“We win. They lose.”

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita discusses political campaigning and rhetoric. Politicians usually argue that they are better are solving problems than their opponents.

A “Heresthetician” identifies a whole new set of problems that only this politician can identify. They restructure the entire debate. Reagan was one such genius.

Two basic kinds of campaigners: those who engage in rhetoric, try to persuade voters–the usual kind–and herestheticians (term invented by William Riker), someone who casts a different kind of campaign claiming “I’m not better at solving the problems everyone’s talking about. They’re talking about the wrong problems. I’m going to identify what the correct problems and I’m the only candidate doing so.”

This kind of politician is like a business innovator. Innovators do not just improve the products a little bit here and there. They make major changes to the market structure and thereby destroy the previous and less effective ideas. Russ Roberts compares political heresthetics to creative destruction.

The Heresthetic completely outmaneuvers his opponents. President Carter never stood a chance against Reagan.

One thing Reagan did was redefine the goal of the Cold War. In the 1970s, “detente” was the intellectual fad of the time. The goal was to manage the Soviet Union and the Balance of Power. Carter’s management was not working well in practice. The Soviets aggressively took advantage of perceived American weakness.

Ronald Reagan’s goal? We win. They lose.

His opponents stopped and couldn’t answer. They basically slurred him as a war mongerer, or someone who was a little kookoo.

Except that Americans really liked the idea of destroying the Soviet Union and to hell with the Balance of Power.

Rhetorical campaigns play a major role in politics, perhaps even more than actual policy decisions. Politicians must say what the audience wants to hear and rhetoric

Bueno de Mesquita quotes from Cicero’s younger brother who advised Cicero to launch a negative campaign over 2000 years ago:

slander your opponents as often as possible, reckon their crimes, their sexual depravity, or their attempts to bribe other candidates–all according to the character of the individual opponent.

The Negative Campaign is something like a minimax campaign. It tells people that they will minimize their losses by voting for candidate A instead of candidate B. Or the lesser evil, if you will. Most people don’t want principled candidates. They just want politicians are

On the other hand, the heresthetic campaign argues that the public will maximize their gains by voting for him.

Campaigns and rhetoric are about “marketing” a policy and creating a governing coalition. Rhetoric is an artform, but an interesting one. It’s about constructing a narrative, true or false, it doesn’t matter. The narrative has to sound pleasing and make the opponent sound like a moron.