Adaptation is the Key to Survival in Politics

Some thoughts on Poker, Substack, and Conservative Orthodoxy

Good afternoon. Here’s this week’s top fi— actually, no. It’s time to do something different. It’s time to adapt.

Back in the forlorn days of my degenerate youth, I used to play a lot of poker. Generally, at least in the Texas Hold ‘em variant of poker, recreational players tend to adopt very consistent strategies — they don’t really change the way they play from hand to hand. Some players like to raise on every street. Some players are more cautious and prefer to keep pots small. These players can be sorted into four different play styles: loose-passive, tight-passive, loose-aggressive, and tight-aggressive.

Without getting in the weeds, let me explain how these styles interact with each other (and I promise I’m going somewhere with this):

  • Loose-passive players play a lot of hands, yet are unlikely to put any significant betting pressure on their opponents. These players consistently lose to tight-passive, loose-aggressive, and tight-aggressive players.

  • Tight-passive players play few hands, but when they do, they are unlikely to put any significant betting pressure on their opponents. These players will beat loose-passive players, but will consistently lose to loose-aggressive and tight-aggressive players.

  • Loose-aggressive players absolutely crush passive players. They take control of the table, they fight for every pot, and they tend to win big. But often, these players will lose to tight-aggressive players.

  • Tight-aggressive players always beat passive players and often beat loose-aggressive players. But they don’t win nearly as much against passive players as loose-aggressive players do.

I started playing poker because of watching the World Series of Poker on TV during its heyday. One of my favorite players was Daniel Negreanu, a loose-aggressive player known for playing a wide variety of hands — and winning with them. That style naturally appealed to me. I’m not a very patient person, and playing 25 percent of your hands is a lot more fun than playing 10 percent! When I started playing poker at my local casino, I found this style would do very well against many of the older, passive players there, but I often struggled when several talented younger players showed up to the table.

It took me awhile to figure this out, but eventually I started to shift my game into two different gears: I played a loose-aggressive style when my opponents were passive, and a tight-aggressive style when my opponents were aggressive. My strategy depended entirely on who I was playing against. This put me in a position where I could survive against tougher players, while still cleaning up against weaker players.

Adaptation is the key to survival. It’s true in poker, it’s true in life, it’s true in politics (I’ll get to this shortly), and it’s absolutely true with Substack.

The End of Top 5?

I started this newsletter just over two months ago, and during that time I’ve been able to learn a great deal about what you people (yes, you people) want to read. Substack allows me to creepily see much of what you’re doing — if you’re opening, where you’re clicking, if you’re getting to the bottom, etc. About 30 percent of my list reads this via e-mail, but a much smaller number finishes all the way to the bottom. Clearly “top 5” was too long and trying to do too much! I don’t want to waste anybody’s time. I want this newsletter to be valuable to you, so I’m adapting and changing the entire concept.

So here’s the deal. No more “Top 5.” The newsletter is now called “BREAKING.” (There’s a fun double entendre there for the black-pilled.) And instead of committing to five sections in one newsletter every week, I’m going to commit to a more focused e-mail once per week. Starting next week it will go out on Sunday evenings. And, on occasion, I will send out shorter blurbs as needed. Sometimes you gotta adapt.

Can Republicans Adapt to Survive in Politics?

Obviously all of this sets up for a larger point. Should Republicans adapt in politics? If you listen to some on the Right, political adaptation is inherently bad because it represents the abandonment of “principle.” You’ll hear some of these folks brag about how they’ve held the exact same positions on every issue for 20 or even 30 years. Thus, any deviation from this orthodoxy — especially in the realm of economics — is “not conservative.”

I take issue with this. There’s certainly a difference between a “principle” and a run-of-the-mill policy position. While there are obviously some principles worth maintaining no matter what — life is sacred, so I would be pro-life even if just 1 percent of Americans agreed with me — there are plenty of policy positions that should be flexible for Republicans based on new information or even practical political considerations. Unfettered free trade, for example, has proven to be less beneficial than we had hoped, while simultaneously becoming much more unpopular with the Republican Party’s working class base. Given that reality, criticisms like this one from potential Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance make a lot more sense:

Most conservatives supported free trade not because it was a “principle” per se but because it was supposed to be a tool to promote prosperity. There is no moral component to trade policy — it’s value-neutral. It can be good policy that benefits our people, or it can be bad policy that harms our people, based on how you analyze its effects.

To me, an unwillingness to revisit a policy position when presented with new information demonstrates a lack of fitness for politics. For a long time, the Republican Party was the party of big business, in part because of principle, but largely because that relationship was symbiotic. Corporations donated big money to the Republicans, while largely avoiding weighing in on cultural issues. In return, Republicans lowered taxes, reduced regulations, and supported free trade.

This relationship worked until recently when progressives convinced corporations to not only side with them on cultural issues, but to actively help them defeat conservative bills at both the state and federal level. This is happening as I write this in South Dakota, where Democrats, the Chamber of Commerce, and corporations like Amazon are working in concert to pressure Governor Kristi Noem into vetoing a bill that would protect women’s sports.

Should Republicans continue to support corporate interests because of principle when those same corporations are working to set back our other principles — principles that should be more important than the “rights” of billion-dollar and even trillion-dollar corporations?

Enter Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida). He raised eyebrows last week when he endorsed a unionization effort against Amazon in Alabama. What? Don’t Republicans oppose unions? Here’s what Rubio had to say:

So a few people yesterday were surprised that I lined up with the workers that are trying to unionize Amazon in Alabama. Let me get this right: Amazon gets to be the most woke corporation on the planet, everyday they’re proving their wokeness, right? Banning books. Not allowing traditional charities to participate in Amazon Smile. Denying President Trump access to Amazon Web Services, and denying his campaign that. Everyday I get messages about how woke Amazon is. That’s fine, I have no problem with that. Be as woke as you want.

The problem is that, when it comes to tax cuts, then they want our help. When it comes to, oh they’re trying to unionize us so we might have to pay workers more, then they want our help. Well, if you have a union problem, if you think the taxes for corporations like yours, the biggest in the world, are too high? Well, why don’t you go get your woke, liberal, leftist friends and have them help you?

Here’s the bottom line. It’s very simple for me. The largest, richest company in the world and a champion of wokeness — all it does is beat up on conservatives — versus hard-working Americans who just want to get paid a little more and have better work conditions. It’s an easy choice.

Rubio was criticized by a number of conservatives for these comments, but I think his position here makes a lot of sense. Certainly there’s no harm in prioritizing saving America over saving Amazon? Not all principles are created equal. If Amazon is going to oppose us on issues we care most about, it makes practical sense to stop carrying water for them on other issues — especially when fighting for Amazon might harm us with voters we need to persuade to vote Republican in order to create a long-term winning political coalition. It’s a good thing to adapt.

TWEET OF THE WEEK:

This was actually last week, but let’s hope that Governor Noem keeps her word. As reported in the Daily Caller, she is now preparing to potentially veto the bill. Don’t do it, Governor Noem! Conservatives want to love you.

Okay, this wasn’t really short. I apologize. Will do better in the future. Have a good week, everyone!