Tag Archives: Political

Bush and the Zombie Campaign

1 Nov

The TOP Blog — Nov 1, 2015

It is the day after Halloween, and a zombie is shuffling through the halls of the Republican Presidential nomination process. Like most zombies, it does not yet realize it is dead.

My somewhat retro future prediction for this blog entry* is that the Presidential campaign of Governor Jeb Bush died from a self-inflicted short, sharp, shock back on October 24, a week before the debate in which he did a truly and exceptionally conspicuous job of not standing out in any way.

More specifically, on October 24 Jeb chose to leap far beyond the bounds of the social contract envelope of what is acceptable for a Presidential candidate to say.** That envelope of acceptability varies by both candidate and audience, and is absolutely gigantic for Donald Trump — a fascinating topic for a future blog entry.

Alas, for Jeb Bush the contract for what is acceptable public speech is far less forgiving. As the incarnation of the traditional Republican candidate, he has inherited the same envelope of verbal acceptability as his predecessors, including in particular that of his father.

What Governor Bush said was this:

“… I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”

Ouch. With that single statement, Governor Bush catapulted himself far outside the critically important “I Will Be Your Totally Dedicated Leader” contract that every candidate implicitly signs when they announce. Even Teflon Trump, the indisputable mastermind of how to exploit the I’m Your Leader contract to his advantage, would have hurt himself seriously if he had made that particular comment.

The issue is simple: People never, ever want a quitter for a leader, particularly when fear dominates their thoughts. Their leader is their defense and anchor against the terrifying currents of fear that threaten to carry them out int the ocean of the unknown. It is their trust in that leader that lets them sleep at night, thinking “The world is falling apart, but as long as My Strong Leader is in charge and looking out for me, there’s hope.”

(In a nutshell, that is also why both Donald Trump and Ben Carson are doing so well, albeit with different parts of the Republican psyche.)

So, if a candidate then says “Sorry bub, I realize you are terrified, but I’ve got better things to do than waste my time protecting you,” their acceptability as a candidate for Protecting Leader is over — and for this particular fear-fulled election cycle, little else counts.

It’s possible Governor Bush could have survived such a statement in an earlier era of less persistent communications. But in our modern web-linked world, his declaration of indifference instantly transformed into a powerful and sharp-fanged attack dog. It’s a dog anyone can now hire and unleash at will if they see Jeb Bush creeping up on them in the polls, even if they are themselves in the back of the pack.

In short: While the well-funded zombie campaign of Governor Bush can likely use fiscal energy remaining from when it it was truly alive to lurch and stumble forward for a few more weeks, its actual relevance in terms of plausible futures ended on October 24. To use an image shared by gardeners and game theorists, that was the day when the branch of the tree of possible futures labeled “Jeb Bush Becomes President” was inadvertently hacked off and tossed into the trash by none other than Jeb Bush himself.


* This TOP (Terry On Politics ) blog is not intended to advocate any particular political position, but rather to apply ideas from artificial intelligence and game theory to make limited predictions on what may or may not happen in this election year.

Specifically, I’m using a variation of the old game theory concept of weighted branch searches, applied to a possible-future-outcomes tree. The variation is that I look mainly for strong social-contract invariants to add incomplete weighting factors to the branches. By “invariants” I mean factors whose impacts remain unusually stable over time even while other factors are highly or even chaotically variable.

Precise prediction of social events is of course impossible due to those many and inevitable chaotic factors, but the existence of invariants means that in certain cases the weight of the invariant will so dominate a branch that it becomes possible to make branch-level predictions. Certain branches of the future can for example become vanishingly unlikely regardless of how other factors play out.

** All of us operate everyday under incredibly broad straighten envelopes of what is acceptable and not acceptable to say or even think. We do not usually notice these constraints, since when used skillfully they are also the foundation for powerful and persuasive communications, enabling us to convey ideas in ways that are more persuasive to others.

However, if you stop for a moment and think of all different sentences you coulf construct that are completely out of the bounds of what you would ever actually say, you will realize that the concept of socially binding contracts on your speech is actually very broad and powerful. For politicians this is even more true, since those seeking leadership positions have additional constraints that don’t apply to the everyday person.