November 24, 2016

Enough 50-D chess analysis: Be thankful for 80% perfect

Now that there are a lot of major decisions by Trump that are compressed into a brief time period, his decision-making ability is a hot topic again, and again too many in the Trump movement have the same response as before -- every big decision he makes is a 50-dimensional chess move whose brilliance may not be apparent to us mere mortals, but will become visible through Trump's instruction by example.

In this worldview, Trump is a guru who reveals esoteric wisdom to the cloudy-minded masses, the better to lift them up into a higher state of enlightenment -- not into the nature of the world, but into the nature of (organizational) leadership. His book The Art of the Deal is a sacred text in this tradition, a reverence that Trump does everything to encourage among his fans. "My second-favorite book, after the Bible."

The basic idea behind the worldview is that what appear to be trade-offs that require Trump to do something good and something bad in order to get things done, hopefully more good than bad, aren't really trade-offs after all. When your consciousness ascends to a higher dimension and looks down on the situation, there really is no trade-off at all, and Trump pulls off the job with (nearly) optimal outcomes on all relevant domains. He is the supreme squarer of circles.

The trouble with these Panglossian analyses is that they are always made after the fact, and have the quality of just-so stories. Why couldn't they have predicted what Trump would do? Because only he possesses the higher awareness to see through the 50-D moves, and we mere mortals are only able to describe its brilliance after he has carried it out. It reeks of excessive flattery.

And these describers will describe it as 50-D chess genius whether Trump does X or whether Trump does Not-X. Pick Romney as Secretary of State? Here's the 50-D chess brilliance behind that decision. Instead, pick Anyone But Romney? Here's the 50-D chess brilliance behind that decision. There's no independent way to evaluate how brilliant of a move it was, if it's always necessarily a masterstroke.

Moreover, if Trump's big decisions are win-win-win-win-win... he could never make a major misstep, and would never need any major course correction. A little wobble here, and little counter-balancing there, but nothing substantially different from what he intended to do.

Trump is undoubtedly better at this stuff than any of us are, but was it a 50-D chess move to skip the GOP debate before the Iowa caucus? He lost that race to Cruz, and saying that he would have lost by even larger margins had he participated in the debate, is just more post hoc rationalization. Was it a 50-D chess move to say that a pro-life stance leads toward punishing the seeker rather than the provider of abortion? Or to camp out in Wisconsin during the primary? He lost that primary by double digits. And was it a 50-D chess move to not only double down on the La Raza judge feud, but to instruct his surrogates to jump into the brawl as well? That was a time of dropping in the polls.

The point here is not to blackpill Trump supporters by desanctifying the image of Trump-as-guru. It is to keep us realistic: not every choice he makes is going to be optimal in all important respects. Sometimes he'll be able to correct the mistake (sidelining culture war questions after the abortion brou-ha-ha), and sometimes he -- and we -- are just going to suffer a blow and try to do as well as we can with that wound (the attempted coup by the GOPe that disrupted party unity just weeks before the election).

It is more accurate to say that Trump is good at surviving, or "winning," despite the blows that have been landed against him. And I don't just mean the antifragile strength that comes from, say, the media attacking him for not having served as a politician before -- that's a good thing in today's climate! I mean even the true blows like that "grab the pussy" tape. He is robust.

No matter what the context is, we'll always know that he's the least likely President to even consider selling out. He took money from no one and is a billionaire himself already. He's not from the political system, so they can't try shame / blackmail / etc. to police a member of their own network. And he's stated his goals boldly, publicly, and repeatedly, so that there won't be any double-talking wiggle room when it comes to trying to implement them. And he's fortunate to belong to the party that also controls both houses of Congress, along with most state and local government functions. And with his Supreme Court picks, he'll have that body's backing as well.

But that doesn't mean he won't ever have to compromise.

Some of it to heal the deeply divided nation, which he has always spoken out against. His most heartfelt indictment of Obama was that he thought at least Obama would be a bringer-together and a cheerleader for the nation, and then Obama turned out to stoke the divisions to polarize the population even further.

And some of it we may have no clue about because only the inner circles know about it. How do we know he hasn't been threatened by the Deep State already -- wanting certain boundaries to be respected, no matter if he was elected through a populist revolt. Trump is not an ideologue: in some such cases, he may decide it's worth the fight against the system (e.g., exposing and shutting down the elite pedophile rings), while in others he may decide it's more trouble than it's worth (cases we may never know about).

We would be foolish to believe that he, or we, have a mandate to do whatever the hell we see fit about cleaning up our government, economy, population, and culture. His theme song has been "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones -- not "Invincible" by Pat Benatar. He is a courageous warrior, not a teenager who has unlocked god mode on a video game.

The danger in spinning all these just-so stories is that we'll turn into a cult of the guru Trump, unable to recognize when the movement is heading in the wrong direction on some issue at some time. His is shaping up to be the greatest presidency that any of us has ever experienced, and there's nothing wrong with that representing an 80-90% compromise from what we truly have our hearts set on.

Let's be thankful for that.


  1. Great analysis. You said it better than I could. Keep up the good work!

  2. The hype is so high that people are freaking out before he even takes office. Everything he says. Every appointment he hints at. Every campaign promise he's already "broken."
    One fool got overambitious with his fascist symoblism and jumped the gun years too early.
    Time for everyone to calm down and stop drinking their own koolaid. Trump is a New York style moderate. The opposition he's faced and the constituency he's acquired transforms him into a new creature altogether, but his roots remain the same. A President Trump means an opportunity to steadily grow influence but is by no means a final victory, just a battle in a war. People must understand that it will take years for him to get established walking a tight-rope to keep his base happy and prevent establishment politicians turning on him. The same steady patience that has taken heterodox philosophies this far will still be required. I am hoping they are still caught up in victory euphoria and will soon return to their battle ranks to march grimly forward in orderly formation. Otherwise they'll be like huskarls trying to chase after Norman knights at Hastings, exhausting themselves and exposing themselves to enemy archers.

  3. Random Dude on the Internet11/24/16, 6:13 PM

    In defense of the 50D chess crowd, there is a large group of people already thinking he's going to backtrack on everything and be a standard politician. Every meeting he makes with a politician, a large group seems to assume it's the next Secretary of State. First it was Christie, then Giuliani, then Bolton, then Haley, then Romney, and I heard people talk about Gabbard being one. It's craziness.

    There's just a lot of blackpilling and FUD out there, I will take the 50D chess argument over the perpetual doom argument that seems to be growing by the day.

  4. His actual picks so far are mostly good; people should be calm and not overreact to every single person he talks to.

  5. Endorse 100% everything you said here.

    I read Power of Persuasion by Cialdini a couple years ago and another similar book...
    I felt that the myth of 5D chess or whatever that sprung from Trump as master persuader owed much to the human tendency to overinflate our importance, or our talents:

    -podiatrist will tell you the absolute most important thing you can do for your health is wear good shoes.

    -dentist says good dental care inhibiting cavities which provide bacteria free reign to your body is most fundamental priority for health sake.

    -masseuse says she's doing the Lord's work providing stress relief.

    Anyway... Yes, some of the activity on twitter makes me a little anxious, especially regarding secretary of state: we just aren't in a position to know much and I hate the assumption we do, especially that we know how these men will act in the future. Why have the mob put that kind of stress on Trump?
    Better to be clear-headed and free of anxiety, especially when faced with imperfect choices.

  6. "And I don't just mean the antifragile strength that comes from, say, the media attacking him for not having served as a politician before -- that's a good thing in today's climate! I mean even the true blows like that "grab the pussy" tape. He is robust."

    Would you please explain the antifragile concept. I recognize it from Taleb, but confess I don't know what it means.

  7. Random Dude on the Internet11/25/16, 1:22 AM

    > I read Power of Persuasion by Cialdini a couple years ago and another similar book...
    I felt that the myth of 5D chess or whatever that sprung from Trump as master persuader owed much to the human tendency to overinflate our importance, or our talents:

    As a side note, I hope the meme about Trump being a super master persuader goes away. I get why Scott Adams presented this argument: endorsing Trump in a hostile state like California and where your paycheck is derived primarily from media exposure means that you have to be circumspect about how to voice support. Not too many people on the left bought his arguments but since he never announced his support until the very end, they couldn't pin it on him. The instant he said he would be for Trump would be the last day Dilbert would be circulating in hostile anti-Trump newspapers. Even his support was pretty weak, citing inheritance taxation laws.

    I'm not saying Trump doesn't have persuasion skills but agnostic is right where there will be times where Trump is not able to get what he wants. There will be of course some things that he has to get or else he won't get a second term. For example, nobody in his base is going to accept a "virtual wall" and if he signs a trade agreement that results in offshoring American jobs. If he bends on either one of those, he is gone. In terms of cabinet appointments or the inevitable headbutting with Paul Ryan, if Trump can win 2 out of 3 times, that's a pretty decent track record. It will be our jobs to make sure the GOP works with Trump instead of signalling to cuckservatives and Democrats. We have to be ready to oust anyone who thinks its a good idea to side with the Democrats on issues like amnesty or trade.

    1. Yes, Scott Adams insights, IMHO, were valuable, but gave too much credit to his persuasion skills for the reasons I outlined above. Plus, the guys who are into persuasion stuff, whether it's "Game", running sock puppets, faux internet personalities, etc., are aspie-types who really do buy into it full-stop whether or not they're even good at it, at least initially. (I've always figured because the aspie personality is most likely to be victimized by manipulative deception, they're most in awe of its power and seek to utilize it. In a systemic format, of course.)

      Similarly, I truly believe good dental care is so incredibly important that I always made sure to have any and all cavities found and taken care of before a pregnancy, but it's not the end-all and be-all.

  8. "Robust" means able to withstand a big shock, as opposed to "fragile" which breaks under such a shock.

    "Antifragile" means it actually gets stronger from a big shock.

  9. "I will take the 50D chess argument over the perpetual doom argument that seems to be growing by the day."

    That's making it into a cult one way or the other, just differing on whether the kneejerk reaction is joy or gloom.

    If it's just a way to find silver linings after a bad state of affairs, OK. But the 50-D chess people are trying to make these arguments before a decision is even made -- like finding the 50-D chess brilliance behind making Romney Sec of State.

    Everyone knows he'd be a total disaster, and would continue his role as saboteur of the Trump movement -- only now from inside!

    If Romney becomes SoS, it's not because there's a hidden genius behind it, like neutralizing an enemy -- ergo, his entire cabinet should be Romney, Ryan, Bush, Kasich, etc. It would be because he had to compromise for some mix of reasons we may never know, and that will fall under the 20% of his presidency that we won't like.

  10. Beyond the Trump context, I can't stand that tendency to re-frame all trade-offs as not existing. You can always have your cake and eat it too.

    This Panglossian tendency shows up in evolution, economics, and other fields. It either stems from or ends up supporting a fetishization of counter-intuitiveness. Clever-sillies.

  11. Here's a more realistic take on the strong possibility of Romney getting SoS -- Trump had to make a few deals in order to avoid a delegate revolt and contested Convention, which would have destroyed party unity and sunken his chances in the general.

    What leverage did Trump have pre-Convention? Threaten to bolt the party and take his supporters with him? Then he runs third party and loses -- and he didn't want to lose with principles, but to win. And the GOP would lose in the general as well, guaranteeing Crooked Hillary a win.

    Trump couldn't do anything when the GOPe was filling his delegate slots with anti-Trump individuals -- the party held most of the leverage on that matter, and it could have escalated into a delegate revolt / contested Convention.

    So in exchange for allowing the hostile takeover by Trump *and his supporters*, the GOPe insists on at least a few of their own making it into the administration. Not all positions, but a couple big ones, and the rest are up to him.

    Trump, not having much leverage over the party nomination process, decides that 80-90% perfect is better than splitting the party and letting Hillary waltz into the White House.

    It's not selling out, it was necessary to sacrifice that 10-20% of crap in order to gain us the 80-90% of greatness.

  12. Some of Trump's older advisors remember what happened with the schism under Reagan (the less globalist Reagan loyalists vs. the Bush nascent Neo-con faction). We might be seeing a similar thing in the Trump era. The good news is that Trump might do a lot of arm-twisting to the globalists in his midst. Romney is a blow-hard, but I don't think he's as malevolent as the Bushes. Just keeping every Bush on the outside is a big plus (likewise with the Clinton's).

    Also, we're in a changing era. Maybe even the Mitt Romneys will eventually have that sink in. Nationalists are being elected all over. Why would these people suddenly capitulate to the globalist norms of the last 30 years?

    What I'm more concerned about is how loony the media is. They're not going to stop any time soon with encouraging protests, riots, assassinations of nationalists, irreverence towards nationalism and cultural conservatism, etc. Heads are gonna have to roll to limit the subversion of our movement.

    Besides correcting the media, the other huge priority is disempowering New America. Enforce E-verify, punish those who hire illegals, take illegals off welfare, secure the border (which doesn't necessarily take a wall though we better get one started in term 1), enforce voter ID, and so on. With his anti-immigrant all-star team of Sessions, Kobach, and Barletta standing their ground, we ought to have good reason to expect early results.

    Broken promises and not producing change will not only anger his ample grassroots support, it will also shred the legacy of numerous populist minded conservatives who've joined Trump's team.

    Folks, we are on the right side of history. Cultural Marxism/neo-liberal capitalism are getting slapped down. The pansies, charlatans, and traitors acting afraid of Trump know at least subconsciously that we've been long overdue for a house cleaning. As long as the media and globalist elites can't even keep their story straight about Trump (is he a sell-out con man or a fascist monster? He can't be both), we shouldn't we be too worried.

  13. I want Trump as clear-headed and relaxed as possible. I'm big on him allowing Jared Kushner, and whoever else in he wants in his family, to have special access for this very reason.
    Unless there is an obvious stinker like George W. Bush pushing Harriet Miers, I say relax.

    Romney... I'm more bothered by his Mormonism than anything else for all the reasons Ag has spelled out through out this election. Past positions don't have to mean much. Mr. Supply Side Economics and Club for Growth founder, Stephen Moore, just paid a visit *on behalf of Trump* to House Republicans and told them Reagan's party was over and they were now members of Trump's populist working class party!!!

    And of course we remember how much George W. Bush hated nation building during the 2000 election debates.

    But, Romney is a Mormon, so it's probably more likely than not that he'll hew more or less to the neocon worldview. I don't like it, but leave open the possibility he'll moderate. I won't ride Trump's case about it in anyway, that's for sure. Will be a good sport about it, just like with Pence who's turned out phenomenally well.

  14. I tend to agree with Conway that Secretary of State is too high a cost for placating the party establishment, I guess he thinks Romeney's such a pushover that it won't be an issue.


You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."