Political Strategy

It now seems likely that:

  • In order for either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio to become the Republican nominee, he must first consolidate the anti-Trump vote, which is to say that either can succeed only if the other drops out.
  • Cruz and Rubio have approximately equal chances of driving each other out.
  • Each would prefer to drive the other out sooner rather than later — i.e. before Trump wraps this whole thing up anyway.

Given that, it seems like one of the following two things should happen at tonight’s debate:


  1. Cruz, after making an eloquent case against Trump and explaining why he thinks it’s important to keep Trump out of the White House, turns to Rubio and offers to flip a coin right on the spot. The loser drops out of the race and the winner takes on Trump.
  2. or

  3. Rubio, after making an elegant case against Trump and explaining why he thinks it’s important to keep Trump out of the White House, turns to Cruz and offers to flip a coin right on the spot. The loser drops out of the race and the winner takes on Trump.

This gives each of them only a 50% chance of survival. But if they’ve already each got only a 50% chance of survival, that’s no loss. And it substantially increases the value of survival, because it gets things over with now instead of a month from now.

If I’m wrong in saying that each currently has a 50% chance — if instead, say, Cruz has a 60% chance and Rubio a 40% chance or vice versa — then they can flip an appropriately weighted coin.

Ah, you might ask — but what if Rubio believes that Rubio has a 60% chance and Cruz believes that Cruz has a 60% chance? What then? Answer: Why should Rubio trust his own judgment any more than he trusts Cruz’s, or vice versa? They’re both equally capable of assessing these probabilities. Rubio ought to be able to say: In my opinion, I’ve got a 60% chance to drive Ted out; in Ted’s opinion he’s got a 60% chance to drive me out; the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Now I would like to make a daring prediction. I predict that this coin flip will not happen, and will not even be proposed. But I’m not sure I understand why not.


72 Responses to “Political Strategy”

  1. 1 1 Jonathan Kariv

    If they both give themselves a 60% chance I don’t think it would be too difficult to find a pseudo-coin which they both think they have a 60% chance of winning with. Say the one who wins a pingpong match/chess game/gets a higher score on your freshman economics exam etc

  2. 2 2 Advo

    “Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.”

    - Keynes

    The coin flip won’t happen because human beings are not primarily rational utility maximizers. They just seem to be most of the time, but that’s an illusion.
    Social conditioning tends to take precedence over rational decision making.
    Actions which are completely outside of societal experience are simply not even considered by the vast majority of humans (people with social disorders such as Asperger’s or ADHD are an exception to this rule).
    The coin flip won’t happen because no one has ever done it before, and none but those with some kind of behavioral dysfunction will be able to set such a precedent.

  3. 3 3 David Pinto

    In order to put yourself on display in public, you need a big ego. Actors, athletes, news anchors, trial lawyers, priests, all have this ego, especially the great ones. That ego does not have a failure mode. They are all Captain Kirk, who doesn’t believe in the no-win scenario. That’s why the coin flip won’t happen.

  4. 4 4 Alex

    Public perception of such an act will greatly affect their careers. I’d guess it’s the same reason that football coaches don’t go for it on 4th down nearly as often as the probabilities dictate.

  5. 5 5 David R. Henderson

    I think David Pinto has the closest to right answer. Beyond that, I also think that the candidates would think, probably correctly, that whoever wins the coin toss would lose some permanent credibility because many people would say, “I can’t believe you are so uncommitted that you were willing to risk it over a coin toss.” Those people would be wrong, but they vote.

  6. 6 6 Matt

    Given where the polls currently stand, barring the public suddenly taking an interest in the Trump University fraud case, the failed real estate developments where people lost their life savings, or any of a number of skeletons in Trump’s (yuuge, luxurious) closet, the only way Trump is denied a plurality, if not an outright majority of delegates requires candidates to behave in bizarre and improbable ways.

    Cruz would need to beat Trump in TX (probable), then immediately drop out (improbable). Kasich would need to beat Trump in OH (possible), then immediately drop out (improbable). Rubio would have to win FL (currently looking unlikely), then run most of the rest of the table in a two-man race.

  7. 7 7 Ken B

    Well the coin flip wouldn’t work. Does that matter to the argument?

    I can imagine a lot of Cruz supporters will indeed move to Rubio if Cruz drops out. But they won’t be bartered or sold to Rubio. They do not see their support as belonging to Cruz to be traded, sold, or flipped over.

    And I cannot see any politician having a future if he acted on the assumption that he could barter his supporters.

    So Steve’s question really is, why don’t Rubio and Cruz torch their careers for no purpose? I think I have an answer for that.

  8. 8 8 entirelyuseless

    Prediction markets give Rubio a much higher chance than Cruz of getting the nomination. So Rubio could argue that there is an objective outside standard supporting his side.

    Of course, that still doesn’t give any reason not to use a weighted coin.

  9. 9 9 Alan Wexelblat

    While agreeing with the gist of previous comments (people aren’t rational and this is about ego more than anything else). I would also say that even a rational actor needs to consider not only their present vector but at least its first derivative.

    Rubio, for example, can see that his rate of acquiring endorsements and contributions is increasing. He might rationally conclude that although tonight he has a 50% chance, in a few days he is likely to have a 60% chance. Therefore, it’s in his rational interest to delay the coin flip so long as the first derivative is moving in a direction he perceives as favorable.

    Cruz is just about the ego. Remember that this is the guy who was willing to fight essentially his entire own party in order to risk shutting down the US Government. I cannot for the life of me figure out what would motivate a person that ruled by ego to quit this race, never mind turn his fate over to a coin flip, however weighted.

  10. 10 10 Zazooba

    Ken B is right.

    A large chunk of Cruz supporters, probably a majority, would go to Trump, not Rubio. Same for Rubio’s supporters (a lot of Rubio supporters don’t like Cruz’s religious views and pro-choice Rubio supporters would mostly go to Trump.)

    That said, a coin flip would still give each of them a better shot at winning. P(R|no flip) + P(C|no flip) < P(R|flip) + P(C|flip).

    More importantly though, C and R are in a multi-period game. Both are young and can run again many more times. For R especially this is his training-wheels campaign. By staying in, R gets a lot more public exposure and he becomes by default a front runner next time. Might even be better for him to lose the nomination this time and be a better candidate next time. If he is nominated and loses the general, it will be harder for him to run next time. By losing the nomination to T, he can say "Told you so" when T loses the general.

  11. 11 11 Roger

    Several good reasons are given, and a few bad ones.

    If Cruz drops, Trump wins Texas. If Rubio drops, Trump wins Florida. If Kasich drops, Trump wins Ohio. No one has a strategy to beat Trump.

    Why didn’t FDR challenge Hitler to a coin toss, and save the trouble of fighting a bloody war?

    More plausible is the secret deal. That sometimes happens. Eg, Kasich could drop in exchange for being VP. But he would rather make that deal with Trump, and not Rubio or Cruz, as Rubio and Cruz are now considered longshots.

  12. 12 12 Joe Greene

    It seems like another rational outcome would be that they flip a coin and the loser becomes the winner’s VP. Not going to happen because of irrationality and ego.

  13. 13 13 Jon Shea

    My understanding is that delegates who are pledged to a candidate that drops out of the race become “uncommitted”, and they may cast their votes for whoever they like at the national convention. So Cruz and Rubio can both stay in the election through June. Presumable the candidate with fewer committed delegates will drop out before the convention in July, and the remaining candidates will have to vie for the liberated delegates.

  14. 14 14 Richard R

    Hopefully they’ll both drop out

  15. 15 15 Mac Tonight

    Why leave this up to a coin? Cruz and Rubio can agree that whoever garners fewer delegates, or total votes, or whatever metric you agree in advance for assessing relative popularity, on the next primary day drops out. I understand that includes Texas which would seem to benefit Cruz, but they can negotiate that point away, too.

  16. 16 16 Daniel

    My prediction at the beginning of this campaign season was that it would be Clinton v Rubio. Only through vast ineptitude of the Republican party officials have we seen that most likely outcome perish in flames. What you propose (in private rather than in public) is exactly what they need to do but as has been the case throughout this entire campaign Republican officials are exactly one step behind then curve. The debate last night while lively will not be enough. In doing so the Republican party has put us in a position to possibly have a leader that the world disrespects immensely and who’s judgement is anyone’s guess.

  17. 17 17 Advo

    The best way to go about eliminating some of the GOP aspirants might be via some more traditionals means.
    Like a duel.
    It wasn’t too long ago that US politicians thought nothing of shooting each other.
    It would be only appropriate given the right’s gun fetish.
    If it was good enough for Hamilton, it’s certainly good enough for Rubio (or Cruz).

  18. 18 18 Enrique Guerra-Pujol

    I like this coin-toss hypothetical, but the reason why it won’t occur is that Cruz and Rubio appear to be locked in a prisoner’s dilemma: both would be better off cooperating (i.e. agreeing to the coin toss), but the logic of defection (i.e. “I stay in; the other guy drops out”) results in mutual defection (both stay in and both lose).

  19. 19 19 Ken B

    18 is cute but could not be more wrong. They are not in a one time game. They have careers and future elections.

  20. 20 20 Ken B

    Republican officials? What should they have done, poisoned Trump? Sent drones after him? It’s voters who have made Trump the nominee.

  21. 21 21 Advo

    >>>In doing so the Republican party has put us in a position to possibly have a leader that the world disrespects immensely and who’s judgement is anyone’s guess.<<<

    That's not actually any different from the Bush presidency, is it?

  22. 22 22 nivedita

    Worth thinking about the fact that if they were two companies competing against a bigger rival, this would likely be illegal.

  23. 23 23 Daniel

    @Ken B,

    They could have made an earlier effort to take Trump on more directly. They got distracted by Ted Cruz in Iowa and spent a lot of capital trying to take him down when they should have been focusing on Trump.

  24. 24 24 Daniel


    I don’t think Bush was disrespected from the start. He lost respect through years of incompetence. Furthermore he was not nearly as dangerous. He wasn’t a blatant xenophobe and suspected racist.

  25. 25 25 Harold

    @Advo. From outside, I don’t think Bush was disrespected as much as Trump now is.

    KenB. Even if this is a multiple shot game, why should tossing a coin result in a net loss in the future? Why do th evoters not recognise the brilliance of a win-maximising strategy, and increase support for the tosser? (Coin tosser that is, not Trump)

  26. 26 26 Advo


    You are right, of course. In 2001, foreign countries tended to think that Bush II would be sort of like Bush I, and Bush I had certainly been respected abroad (despite the 1st Iraq war). Around 2005/2006, however, the level of contempt foreigners felt for the Bush II government outstripped the current negative attitude towards Trump by a fair margin. At least that’s my impression (as a German).

    But yes, in some ways, at least, the current crop of GOP candidates makes Bush II look like a statesman.

    But we (foreigners) also understand two things:

    1. Trump is simply harvesting what the GOP has sown in recent years with its apocalyptic, hysteric, anti-minority, anti-Muslim, anti-everything that’s not white-male-heterosexual-propaganda. There’s no fundamental difference between Trump’s xenophobia and the GOP’s xenophobia. Trump’s just been louder and more blatant about it. Hysterical anti-Muslim hate propaganda has been a big part of GOP political strategy in recent years (remember the “victory mosque”?).
    Under Bush II, that wasn’t the case (he relied on anti-gay hate propaganda).

    2. Trump isn’t the only one who’s being politically successful running a xenophobic political campaign. There’s a lot of that going on in Europe, and what’s more, the mainstream has become much more aware of the disadvantages and problems of letting in large numbers of people who don’t speak the language, have no marketable skills but instead a set of moral values that is positively medieval.
    So the view Europeans have of Trump is not nearly as negative as it would have been only 10 years ago.

  27. 27 27 Ken B

    @Harold 25 “why should tossing a coin result in a net loss in the future?”

    As I explained, tossing a coin inherently implies that your supporters are yours to bestow, and I think most supporters would object. But sticking to your guns wins loyalty in the longer term.

    I think Steve has in the back of his mind the movie The Best Man. The better guide is Mr Smith Goes To Washington.


  28. 28 28 Daniel

    If there is any question about Trump’s judgement, witness his current campaign strategy to knock cruz out in Texas? Is this a reasonable approach when he is the main beneficiary of a split opposition? If his campaign knew game theory they’d know even if a candidate is the last best choice of 51% of voters in a first past the post system these individuals can sometimes win. However this strategy works better only if there are multiple opposition candidates. This is undoubtedly why Trump is currently winning. My guess is that Trump either 1. Is trying to lose or 2. Is winning this thing entirely by accident.

  29. 29 29 Enrique Guerra-Pujol

    Ken B (#19): But for all practical purposes, this is not only a one time game (the next presidential primary is four years from now), the last round of this game is approaching very quickly, as it appears that Trump will wrap up his nomination in a matter of weeks unless one of the two second-best contenders drops out.

  30. 30 30 Zazooba


    “Trump is simply harvesting what the GOP has sown in recent years with its apocalyptic, hysteric, anti-minority, anti-Muslim, anti-everything that’s not white-male-heterosexual-propaganda…. In Europe … the mainstream has become much more aware of the disadvantages and problems of letting in large numbers of people who don’t speak the language, have no marketable skills but instead a set of moral values that is positively medieval.”

    Perhaps your views on immigration are evolving. Perhaps the next step in the evolution is to consider the possibility that Trump’s views are not entirely irrational given that the European mainstream now has a somewhat similar view.

  31. 31 31 nobody.really

    Landsburg’s strategy seems sound to me. After all, the idea of one candidate bowing out to a rival just to keep from splitting the party’s vote is
    hardly unprecedented.

    (“What about the polls?”
    “For Pete’s sake, Ginny, they’re mad at Ford, not you!”
    This refers to the fact that during a debate, Pres. Ford suggested that Poland was not a member of the Warsaw Pact nations under Soviet domination — thereby pissing off Polish Americans on the eve of the election.)

  32. 32 32 iceman

    @Daniel – you’re surely correct that divided opposition has gotten The Donald to this point, but if there’s now a chance to knock them both out by winning their home states then perhaps it’s not so crazy to try to eliminate the remaining risk of a ‘brokered convention’? At some point perhaps it’s OK to go for the establishment throat

    @Advo – seems like propaganda is also claiming one of the two major parties is “anti-everything that is not white male heterosexual”…case in point for my suggestion in the previous post that “the tenet that belief in limited government means one doesn’t care about people [and other related ad hominem attacks]…is currently the biggest contributor to our dysfunctional public discourse”

  33. 33 33 Ken B

    Why should Cruz and Rubio agree with your implicit premises

    1) that stopping Trump is the only thing that matters
    2) there will never be another election for either of them
    3) their behaviour has no effect on how future voters see them

    Because unless they accept all of these, they won’t see themselves as playing a one time game. They will see themselves as making a costly, futile gesture, and losing the long term game that they have already been playing for years.

  34. 34 34 Ken B

    @32 iceman
    Well, I think Advo’s two minute hate is really just an example of ad hominem staight up, unconnected to any policy belief. Our side/their side. And he apparently thinks it a strong enough argument to post it even on a site like TBQ, not just the usual echo chamber. He’s out in public, in his Sunday best.

  35. 35 35 Advo


    Trump’s views are obviously not entirely irrational (not even his views on free trade or what passes for it today).
    But in the mind of many Trump supporters (and also many GOP-supporters who don’t like Trump) substantial parts of Europe are already subject to Sharia law, for example. There is a serious disconnect from reality and a visceral hatred of Muslims.

    @Ken B:
    Exactly what did I say that was wrong? Was anti-gay propaganda not a big part of Bush’s 2006 re-election campaign? Do you remember the Defense of Marriage Act? I guess it has already been forgotten that “homosexuals are attacking marriage”. Below is a link to a GOP candidate’s campaign ad from 2006 which really ticks all the boxes of the GOP election strategy (except for the “War on Christmas”).
    “Homosexuals are mocking holy matrimony” and “lesbians and feminists are attacking everything sacred”.


    If you look at this video, Trump seems downright moderate. I know that it offends people if it is pointed out that bigotry directed against various minorities has been an important part of GOP tactics since Nixon’s Southern Strategy pried the South from the Democrats, but I don’t really see how you can deny it.

    I suppose if you’re an American you sort of grew up with this and it’s not so visible. Foreigners look at things like the “Defense of Marriage Act” and in particular the hate-filled language that accompanied it and are horrified.

  36. 36 36 Advo

    But yes, I guess I shouldn’t be talking about this on TBQ. But then, isn’t that a big part of the problem? That it’s not considered polite for reasonable, moderate, educated people to talk about the less savory aspects of the GOP’s election strategy?

  37. 37 37 Ken B

    Advo, some advice. Stop digging. You apparently don’t even know that DOMA was passed with a majority of each party and signed by Clinton. Or that Bush was not re-elected in 2006.

  38. 38 38 Daniel

    @ Iceman,

    No, No, No. Most primaries after March 15th are winner take all. He won’t need to win each state by much, the key for him is just to win them for him to win the nomination. This will happen if there are more candidates in the race. It may not happen if there are less. A brokered convention could only happen if Cruz gets out and Rubio and Trump split the winner taoe all states. It is good for Trump for Cruz to still be in this.

  39. 39 39 Advo

    yes, I confused the DOMA with the GOP’s mid-00 attempts for a constitutional anti-gay marriage amendment. Embarrassing, to be sure.

    But you’re failing to address the main point. The theme that “gays are attacking marriage” was a major theme of the GOP’s campaigns in the 2004 and the 2006.
    Is that true or not?

  40. 40 40 Harold

    KenB “DOMA was passed with a majority of each party and signed by Clinton.” Just because both parties end up endorsing a policy does not mean that it was not a succesful election strategy of one party.

    Whether or not voters would see their candidate backing out to keep out Trump depends on whether the voters share the view of the candidates that Trump is the worst option, indicated by “Cruz [Rubio], after making an eloquent case against Trump and explaining why he thinks it’s important to keep Trump out of the White House…”

    Why would their supporters not be persuaded by their eloquence? Why would their supporters not consider that the best way to get more of theor prefered policies into action is by their candidate offering a 50% chance of proceding, but a much greater chance of Not Trump.

    You say they would see it as viewing the voters as theors to bestow, but that is not the only interpretation, and there is no inherent rerason why the vopters should not look upon it with favor. Your assertion that this is how they would view it does not answer the question.

  41. 41 41 Rob

    Pride. That’s why not. To resort to cooperation in order to beat Trump would be too much of a blow to their pride for them to do it despite the potentially great reward in front of them if they go through with it.

    That’s one theory.

    Another theory is that instead of a coin-toss they are playing a sort of ‘chicken’ to determine who will drop.

  42. 42 42 Ken B

    Harold, you want a mathematical proof of how a few million voters will react? Your scenario is not impossible, only unprecedented and implausible.

  43. 43 43 Ken B

    Advo 39
    Even if true it does not justify the wild claims you made in your earlier screed.

    But I agree with you that Bush, Hillary, and Obama, were in the wrong opposing gay marriage. Trump of course supported it, which rather undercuts your rant.

  44. 44 44 Advo

    my point is that the GOP in their election campaigns always tends to be beating on one minority or the other. It used be blacks (Southern Strategy, Willie Horton) then it was gays, and now it’s Muslims. Latino immigrants have been a target on and off for a while.
    Supposedly, America is “under siege” from all of these minorities.

    The only group (by ethnicity/sexual orientation) the GOP hasn’t been propagandizing against at one point or another is white heterosexuals.

    While many Democrats were against gay marriage, the Democratic party overall, as far as I know, has not similarly targeted minorities in their political campaigns. At least not since the 60s.

  45. 45 45 nobody.really

    Most primaries after March 15th are winner take all. He won’t need to win each state by much, the key for him is just to win them for him to win the nomination. This will happen if there are more candidates in the race. It may not happen if there are less. A brokered convention could only happen if Cruz gets out and Rubio and Trump split the winner take all states. It is good for Trump for Cruz to still be in this.

    What a tricky problem of game theory.

    1: Assume you want the Republicans to win the White House, and you’re persuaded that Trump would lose. How to stop Trump from winning the Republican nomination? The goal would not be to help some other candidate win more delegates than Trump. Rather, the goal would be to keep Trump from getting the number of delegates needed to avoid a brokered convention, and then do some back-room deal to get a different candidate on the ballot. But here’s the rub:

    In a winner-take-all contest, the front-runner benefits by facing a divided opposition. So if your goal is to minimize the number of new delegates that Trump wins, it arguably makes sense for all but one opponent to drop out.

    BUT – what happens to the OLD delegates that were won by the candidates that drop out? Do they then become free agents at a convention? And how many of them would migrate to Trump’s camp?

    So to implement a strategy of minimizing the total number of Trump delegates, not merely the number of NEW delegates going to Trump, arguably we’d want all but one rival candidate to “drop out” in the sense of signaling that they don’t want to get any more votes in future primaries. But we would not want these rivals to “drop out” in any sense that would release the delegates that they’ve already won.

    2. Polling suggests that Trump could not beat either Clinton or Sanders, so the Republicans might have little to lose in a brokered convention. True, Trump might then carry through with his threat to run as a third-party candidate, which would seem to doom the Republicans’s hope for the White House, but that hope seems to be doomed in any event. Unless….

    3. What if Bloomberg ran as a third-party candidate? He said he’d only jump in if the Democrats picked Sanders.

    A. If he were running against Republican Trump and Democrat Sanders, he might attract a lot of establishment-type voters from both parties. Hard to say who he would hurt more – or even if he might win? But this is one of only two scenarios I see for Trump to win the White House.

    B. If he were running against Republican Rubio and Democrat Sanders, I expect Bloomberg would pull more Democratic votes, which might help Rubio.

    C. What if Bloomberg ran as a third-party candidate – and Trump ran as a fourth-party candidate – against Republican Rubio and Democrat Sanders? This would be a complete toss-up – and would be the other scenario I see for Trump to win the White House.

  46. 46 46 Daniel


    “BUT – what happens to the OLD delegates that were won by the candidates that drop out? Do they then become free agents at a convention? And how many of them would migrate to Trump’s camp?”

    On the first ballot they remain bound (even more severe then pledged, they physically can not vote for another candidate). And so even when candidates drop out they will still receive votes on the first round.

  47. 47 47 nobody.really

    According to USA Today, the Rubio campaign is acknowledging that for Rubio to win, “Rubio needs Sen. Ted Cruz — and probably Ohio Gov. John Kasich — to continue campaigning to collectively deny Donald Trump the 1,237 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination.

    Basically, all the candidates but Trump now have a common interest in supporting each other. This dynamic could give rise to all kinds of unconventional strategies. For example, Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich might kick in funds to keep Carson in the race.

    But, acknowledging the concerns Daniel raised, the article adds:

    The risk Rubio runs if the field remains crowded is that Trump need only win a plurality of the vote to secure all of Florida’s 99 delegates.

    Currently Trump has a commanding lead in Florida polls. Moreover, various commentators suggest that if Rubio can’t win his home state of Florida, this would end not only Rubio’s current presidential bid but also his political career.

    Given this dynamic, I could envision Rubio pursuing one of two strategies:

    A. He could make a last-ditch stand in Florida, dumping every resource he has into the fight of his political life.

    B. Or he could employ Landsburg’s strategy of organizing all of Trump’s rivals to pick lots to see which of them should continue as the non-Trump candidate, with all the others dropping out. Rubio’s goal in adopting Landsburg’s strategy would not be to defeat Trump, but to find a face-saving way to bow out of the race and avoid a bet-the-career fight he now seems likely to lose.

  48. 48 48 Harold

    KenB Steve finishes his post “But I’m not sure I understand why not.” I think your explanation only goes half way. Why do people not reward rational utility maximising behavior in their candidate?

  49. 49 49 Ken B

    @Harold 48
    Now that’s a better question!
    I can suggest some ideas.
    Trust is the big one. If Rubio and Cruz were leaders who had earned a deep trust from their followers then it might work. But he average voter will always wonder if the guy is a charlatan, a fool, or on the take. And that will never change for all the reasons behind “rational ignorance.” Not just those reasons but impersonality. I have never even met any of these guys. Hard to build a deep trust (and that’s a good thing. People who are fanatic about politicians are a danger.)

  50. 50 50 Ken B

    This is one of the rare cases where, due to the winner take all rule in many of the primaries, the withdrawal method works best.

  51. 51 51 iceman

    Advo – I think you’re not being particularly objective or charitable – which is an aspirational theme on this blog – but rather buying wholesale into the narrative of casting policy differences at every opportunity as raw, unprincipled vendettas against some group (with all the ill motives that entails). To wit the “war on women” — despite the fact that both genders have consistently been about evenly divided on the issue of abortion. At the same time, you seem to give a free pass to what we could analogously characterize as the left’s ubiquitous go-to version of “beating on a minority”: classism…you know, denigrating a particular group of people based on an observable characteristic (in this case their bank account). The operative slogan is even the 99% versus the 1%. Serious question — what exactly are the categorical differences between this and other “isms”?

    Of course primary-season politics is as messy as it gets, but if you care to look hard enough they’re all playing the same game.

  52. 52 52 nobody.really

    This is one of the rare cases where, due to the winner take all rule in many of the primaries, the withdrawal method works best.

    That’s what my priest keeps saying. But I’m using contraceptives anyway.

  53. 53 53 Ken B

    To expand on iceman’s 51, let’s take gay marriage, the example you obsess over. Onecan oppose gay marriage without hating gay people. I oppose mother-son marriage but hate neither mothers nor sons.
    For many people marriage is a religious sacrament, and they believe only god gets to set the rules for sacraments. They also believe laws should reflect that. We get to make the rules on parking and taxes, but god gets to make them on marriage because marriage is special.
    Now I think they are making a few mistakes here, and I have spent a lot of time getting people very angry at me on the internet pointing out their mistakes. But error isn’t animus. You can believe all those things and neither be a hater nor a bigot. Yet you represent otherwise — and in your case I do believe it’s because of animus.

  54. 54 54 Enrique Guerra-Pujol

    To Ken B (#33): Your point is well taken: elections are an iterated or repeat game since there are presidential elections every four years and since both Cruz and Rubio want to win in a future election if they can’t win this year. But there are two reasons why I would model the decision whether to accept Landsburg’s coin toss as a one-period game: First, there is a lot of uncertainty in politics. If either (or both) Cruz or Rubio lose in this election, they may not be contenders in the next election cycle. Secondly, the stakes in this election are not only huge (after all, we are talking about the presidency, not a mere Senate or House seat), winning the nomination is within Cruz or Rubio’s reach if the other drops out or if Trump commits a major blunder. As I see it, these two factors might cause them to shorten their time horizons …

  55. 55 55 Daniel

    I take back what I said before. Mitt Romney charted the perfect strategy forward in depriving Trump the nomination, but it will take proper signalling between candidates and I’m afraid if they don’t execute well it could backfire.

    Essentially, Cruz and Kasich tell their supporters to support Rubio in highly educated states; Rubio and Kasich tell their supporters to support Cruz in the evangelical states; and Rubio and Cruz tell their supporters to support Kasich in the rust belt states. This strategy has the advantage of playing to each candidates strengths in the States where they can have a better chance of winning. If executed correctly this has the potential to be even more effective than a 1 on 1 strategy. Yes it necessarily means that the Republicans will have a brokered convention but the alternative at this point is a Trump nomination with 100% certainty.

  56. 56 56 Advo


    For the record – I think the the term “war on women” is silly. “War on feminism” or “war on gender equality” would be a better term, although still somewhat exaggerated.

    But it’s not me who’s promoting “the narrative of casting policy differences at every opportunity as raw … vendettas”
    That’s just the way the GOP has been portraying all of the major policy debates over the last decade or so.
    If you look at gay marriage, how did the GOP portray it? It portrayed it as an attempt by the gay movement – which is of course evil – to tear apart the fabric of Western Civilization.

    Again, watch this campaign ad, it illustrates very well the GOP narrative:

    This language, this narrative is not an accident. It’s not just individual GOP politicians getting a bit carried away. This is systematic and consistent and it’s been going on at least since Nixon went for the Southern Strategy.

    It’s always white Christian America being under siege by an array of dark forces. Socialism. Gays. Feminazis. Islam. Blacks. Latino immigrants.

    Just look at the GOP line on Obama. “Not an American”. “I don’t think he loves this country”. And of course he’s a Muslim, not a Christian.

  57. 57 57 Harold

    Is there a difference between opposing father/daughter marriage and not hating fathers and daughters, and opposing gay marriage, whilst not hating gays? I feel there is, but where does the difference lie?

    Taking father/daughter marriage – why does one oppose this? There are genetic problems with offspring. There is a very real concern that power differences within the relationship may limit the “freedom” of the daughter to consent. This could quite easily lead to abusive relationships. The latter applies in adoptive relationships. None of these apply to gay marriage any more than straight marriage.

    The reasons you suggest for opposing gay marriage are different, and actually amount to what the person believes is a “justified hating” of gays. They “hate” gays becasue they believe god does not approve of their relationship. That is very different from opposing parent/child marriages.

  58. 58 58 Ken B

    In secret perhaps. the “backroom boys” knew a thing or two.

  59. 59 59 Ken B

    Harold 57
    Some do hate gay sex. But not all do, it isn’t a requirement. (Some say they do and sample it anyway.)
    But you are conceding my point. There are reasons to oppose sibling marriage other than hatred of siblings. People who view marriage as a sacrament — and I think you need to look this up, what sacrament really means — have a reason too. I think their reasons are bad, but maybe some geneticist finds your reasons weak. Would that make you a hater. (And while we are on the topic, don’t express your view on campus: you will be called a hated of those with such genetic abnormalities). What matters for *this* debate is that each has a reason other than animus.

  60. 60 60 nobody.really

    Some do hate gay sex.

    Maybe they just didn’t do it right? You know, there are plenty of instructional videos….

  61. 61 61 iceman

    @55 – so perhaps not so crazy for Trump to go for the double knockout…on the other hand…

    @54 “if Trump commits a major blunder” – an event that at least in any normal year would seem sufficiently likely that one could hardly blame any of the candidates for wanting to stay in the game as long as possible, while collectively try to push his buttons as much as possible

    “— which is of course evil —“
    And throwing that in is what I’m talkin’ about. Couldn’t a sweet loving person be concerned that something is bad for the “fabric of our society”? See also 53 and 59. The ‘charitable discourse’ rule is that if there’s a legitimate ‘non-hating’ reason someone can say they hold a particular view, you’re required to give the benefit of the doubt and address the issue on those grounds. Otherwise you’re just name-calling. Think of it as a kind of ‘rational basis doctrine’ for non-jurists.

    As I said, of course primary campaign season provides lots of material to feel less charitable about, on all sides. But I would again ask you to distinguish the levering of class envy from the other “isms” you find objectionable. That’s been systematic and consistent going back at least to FDR. Maybe sometimes people feel “under siege” because they’re being publicly vilified by vote-trollers who fan the flames of all the ‘tribal’ tensions out there (even as they’re gradually being assimilated away, god willing). Try to take a 360-view on this one. Everyone is playing the same game.

    Have a good weekend all

  62. 62 62 Daniel


    My problem before was that I was assuming non-cooperation. Once you assume cooperation against Trump the strategy becomes more clear.

  63. 63 63 Advo


    I’m not the one calling the “gay agenda” evil. And not everyone on the GOP side is, either.
    But there are lots on the GOP side who do just that. Are you denying that?

  64. 64 64 Harold

    Ken B “People who view marriage as a sacrament — and I think you need to look this up, what sacrament really means — have a reason too.”

    I am not so sure. Matrimony is not a sacrament in many protestant denominations, it is in Catholicism. Yet catholics seem undisturbed by non-catholics marrying in protestant churches, synagogues, mosques, register ofices etc. Why should they be concerned about non catholic same sex couples marrying, as long as it was not a catholic ceremony? Why does that disturb their view of Catholic sacremental marriage, which they can consider in any way they wish?

    “but maybe some geneticist finds your reasons weak.”

    There is overwhelming evidence of inheritance of recessive traits that result in health problems. No geneticist would think that evidence weak. They may think that this was no reason to prevent sibling or parental marriage, but they would not question the evidence, just the conclusion. We cannot get an “ought” from an “is”, but we should not question the “is” when evidence is overwhelming.

    In the case of the religious condemner of gay marriage, what exactly is the “is” from which the “ought” of not allowing marriage follows? Most versions I come up with all end up being a disguised “hatred” of gays, where “hate” is used with a very wide definition. Basically, “I am justified in hating gays becasue God hates gays”. However, I am open to a non-hating interpretation if you can provide one. There are some – such as same sex people marrying will endanger their chance of salvation, but that sort of comes down to “god hates gays” really.

  65. 65 65 Zazooba


    Concern about immigration into the US is quite widespread. It is not a fringe thing.

    “Sixty-one percent of Americans agree that “continued immigration into the country jeopardizes the United States,” according to a new poll commissioned by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney that revealed pessimism across a wide range of issues.”


  66. 66 66 Harold

    “And while we are on the topic, don’t express your view on campus: you will be called a hated of those with such genetic abnormalities”

    This is an interesting aspect. Most parents and carers of children with genetic abnormalities, such as Down’s, very much love their children, and the children themselves are often happy and fulfilled individuals. Nonetheless, almost nobody would choose to have a child with Down’s Syndrome, and one would have to suspect their motives if they did.

    Does this mean we hate children with Down’s syndrome? There are many that think that to test a fetus for Down’s with a view to abortion is immoral, and that this de-values those currently living with the condition. I think there is some truth in this, and taking a wide enough view of “hate” we are de-valuing those with Down’s, so we could call this hate. We think they are worth less in some way than those without the condition. After all, destroying them is quite severe censure.

    We could also say that few parents would choose a child that was homosexual. I think it is also true that far fewer parents would abort a fetus if we had a pre-natal test for homosexuality (than for a test for Down’s). But can you imagine the uproar if abortion were offered in the case of a positive test?

    Zazooba “Concern about immigration into the US is quite widespread. It is not a fringe thing.”
    How much is that becasue politicians keep talking about it as though it were a big problem?

  67. 67 67 Ken B

    @Harold 66:
    “How much is that becasue politicians keep talking about it as though it were a big problem?”
    Interesting. You know a lot of people with such a high regard for politicians that they wait to hear what a candidate says before forming an emotional reaction to an important issue?
    I on the other hand can name lots of politicians who follow polls and change their views to attract voters.

  68. 68 68 Zazooba


    “How much [of the concern about immigration] is because politicians keep talking about it as though it were a big problem?”

    Polls have shown significant levels of concern about immigration for quite a few years now, and before Trump, there wasn’t much in the way of politicians talking about the downsides of immigration. So, people’s concerns predate the current political discussion. I think the change is due to the migration into Europe last year. There aren’t many people saying European migration is an unalloyed benefit to Europeans anymore.

  69. 69 69 Ken B

    Well, there’s Steve.

  70. 70 70 Advo


    Steve hasn’t been very vocal about the benefits of unrestricted immigration either recently.
    Perhaps he’s changed his mind.

  71. 71 71 Harold

    “Steve hasn’t been very vocal about the benefits of unrestricted immigration either recently.”
    I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I don’t think he has ever advocated unrestricted immigration. Only that marginal analysis at the moment indicates more immigration would be good now. It is possible that this could change with some level of immigration, and Steve has not denied this.

    With regard to politicians and immigration, I think there is a politics / media circus. I don’t know what the media is like in the USA in detail, but certain organs over here have a constant drip feed of anti-immigration, as much by what stories are selected to publish. For example, a newspaper that only published stories about immigrants commiting crime and did not publish stories about natives commiting crime would create an impression of an immigrant crimewave, without saying a single lie. This is because fear of the other is a pretty basic instinct, and it is not hard to appeal to these fears. Politicians can get on board this and exacerbate the situation, giving the low-lifes in the media more excuses to publish these stories.

    There are genuine issues regarding immigration. I don’t think these are given much of an airing by media or politicians.

  72. 72 72 iceman

    Advo 63 – I have no idea what proportion that is (even if they’d admit to it); does it even matter to you whether it’s most or a fringe? Your language certainly suggests you think you know. I’m saying if other ‘policy’ reasons are on the table, playing pop psychologist is a cop-out. I’m not sure what part of “charitable” you’re missing. It’s a two-fer: we elevate our discourse and have a better (at least some) chance of persuading others through persuasion.

    Still waiting for a distinction with classism
    Also I see little difference between “war on women” and “war on gender equality”…”war on feminism” might be getting closer

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