Monday, March 27, 2017

Game Theory in the AHCA

Game Theory in the headlines:

It is Friday. Speaker Ryan comes to Trump to tell him he lacks the votes to pass the AHCA. The Freedom Caucus is still a no and, with all of the compromises to them in the "fixed up" version of the bill, the Tuesday Club. (GOP moderates) are now also likely a no.
The question is whether to hold a vote, even knowing that it will lose, to force each Rep to publicly take a stand, or to pull the bill.
This is a classic Game Theory question. We have an IGoUGo game where Trump has the first move, pull the bill or not, and then the Congress has the second, casting a vote. The votes will affect both Trump's payoff as well as the individual Reps themselves.
What should Trump do, force a vote or pull the bill?
Trump reasons (aloud) thusly: a vote will "smoke out the disloyal", so I'll know where I stand with each Rep. Hence, going for the vote is optimal.
Speaker Ryan counters that, while that might have been true of the original bill, it no longer holds because of the massive concessions made to the hard right. Reading between the lines, he is saying that the consummate dealmaker, Tump, has managed to fashion a bill that will lose BOTH the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Club.
He goes on by noting that forcing the Tuesdays to cast a no vote will hurt their chances of being re elected whereas forcing the Freedom Caucus to cast a no vote will have no effect.
In essence he is saying this: Mr. President, you already know the Freedom Caucus is disloyal. Forcing them to make an easy public vote does nothing. On the other hand, the Tuesdays are your natural allies, but the strategy you propose is very likely to see these allies removed from the chess board in the near future.
Trump reluctantly agrees to pull the bill. But his chief strategy advisor, Steve Bannon still insists on a vote and is overruled.
It seems to me that Ryan is 100% right in his analysis and Trump's loyalty argument rather silly. If the bill had come to the floor unamended, in the form exactly as the Speaker and President agreed, you could cast the vote as one of party loyalty. But once it is altered to concede to a specific side, it loses this status. The speaker sees this, the President and, worse yet, his chief strategist, do not.

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