing much for them.

     Perhaps they should have paid more attention to the probability of losing a slanderous campaign against a well-known figure whose entire life had been reported in large type, who had nothing to lose, and who was all but guaranteed to seek retribution from those who had defamed him.

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