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There's a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine called A Dictator's Handbook for the President by Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, two political science professors who have employed political game theory. (I corresponded briefly with de Mesquita, as reported in The Jesus Christ of Political Game Theory on the Stupidity of Lesser Evilist Voting).

The authors describe the following 5 rules, describe how they've been used by various dictators, and then relate that to US political history of both Democrats and Republicans:

Rule 1: Keep the winning coalition as small as possible.
Rule 2: Keep the selectorate as large as possible.
Rule 3: Control the flow of revenue.
Rule 4: Pay key supporters just enough to keep them loyal.
Rule 5: Never take money out of your supporter's pockets to make the people's lives better.

I'm not 100% clear what "selectorate" means, but it appears to mean the number of different groups of voters (in a democracy) or, more generally, supporters, that can be played off against each other by the person or group in power, to generate a selfish sort of 'loyalty'.

I found the following:

Just like autocrats and tyrants, leaders of democratic countries follow the Five Rules of politics as best as they can -- they, too, want to get power and keep it. The conventional impression that democrats and autocrats are worlds apart stems only from the different constraints they face. Those who rely on a large coalition -- democrats -- have to be more creative than their autocratic counterparts and thus they succeed less often. The proof? Even though they generally provide a much higher standard of living for their citizens than do tyrants, democratic leaders generally have much shorter terms in office, even apart from term limits.

As we have noted, Obama has internalized these rules and carries them out as best as the electoral and legal structures of the United States allow him to. Consider his policies in Afghanistan and Iraq. If the president is to be reelected, he must do what his core voters want or risk them staying home on Election Day 2012 or perhaps voting for a yet-to-emerge, third-party candidate more to their liking. The president likely remembers what happened to Al Gore back in 2000 when Ralph Nader mounted a devastating campaign that sucked up votes from the Democratic base. Obama's core constituents want the United States out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

to ring much more true than lamentations about how Obama doesn't understand this or that, or that he's dumb, or that he's weak, or that he doesn't know how to negotiate.

See also Obama & the Fake Debt Ceiling Crisis: This President Is Really Just Smarter Than You Are and Indispensable Enemies.

Fortunately (or is it unfortunately?), two aspects that de Mesquita and Smith seem to have glossed over, or overlooked, are 1) the vast difference in numbers between different US political groups that they speak about and 2) the potential for punishing type votes. E.g., they say

Those voters who are truly essential get rewarded for their support; but how big their rewards are depends on how many substitutes there are for them. Think about it: Is your vote really worth the same as a Wall Street hedge fund manager or someone in a key swing state?

Well, the Wall Street dudes may be able to contribute a lot more cash, which buy TV advertising, which influences voting decisions, but what if progressives (including progressive conservatives, as well as populist voters) used their VAST ADVANTAGE of numbers to counteract the TV/$$ factor? You know, using low $$ means of political message propagation such as I discussed Progressives are Stupid if they don't seize their opportunity to educate their Republican neighbors.?

Secondly, aggressive progressives could exact electoral discipline in some swing state situations, by acting as aggressively as the Tea Partiers have. I've written about voting blocs - which need to cohere between elections, and not be bashful about doling out pain in a limited, controlled manner - in a few diaries, including Recommended Short and Long Term Voting Strategies for the Dump Obama Movement.

And lets not even get into how many swing voters were disappointed in Obama precisely because he couldn't deliver on taming the financial sector. How many conservatives want the US government to be liable for hedge fund type gambling? These are more common sense, rule of law, up vs. down issues, that swing voters also care about. de Mesquita and Smith wrote a brief article, without going into a lot of scenarios, but I hope nobody assumes that their meaning of the reality of swing voters is the same falsely constraining one put forth by Obama apologists.

10:45 AM PT: I just edited the title, slightly, adding the phrase: "Foreign Policy Mag:"


Given the vast disparity in numbers, on the one hand, and $$ on the other hand, between Wall Street oriented voters, and non-Wall Street oriented voters, do you agree that the President has correctly calculated how to divide up 'favors' between these 2 ty

25%1 votes
50%2 votes
25%1 votes

| 4 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  I may just be tired (5+ / 0-)

    but I'm having a lot of trouble following this.  I feel like I've caught the beginning and end of a movie, but am missing 45 minutes in the middle.

    "The first rule of pillow fight club is do not talk about pillow fight club." --Keith Olbermann

    by Julie Waters on Sat Sep 17, 2011 at 08:12:40 AM PDT

  •  You may not realize this... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but you used a word in your diary that has been disallowed on DK.  Kinda hard to give any credence to your points.

    "The bottom line is, we've got to wake up. We can't allow our disappointment in Obama to lull us into allowing a truly dangerous strain of conservative philosophy to gain any more traction than it already has." --ObamOcala 4/5/11

    by smoothnmellow on Sat Sep 17, 2011 at 08:26:50 AM PDT

  •  Nobody's Figured Out How to Do This Yet. (0+ / 0-)

    It's true that there are strong majorities favoring  one progressive policy or another. But political progressives are a small minority of Americans, smaller than the number of rightwing Christians, and they have no institutional organization power other than unions which are about half the size of the evangelical population.

    That means that whatever progressives want to do, they don't have the means right now to mobilize very many others from the general public.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Sep 17, 2011 at 08:41:42 AM PDT

    •  Actually, I think Nancy Bordier has figured this (0+ / 0-)

      out. At least "on paper".  See

      I assume you're referring to this:

      what if progressives (including progressive conservatives, as well as populist voters) used their VAST ADVANTAGE of numbers to counteract the TV/$$ factor?

      There's other movements in a more transpartisan direction, like the Coffee Party, which is more than "on paper".

      Finally, the Tea Party has shown how to exert real political pressure on a legacy party (in their case, the R's) without going transpartisan, at all.  Yeah, they had Koch $$ paying for some buses, and free coverage from Fox.

      They still offer strategic lessons to those who care to learn. Furthermore, I fully expect their political muscle to grow, as they are getting even more electorally aggressive.

  •  I wouldn't put too much credence to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiaD, Mnemosyne, bronte17

    Bueno de Mesquita, a strong Reagan aficionado.

    The Strategy of Campaigning explores the political careers of Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin, two of the most galvanizing and often controversial political figures of our time. Both men overcame defeat early in their political careers and rose to the highest elected offices in their respective countries.

    The authors demonstrate how and why Reagan and Yeltsin succeeded in their political aspirations, despite—or perhaps because of—their apparent "policy extremism": that is, their advocacy of policy positions far from the mainstream. The book analyzes the viability of policy extremism as a political strategy that enables candidates to forge new coalitions and outflank conventional political allegiances.

    Kiron K. Skinner is Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science at Carnegie Mellon University, a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a member of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel and the National Security Education Board.

    Serhiy Kudelia is Lecturer of Politics at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine and advisor to Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine.

    Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is Julius Silver Professor and Director of the Alexander Hamilton Center for Political Economy at New York University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

    Condoleezza Rice is on a leave of absence from Stanford University, where she was a Professor of Political Science and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. She is currently serving as U.S. Secretary of State.

    "I know of no other study which has so brilliantly examined campaign strategies of such importance across cultural divides. This book should be required reading for everyone who wants to understand modern political strategies in historic context."
    —Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

  •  let's see... where to start (0+ / 0-)

    Bueno de Mesquita is beloved by the Cato Institution (Randian libertarian) and the Limited Government crowd. And from one of Alastair Smith's writings we can ascertain his political bent The Perils of Unearned Income (2008).

    Foreign Policy is a rag.

    And you, diarist, have amongst your diaries the following titles:
    Obama's political manipulations similar to dictators... (you should be HRed all to hell for that one especially since you reference Randian Cato lovers' crap)
    National Nurses opt for feel good activism
    Gravel says he will probably run...
    POTUS has lost NY
    Progressives are Stupid...

    Troll. Sneaky troll.

    Bridge Closed: Republican Tax CUTS At Work

    You just gonna stand there and bleed
    Or you gonna do something about it?

    by bronte17 on Sat Sep 17, 2011 at 03:25:33 PM PDT

    •  Why is he "beloved of the Cato Institute"? (0+ / 0-)

      Is it because his analysis and advice are spot on?, Or, is it because he's ideologically similar?

      He seemed more than willing to consult for the Progressive Democrats of America, so most likely he's more than capable of separating out his personal, Cato-like views from his professional work. Or, he's not really Cato-like, and your insunuating, without any references, is your way of obscuring things and derailing this diary.

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