Cory Leonard

Game Theory for the Win: Explaining Ted Cruz

In politics on July 29, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Some might say that Ted Cruz is a traitor. Others see him as a spur in Trump’s saddle. Another, more satisfying explanation is that Cruz is a rational actor (champion debater, actually), and had a strategic goal in standing up to Trump at the RNC Convention.

With that in mind, think of the GOP speakers as poker players. Trump has led the betting, and they are all holding bad cards. How will they respond? Poker pro Phil Hellmuth once reduced all poker players to five distinct types: the mouse, jackal, elephant, lion, and eagle. We don’t need to discuss all of them here, but suffice it to say that Trump is a jackal—he always bets big, regardless of the hand he’s holding. Jackals can be difficult to play against because, as in Nixon’s Mad Man theory, they don’t abide by the rational rules of poker. This makes it hard to tell if they’re bluffing, but it also makes them vulnerable to an opponent who catches good cards and isn’t afraid to bet them, because they’ll never fold but just keep raising until they’ve bet all their chips on a losing hand. But so far, Trump’s opponents have acted as mice: fundamentally weak players who are too timid to take a risk on less-than-perfect cards and fold against a more aggressive player. When mice face jackals, they tend to wait too long to make a move while the jackal slowly eats up their ante bets. Eventually they are forced to make a last-gasp bet with bad cards before they run out of chips.

via How Poker Theory Explains Ted Cruz’s Convention Speech | WIRED

A Linguistic Analysis of Political Populist-Speak

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Trump uses language differently than other candidates.(He’s on a 4th Grade level.) Here’s how he sells, according to Nerdwriter, an outstanding YouTube series:

The End of America, a la Trump (Explained by Plato)

In politics on July 27, 2016 at 11:41 pm


In case you missed it, this is one of the best bigthink pieces from Andrew Sullivan in a long time, and for internet time, this is already old. But it gets passed around because it is that good–and particularly prescient, especially in the postmortem of the RNC Conference.

Plato, of course, was not clairvoyant. His analysis of how democracy can turn into tyranny is a complex one more keyed toward ancient societies than our own (and contains more wrinkles and eddies than I can summarize here). His disdain for democratic life was fueled in no small part by the fact that a democracy had executed his mentor, Socrates. And he would, I think, have been astonished at how American democracy has been able to thrive with unprecedented stability over the last couple of centuries even as it has brought more and more people into its embrace. It remains, in my view, a miracle of constitutional craftsmanship and cultural resilience. There is no place I would rather live. But it is not immortal, nor should we assume it is immune to the forces that have endangered democracy so many times in human history.

Source: America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny — NYMag

Dothat opined on this when it came out and when Trump was still a novelty, not a cruel populist joke. (“If the republic is lucky, such a figure simply couldn’t exist”). But others saw Sullivan’s framing of Trump in Platonic terms–as elites v. uneducated–as wrongheaded and even “dangerous,” with others struggling to engage with Sullivan’s longform arguments.


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