There are no pictures of this man blinking.

The GOP is on a collision course with Robert Mueller. In the two weeks since Mueller indicted Michael Flynn and everyone figured out that Trump is toast, FOX News apparatchiks and their allies in Congress have been eager to smear him and the FBI over the tiniest of breaches. Their efforts to delegitimize the investigation against Trump are transparent, vapid, and possibly effective. Except for one thing: Mueller is the wrong person to play chicken with.

Chicken is a classic puzzle in game theory, but unlike such arcane constructs as the prisoner’s dilemma, everybody understands it. Two idiots get in cars and drive toward each other at high speed. There’s a one-lane bridge between these idiots. If they both continue at their current speed, the idiots will crash and kill each other. But if one or both idiots veers away, they will bypass each other and live to be idiots on another day. This really happens.

Chicken has a bizarre payoff matrix. Obviously, the payoff for both not veering is complete disaster. Both idiots die, and everybody they knew shakes their heads and says, “Of course that happened.” But if either veers, his payoff should be zero. Nothing bad happens. Nothing at all. All he’s done is let someone go by. But the payoff isn’t zero.

The game’s name tells you why it isn’t zero. It comes from an implied rebuke: that whichever idiot decides not to be an idiot is less of a man. (And trust me, it’s always a man.) There is a minor loss payoff to being the only one to veer, and a minor gain to being the only one to drive through, because the veerer is perceived as not even a real man. He’s a callow bird. Who wants to be callow? Just man up and plow your hot rod into another real man. Then, after you beneficently remove yourself from the gene pool, we’ll tell people you weren’t a loser. Honest, we will, Mr. Totally-Not-a-Chicken.

So back to the GOP and Mueller. The GOP is bulleting its car toward Mueller. Should they think he’ll veer? Well, let’s review what Mueller has done.

That is a stone-cold assassin right there. If the GOP thinks Mueller will swerve into a ditch to avoid being hit, it is fooling itself. Mueller will continue driving toward the bridge, because his job is to drive toward the bridge. The Mueller investigation is a self-driving car. It’s got a destination, and it’s going to get there as long as it has a mandate to do so. Mueller will take this threat in stride and unseal indictments against higher and higher ranking officials.

Some bright bulbs in the GOP think they’re playing chicken with someone else: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. With his boss Jeff Sessions recusing himself (and likely a target of the investigation), Rosenstein has the responsibility to decide whether Mueller continues. So they hauled him before Congress to grill him about Mueller. Wrong guy here too. He said he saw no reason to change course. Asked whether he was afraid of Trump firing him, Rosenstein laughed, “No, I am not, Congressman.” He has no reason to be, since a Saturday Night Massacre ends the Trump presidency. He’s got more job security than his boss, by an Alabama mile.

Neither of these men are veering. They don’t fear the bridge. So the only question is whether the GOP will turn their car aside. After the results of elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and most importantly Alabama, the GOP has to have the self-awareness to know it’s heading for a catastrophic crash. The words “2018 wave election” are now in the public consciousness. Even Newt Gingrich understands that the party must adapt or be run out of town.

Newt doesn’t want the GOP clown car to crash. I expect most GOP senators and governors don’t either. But the House is filled with idiots hopped up on gerrymandering and brimstone. It feels like they’re driving the car, doesn’t it?

Buckle up, America.

This is the tenth installment of a series of posts on politics and game theory. I’ve now covered impeachment, Russian collusion, white supremacy,abortion, guns, nuclear war, the deficit, the NFL, and sexual harassment. These essays are in my book Game Theory in the Age of Chaos, which you can order by clicking the link.