Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Rove's Dilemma" Graph Game

I suspect that Karl Rove's strategy in 2000 was to use the support of evangelicals and nativists to entrench Republican power then abandon them and transition to other groups, particularly Hispanics. Rove, an agnostic who was close to his gay adoptive father, appears to have had no personal investment in the social conservative wing of the party and though overrated as a strategist, he was certainly capable of following demographic trends.

Twelve years later, that strategy is looking less than doable. The nativists and social conservatives appear to be a shrinking demographic and the idea of winning over Hispanic voters seems increasingly unlikely. Some have made the case that the GOP's best strategy at this point is abandon its shrinking base and make a big play for the next demographic wave. The trouble with that strategy (from a strictly strategic viewpoint) is that a party has to maintain a certain critical mass to remain viable.

All this got me thinking about the best way to describe this. Here's what I've come up with. It's not there yet but I think it's on the right track.

1. We have a graph where each node is associated with a shifting size metric.

2. These nodes represent populations. You win support from these populations with messages.

3. If you target two nodes with the same message those nodes are associated

4. If the message targeted to one nodes raises support in that node and lowers it in another, those two nodes are disassociated

5. You can not target disassociated nodes.

6. Messages have a half life. If you wish to drop a node so you can start targeting one disassociated with it, you will have to wait a few cycles.

7. The objective is to get the most support possible support over the run of the game while never letting that support fall below a critical level.

Other than a little with Bayesian networks (which doesn't quite seem to cover this) I've never done a graph-based simulation so the odds are good that I'm stating or missing the obvious here. Still, the idea of graph as shifting fitness landscape might be interesting and it does explain how GOP strategists could have seen the coming demographic tides and could still have found themselves trapped by the rising water.

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