Tobold's Blog
Friday, July 08, 2016
 
Politics could learn from game design

I've been discussing earlier this month how game designers can make punishing players for certain things more acceptable by framing that game mechanic rather as a reward for the opposite behavior. Very frequently you can express the same thing in either a negative statement (e.g. "we don't have the full solution") or turn it around and express it as a positive thing (e.g. "we already have part of the solution").

If I look at US politics, which are even more than European politics a game of negative advertising, I think that politicians are missing an opportunity here. For example Clinton has that problem with the private e-mail server she used, and the Republicans are milking that for negative advertising as much as they can, and are pushing for more and more "investigations" into the matter for publicity reasons after the initial investigations didn't come up with the result the Republicans wanted. And Clinton is just relatively silent on the issue and is sitting it out. Huge lost opportunity there: Clinton should advertise things like: "Would you trust the government with all your secrets? Me neither!". Using a private service rather than a government one is something the Republican core voter can understand. Paint the Republican party leadership as people who are pushing for total control by the state on this issue, and they'll quickly shut up about those e-mail servers.

Of course the Brexit referendum is another great example where both sides engaged in negative advertising, trying to get voters to react out of fear of some (often imaginary) negative consequence of the other side rather than explaining the positive points of their side. The Russian revolutionary Nikolai Bukharin said that democracy is the preferred form of government of the bourgeoisie when they are fearless, but fascism is the preference when they are afraid. If politics become a game of scaremongering, right-wing populists will win that game. 

Comments:
Hillary's problem there is that she went cheap, so her email server was set up using all defaults. There's a hacker in custody that had access to her email server and can testify as to how easy it was to get in (and that he wasn't the only one in there). If she tried that particular line, the Republicans would figuratively crucify her. Much better for her to shut up and let the noise die down.
 
@tweell: You're still living in a pre-Trump world. Trump showed that facts aren't important in political discourse, gut feelings are. The average American doesn't understand server settings. So if Hillary goes with a completely untrue appeal to the gut feeling that she did it because she didn't trust the government, a Republican arguing true facts about server settings looks bad in comparison.

The trick is to work with a lot of innuendo. Trump never actually *said* that Obama was directly responsible for the Orlando shootings, he just implied it repeatedly until people believed it. Hillary can do the same thing, asking questions to the audience of why the Republicans are so obsessed with server settings and government control of those servers. The audience will draw their own conclusions, and the truth isn't really playing a role in that.
 
Negative ads are bad. Alas, I expect them to stop when politicians think they do not work and not before.

Regarding the specifics, as a software developer, the idea of the private server as appallingly dangerous. I question the ability of the government security but find the idea of some private people setting up Microsoft servers to be appalling. I think the servers issue - there were more than one server, there were several thousand emails not turned over by Clinton, secret and top secret mail etc make this a big negative for Clinton, especially since the reality contradicts some earlier statements.

She should win quite handily, why focus on an area of obvious weakness? Not just the servers themselves, but if Clinton has any weakness, it is honestey/trust. Safire's 1996 New York Times op-ed "Americans of all political persuasions are coming to the sad realization that our First Lady — a woman of undoubted talents who was a role model for many in her generation — is a congenital liar." IMO, Clinton is the only national Democratic leader who would have a non-zero, allbeit small, chance of losing to Trump.

I think there is something to the argument that this is about as good of an outcome as the Republicans could hope for: A trial would not have progressed prior to the election and the findings were she did bad things, she was not accurate at describing what she did, and a Democratic president did not indict her.

 
IMO, Clinton is the only national Democratic leader who would have a non-zero, allbeit small, chance of losing to Trump.

I think you underestimate the American fear of "communism". I'm pretty sure Sanders would lose to Trump, because it is way too easy to persuade the American people that Bernie is a dangerous communist who is going to take their hard-earned money away. In spite of the fact that a president Sanders would probably be the option with the biggest increase to the median income. It is far too easy to persuade people to vote against their own best interest.
 
You may be right about Sanders.

OTOH, checks and balances were designed in from the founding and it is not a coincidence how often there has been divided government in the last couple of decades. IMO, the reason that Sanders would result in the biggest income increase is that he would be the one who would change the least. If there was not a major Republican Congressional majority with Sanders there certainly would be in two years. I can't see a President Sanders accomplishing much. Which IMO the economy and considerable portion of the electorate would be quite comfortable with.
 
I can't tell if these are political statements or if you're just using them as demonstrations. Sanders has been out of the race for weeks now. This is a caricature of every thing that's going on, on both sides of the globe.
 
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