To the Editor:
Democratic senators are preparing to retaliate against their Republican colleagues for blocking Barack Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court nominee by blocking any possible Trump nominee until after the November elections. Those of conscience who are worried about growing incivility in government are concerned this is only throwing gasoline on an already damaging fire. They are wrong. This action is required if government is ever to return to civility and collegiality.
Axelrod wrote a seminal book back in the 1980s “The Evolution of Cooperation.” It was based on a game called “Prisoner’s Dilemma” in which two players could either cooperate with or defect from one another in repeated trials.
Payoffs depended on if both cooperated (intermediate payoff), if only one defected (the defector got a big payoff, the cooperator got nothing), or both defected (both got nothing). The winning strategy was always to cooperate on the initial interaction and then to faithfully mirror the other player’s last move thereafter.
Called “Tit-for-tat,” this strategy guaranteed that an opponent’s cooperation was always rewarded, and defection was unfailingly punished. Once players caught on to the strategy, an unbroken string of cooperation could result, providing the maximum payoff to both sides.
Democrats need to be absolutely clear. Cooperation will be unfailingly reciprocated. Defection will be punished in kind, no more, no less. Responding in kind must be an absolute point of honor. It is the only way to ensure Republicans understand the rewards for cooperation and amity in our government and the guaranteed cost of defection.
Donovan C. Wilkin