A Theory About Christie’s Trump Endorsement – Opportunism Meets the Art of the Deal

I am a lousy political prognosticator. Folks remind me that if things went as I predicted then we’d have President Romney. I don’t remember predicting Romney would beat President Obama in 2012. I am grateful for my less than stellar memory when it comes to faulty predictions!

A few months ago I was pretty sure and predicted with little doubt that neither Hillary nor Trump would gain their respective parties’ nominations. Both those predictions were based on my understanding of American politics. While I can rationalize and make sense of a Hillary nomination, the Trump thing still baffles me. I still maintain that he won’t get the Republican nomination. But I will not bet any money against him at this point.

The recent Christie endorsement of Trump is what moves me from the ‘surely Trump will not get the nomination’ column, to the ‘I’m saying he won’t get it because I don’t want him to get it’ column. In fact many people seem completely surprised at Christie’s open backing of Trump. Why, What, How?  I have a theory about the attack and the reward.

 

The Attack – Trump’s Benefit

As it is fashionable to say now, he is an opportunist. And a necessary condition to be an opportunist is to develop opportunities. My sense is that even before the New Hampshire primary Chrisitie figured out that he was not in the running. But he was still good enough to be on stage in the pre-New Hampshire Republican debate. Given Rubio’s strong showing in Iowa he won in spite of coming third – only in American politics), a strong Rubio showing in New Hampshire would have made it a two person race (Trump, Rubio) and an eventual Rubio nomination. That was Christie’s opportunity. And this is where the Donald struck a deal.

The deal was Christie would go after Rubio in the debate using a Donald technique – get personal and belittle the opponent. It made sense for someone other than Donald to do it. If Donald had gone after Rubio the way he went after Bush it would be entertaining, but not effective. Folks would have said, “Donald is being Donald,” not “Rubio is weak and programmed.” But if the straight shooting Christie went after Rubio, then it may stick.

And seven minutes of the debate was all that Christie needed. When Rubio said what he said about Obama and Christie was part of the conversation the New York-New Jersey deal bore fruit. Click here and see minutes 13.00 to 19.50 of the debate to see the damage being done. Rubio helped the Christie-Trump effort by repeating the line, “This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing ….”

The irony is that while Christie rightly accused Rubio of delivering the “memorized 25 second speech,” listening to the tape now it seems that Chrisite himself had rehearsed a number of his lines. But Christie was smart enough to rehearse being extemporaneous as part of his preparation.

 

And Justice – Christie’s Reward

So what does Christie get in return? Whatever one thinks of Christie or not, it seems clear that he has political ambitions beyond New Jersey. If Trump goes on to win the Presidency I predict that Chris Christie will be the Attorney General of the United States. A pretty straight forward deal for a pretty ‘straight shooter’. And if it happens he will be the first New Jerseyian in over a hundred years to head the Justice department.

 

In Conclusion

Clearly I have no evidence to back any of this stuff. It is clearly speculative. But it seems like a plausible theory. I just hope that events do not so unfold that I will be right with my Christie Attorney General prediction. I sincerely hope that the premise of which the prediction is made (Trump wins) never comes to a pass.

Let me predict – “It will not come to pass. Trump will not be President.” For everybody’s sake, I hope I am right

Calling Out (with) Hope – At least become like Calvin …

While this is a piece that stands on its own, it may read differently if you understand my take ‘On Faith, Individualism, Decency, Tolerance and Public Policy’ – a piece that precedes this one in this blog.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28:

Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is?  
Shakespeare, William  – Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1 http://shakespeare.mit.edu/merchant/full.html

 

Recently America has seen an increase in something between deep religious parochialism and outright religious intolerance. Mr. Trump’s campaign for President has fanned such feeling, but is not responsible for generating them. For some time now, religious parochialism has been practiced in what would seem the most unlikely of places – some Liberal Arts Colleges!! There is a group of colleges which will not hire folks who are not Christian, or some even narrower religious category. They include, and I’ll touch upon the mentioned ones in this piece, Wheaton, Calvin, and Hope Colleges. I would not be surprised if there are other institutions, either Christian or affiliated with other religious denominations who also practice the “we will hire only our religious kind” type of parochialism. If there are, I would be grateful if someone would share their names with me.

Recently in the news was Wheaton College, in Illinois, U.S.A.. The powers that be at Wheaton College are so Christian that they have a problem with a tenured faculty member, Larycia Hawkins, “standing in religious solidarity with Muslims” and stating that they “worship the same God.”  The institution’s reaction to the professor’s statement seems so bizarre that I am simply going to suggest that in my book any attempt to explain and justify the actions of Wheaton’s powers that be is making a case for a society that I will find deeply troubling. I can only ask, what are they thinking? The Wheaton administration first suspended Hawkins, then began termination proceedings against her, before both parties reached a “confidential agreement under which both parties will part ways.” In case you are interested in some of the details of this incident I give you the following links.

 I wouldn’t be surprised if you were not aware of the existence of such religious parochialism. My life centers around American liberal arts colleges and for the longest time I was simply unaware that folks who thought this way also taught undergraduates. About a couple of years ago I learned that Calvin College and Hope College (both in Michigan, U.S.A.) excluded folks from being hired if they were not Christian. In fact I have visited Calvin and Hope after knowing that there was no chance of my being hired in these institutions and I did not think too much about it. I remember walking around the Hope campus wondering how an institution can be so parochial in its hiring practices. But I didn’t act on those thoughts. I’ll come back to talking about Hope College in some detail soon. But first a word about Calvin because it presents an interesting contrast with Hope – a difference I think, that matters.

Calvin College is upfront about its hiring practices. The Faculty handbook clearly states – “For regular appointments (i.e. tenure track and renewable term appointments), it is expected that a department will conduct a thorough examination of candidates… Although a variety of procedures may be employed, each examination must address the candidate’s reformed Christian commitment, teaching ability…” (http://www.calvin.edu/admin/provost/handbook/Handbook.pdf).

In fact the college defends this policy with great clarity. On the college’s website it explains – Calvin College is a Christian institution situated within the Reformed tradition. As such, the college may, under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and various relevant statutes, lawfully discriminate on the basis of religious and confessional criteria in its hiring, personnel practices and admissions. One example is the College’s use of religious faith, confessional commitments and church membership as conditions of employment for faculty and administrators with faculty status. Another example…” (http://www.calvin.edu/admin/hr/handbook/employment/#hiring)

As much as I think Calvin College is parochial and wrong-headed in its hiring policy, I deeply appreciate Calvin’s transparency. Calvin clearly is willing to unambiguously articulate the rationale for its discrimination policy. It seems to me that when institutions want to discriminate based on some deeply held belief/value/principle/faith then at the very least they should have the courage to be open and articulate about their beliefs and the form of discrimination. Clearly Calvin has more than met that minimal yardstick.

Not so with Hope College. Based on public documents, websites, etc. you will be hard pressed to figure out that to be hired by Hope College you must be a Christian. In its jobs page (http://www.hope.edu/jobs/) the college says – “Hope College places a high priority on sustaining a supportive environment that recognizes the importance of having diverse faculty and staff in order to best prepare our students for successful careers in our multi-cultural nation and global community. Applications with diverse backgrounds and cultures are encouraged to apply. Hope is an equal opportunity employer.

If you read that and thought that Hope College encourages folks with diverse religious backgrounds – Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, and the all-encompassing Non – Christian Others including Zorastrians –  to apply, you will be demonstrating a reasonable grasp of the English language, but will be wrong. For in that A to Z list, anyone who does not belong to category C and applies for a job at the Holland, MI’s liberal arts institution which encourages applications from people of diverse backgrounds and cultures will find that it is a Hopeless (the pun is begging to be made multiple times!) endeavor. Even if they think you are the best person for the job, they will reject you once they know that you are not a Christian! Let me repeat that, even if they think you are the best person for the job, they will reject you once they know that you are not a Christian! I’d been told that by a few people very familiar with Hope’s hiring practices. When I heard about this, in the abstract I didn’t think highly of it, nor did I think much about it. But then…

It happened to a colleague of mine. He is not Christian­­­ by birth. He applied for a position at the Philadelphia Center (http://www.tpc.edu/), which is managed by Hope College. He understood that Hope hired only Christians for on campus positions, but wasn’t sure this restriction applied to the off-campus Philadelphia Center, especially since he thought that there were other faculty at the Philadelphia Center who were not Christians (if that is , true, it further puzzles me!). So when he interviewed he asked and was assured by the Dean for International and Multicultural Education at Hope College that “being Jewish was not a bar to serving as the Executive Director of TPC.” Unfortunately, in spite of “having been the choice of the Search Committee for the position” my colleague was informed by the same Dean who assured him earlier that being Jewish was not a sufficient condition to deny him the position that “the expectations for this position had changed and that the Executive Director would now need to meet the same standards for employment as would any Hope College faculty member, namely, to be a Christian.” The quotes in this paragraph are from a letter my colleague wrote to the President and Provost (two different people) of Hope College after he learned that not being a Christian was the sole reason for his not getting the position at the Philadelphia Center. It is worth pointing out that the thrust of my colleague’s letter to the President and Provost of Hope College did not focus on his personal disappointment, but rather on the “relationship between Hope College and The Philadelphia Center (TPC).” Those details are tangential to the central point of this piece and so I will not address them here. But  it shows what a classy guy he is, and is an indication of TPC’s loss.

In his response to my colleague the Provost at Hope College addressed what he thought was the relationship between Hope College and the TPC. That made sense given the thrust of my colleague’s note. But he also said, “Allow me to begin by saying that I regret that your valuable time – to say nothing of the emotional investment involved in applying and interviewing for the directorship of TPC – was ill used (sic) by our process. I take personal responsibility for this, and I apologize on behalf of Hope College. Our intention from the outset was to hire an executive director who would meet the standard criteria for executive positions on our home campus.  We regret that these expectations were not made sufficiently clear to applicants.” He forgot to add, “and to the Dean from our institution who has been with us for about twenty years and who was involved in the search.”

It is not difficult to make clear that you hire only Christians. Just say it in your advertisement.  It is not unreasonable to ask, “Why does Hope College not make it clear that to be hired by Hope College you must be a Christian? If it is a matter of deeply held belief/value/principle/faith then it seems to me that there must be no confusion whatsoever about what the expectations and religious criteria are. And making the expectations and religious criteria clear are far from difficult. One just needs to say, “ONLY CHRISTIANS NEED APPLY.”

So what is the difference between Calvin and Hope, both of which hire only Christians (though, Calvin seems to be narrower in defining who is worthy of being hired) – Calvin is open and clear, whereas Hope is not. As much as I think both of them are deeply parochial and wrong-headed, I think Calvin’s openness and transparency is worth appreciating. Also, given that a Dean, who thought it was okay for a Jewish candidate to be hired, and his superiors (presumably the Provost and the President) disagreed calls into question how deeply conscientious (and as someone who read this piece before I posted it commented, and contentious) a position is the “hire only Christians” position at Hope. And one need not be too cynical in concluding that if Hope College is not clear about its hiring criteria based on religion, they might think that there is a strategic advantage to the obfuscation and lack of clarity. One wonders what that might be?

It seems quite obvious that Calvin and Hope (and others I am sure, even if I am ignorant about them) are not breaking the law. That surprises me. I am not sure how I feel about whether what Hope and Calvin do should be legal. It is complicated and I’ll hopefully get to tackling it in the near future. But one thing I do know, legal or not, if you are acting on a matter of faith and conscience, then be as open and transparent about it as you can.

I hope someone at Hope is listening. In fact my guess is that there at least some part of the Hope faculty are deeply troubled by this religious litmus test. As I said, I hope someone at Hope is listening.

On Faith, Individualism, Decency, Tolerance and Public Policy

It was about ten months ago that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) fiasco in Indiana had a few of my friends calling me to inquire how I live in a state of intolerance – Indiana. In fact, one of them even suggested that it was time I move! Ironically, that friend lives in California which passed Proposition 8, which was later overturned by the Supreme Court. Any attempt on my part to let my friends know that the good people of Indiana were just as tolerant or otherwise as folks in other parts of the country/world was often dismissed as a defensive tone of someone who made a choice to work, and live in the area whose zip codes begin with either 46 or 47.

The RFRA issue highlighted the discrepancy between the ‘free exercise clause’ of the First Amendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …) and Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin). While one can get technical and play constitutional lawyer about this tension, and quibble about whose rights are guaranteed by the constitution and the law (the opposition to the RFRA in Indiana was by the LGBT community and sexual orientation is not a protected class under Title II), the substantive central issue here is, ‘Should one be allowed to discriminate because of one’s deeply held religious beliefs?’ And it is worth separating the politics from the policy when thinking about this question.

My reading of the RFRA issue in Indiana was that it was a political tactic by a governor who was trying to shore up his credentials with the Christian Right, a rather important constituency in Republican primaries, by establishing his “ I am not pro-LGBT” credentials. He essentially wanted to make the case that an individual’s religious ‘rights’ must be protected if they were to come into conflict with their professional and social actions which could be (legitimately) seen as discriminatory. It was a way for the governor to announce to all that if one’s sincere Christian beliefs were to come up against society’s not so slow and sure move to legitimize in full measure the rights of the LGBTQ community, then he was for religious beliefs trumping the LGBT community’s civil rights. My sense is that the governor and the LGBT community would frame the issue in ways to tilt the balance of reasonableness towards their desired outcome. The LGBT community may object to the phrase “sincere Christian beliefs” and the governor and his supporters may object to the phrase LGBT “community’s civil rights”. It is worth noting that the political tactic backfired and Governor Pence did not seek the presidential nomination of the Republican Party.

In practical terms, what are we talking about here? The oft quoted example is that if a Christian (or a person of any other religious denomination) florist/baker running a mom and pop family flower shop/bakery sincerely believed based on their religious beliefs that marriage was a sacred institution between a man and a woman, and therefore objected to gay or lesbian couples marrying, and therefore did not want to provide flower arrangements/cakes for a same sex marriage then he or she should be allowed to refuse if asked without having to pay the legal price for being discriminatory. The governor underestimated the power of the opposition and eventually had to walk back what the RFRA legislation was attempting to do.

While I do think the governor of Indiana pushed the legislation for personal political advantages, I also take the position that as long as a reasonable substitute (another florist or baker who can cater the wedding, in the example) for the service that a religious person wanted to withhold for reasons of conscience was available then he or she should be allowed to withhold the service. And he or she must have a clearly stated policy of which groups they will not serve and must apply that standard in a non-discriminatory manner. The business in question cannot apply the religious standard in some cases and not others. I think that peoples’ deeply held religious beliefs (as misplaced and wrong-headed as I or anybody else may think they are) should be respected and that society for the most part should structure its affairs to accommodate these beliefs. I want to reemphasize the qualifications (“as long as a reasonable substitute exists” and  “clearly stated policy” and “apply that standard in a non-discriminatory manner”) in my position. I am essentially arguing that if society has to choose between respecting somebody’s deeply held religious belief or making sure that at times people belong to certain categories/groups (in our example, the lesbian or gay couple getting married) can be served by the exact person/organization (the Christian baker who believes …) that they want to be served by, then society must act to respect one’s deeply held religious belief.

To be clear I want to give an example which takes out the Christian and LGBT aspects of the Indiana fiasco so that the principle is clear. So, if my religion proscribes the coloring of one’s hair and I as the owner of a motel do not want to rent out rooms to a couple who have colored their hair, the law should permit me to do so as long as there are other motels nearby which the hair coloring couple can rent from. However if mine is the only motel in town, then I should NOT be allowed to discriminate. And I must have a clearly state policy in my lobby, on my website, and other reasonable places, so that everybody knows whom I will not serve and why. And if I do not apply my standards consistently and in a non-discriminate manner, then I should be charged with some civil offence!

There are a couple of problems with my position above. First, how does one define a reasonable substitute, and how will one know whether a reasonable substitute exists? Without going into the details here, it is worth noting that a judgment of this sort is made regularly when the authorities deal with whether to permit mergers between two firms – the question ‘will it change the competitive environment substantially?’ is essentially asking, “Do reasonable substitutes exist, such that the merged firm will not have a monopolistic/oligopolistic advantage?” And, if the position I suggest is adopted, over time a body of case law will develop, and conventions will be worked out that seem ‘natural’ as to when one can discriminate and when one may not. The other obvious problem with my proposal is that a lemons problem exists where at times (maybe, even often) it is hard to differentiate the true believer from those who falsely claim to believe. As far as possible, society should figure out a mechanism to separate the ‘true’ from the ‘false’ claim, but if a doubt exists, the benefit of the doubt should go to accepting the claim.

The fact that I think the ‘fictional florist or baker or motelier’ should be allowed to withhold his or her services for religious reasons should in no way be interpreted as my thinking that it is a good thing that people withhold services on religious or any other grounds. I share the deep sense of sorrow and disgust that many people have when individuals and businesses in the 21st  century act in discriminatory and bigoted ways – at the very least, I think  to do so is not decent.  And if I know of a business that discriminates on religious, social, cultural, and sexual orientation grounds I will demonstrate my displeasure of their behavior by engaging them to speak about why I think their stance is deeply problematic, or not engaging them (by not patronizing them) if I think there is little that will be achieved by engaging them – I will go to the businesses/organizations where the reasonable substitutes are available. But the fact that I do not like something, or am even deeply troubled by it, is not good enough reason to make it illegal! When an individual’s (and I reluctantly add, institutions’) deeply held conscientious choices are in variance with the way I (or anyone else) would like to see things pan out, individual’s deeply held conscientious choices should win the day.

Please read the related piece titled, “Calling Out (with) Hope – At least become like Calvin …”

Trumped Up – attempts at humor and a prediction – Nothing Top About This Ten List

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on this blog. With 2016 born, maybe I will try to get a little more regular!

I restart my blogging with a piece on the man who this Time was trumped by Merkel! And my take on the Donald is, Donald Trump:

  • #1 – Makes the case for the teleprompter.
  • # 2 – Is the first candidate running for the Presidency who caricatures Saturday Night Live.
  • # 3 – Wants to build a mini ‘Wall of China’ on the U.S.-Mexico border because someone told him that it was THE GGRREEAATT WALL!
  • # 4 – Moved many a man from their children’s ‘my dad is the biggest joke in the world’ list.
  • # 5 – Is right about not being politically correct. In fact he is politically wrong, socially wrong, culturally wrong … or as he would say it, HHUUGGEELLYY WRONG!
  • # 6 – May by his anti-Muslim words unite the Shias and Sunnis.
  • # 7 – Makes many folks at UPenn not want one of their grads to become President in 2016.
  • # 8 – Should get credit for (successfully) arguing that he will not take a bribe, because he has given one!
  • # 9 – May move to Warsaw because the polls say everybody LLOOVVEESS him.
  • # 10 – Will in all probability not be elected president! Though, while three months ago I would have given him a one in a hundred thousandth chance of being elected, now I will give him a 1% chance!

 

DePRESSing Priorities – Evidence That Fear Trumps Tragedy

How happy I will be to have been wrong! Unfortunately, I was right!! On January 1, 2013 I wrote” As much as it saddens me to say it, in years to come we will all see more homicides and mass shootings in America.” There have been a number of ‘school shootings’ since the Newtown school tragedy on December 14, 2012. The latest was in Marysville WA, on Friday, October 24, 2014. And when it happened some networks broke away from regular programming to report on the tragic events. And over the last two days news outlets have had reports about the shooting. But then…

The Sunday news shows think that a school shooting is no longer worthy of conversation. I am a news junkie. I watch three news shows every Sunday – ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox’s News Sunday. And I looked forward to hearing the left/right, anti/pro NRA conversation today. I enjoy hearing debates where I know what will be said by all so that I can feel well informed, even if all that is being said is recycled garbage. However they disappointed me today – all three of them – ABC, NBC, and FOX!

None of the shows said much (I think it was nothing, but just in case someone said something tangential I use the much softer ‘much’) about the shooting in Washington state. Nowadays school shootings in America are as common as traffic accidents, and spilt milk – and it would be silly to expect the Sunday news shows to cover every accident and cry over spilt milk! And this week was also a pretty busy week – we had Ebola and Lone Wolf Attacks to talk about!

Good Americans have got used to gun violence in their schools. They understand that when a school shooting occurs the event is tragic. But they also understand probability theory and that something like this happening in their community, or to someone near and dear to them, is so small that they no longer fear school shootings.

But ‘Ebola’ and’ Lone Wolf Attacks (especially by religious zealots who belong to a religion which begins with ‘I’ and ends with ‘M’ – and we ain’t talking ‘Induism’!) are new and the American public isn’t very good at applying probability theory to see that dangers posed by either of these two is so remote that they really shouldn’t be worrying about them. Ignorance is the basis of fear, and fear is worthy of media exploitation. That explains why the news media talks endlessly about Ebola and the dangers posed by lone wolves. And it also explains why we don’t talk about school shootings after another school shooting in spite of the fact that after Newtown, CT, President Obama said, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end.  And to end them, we must change.”

The press can either discuss tragedies we can do something about and can focus on, or they can prey on our fears. Actually, I am wrong about that – they can do both! They can walk and chew gum at the same time – they can discuss the tragedy of gun violence and prey on our fears of Ebola and crazy attacks by lone wolves! Tragically, they do the latter and not the former! And that is DePRESSing

Less Than A One in Hundred Chance – NFL, the Super Bowl, the Regular Season and Probability

There is less than a one in a hundred chance event that is taking place today. I thought I’d alert you to it as I try to restart my semi-frequent blogging exercise. The credit for the contents of this blog go to my son who told me about it, but thought it wasn’t worth writing up for others to see! So, what’s it all about?

The Seattle Seahawks are playing the Denver Broncos in a rematch of last year’s NFL Super Bowl (the ‘finals’ for American Football, for those who are wondering). The last time teams who met in the Super Bowl played each other in the next regular season games was in 1997! It has been sixteen years since that event has occurred.

Rare Super Bowl Rematch As Seahawks Host Broncos is the headline to an AP news story which appears in a number of different news outlets to capture the event. However, the headline notwithstanding, the article does not address the rarity of the event. Trey Wingo, of NFL Live tweeted –

How rare is a Super Bowl rematch the following season? Sunday’s @Broncos @Seahawks game will only be 6th such occurrence.— trey wingo (@wingoz) September 17, 2014

“…game will only be 6th such occurrence” doesn’t capture how rare it actually is. To understand how rare this even is we need a little NFL history, a little on the team structure of the NFL, how the NFL schedules games, a little NFL history and some very basic Statistics.

The National Football League (NFL) is divided into two conferences, The American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). Each conference has 16 teams, slotted into four divisions (North, South, East, and West). Thus, the NFL has 32 teams. The Super Bowl is the championship game between the AFC and NFC champion. To become a champion you play 16 regular season games, and a few playoff games. Playoff games are only between teams in a conference (AFC teams play only AFC teams, and NFC teams play only NFC teams).

Regular season games can be inter-conference. In fact every team plays 4 inter-conference games every season. The way the games are scheduled, a team in one conference plays each of the teams from a division in the other conference on a 4 year rotating schedule. The way the games are scheduled every team in one conference will play every team in the other conference once in a regular season game every four years. This scheduling is structured and automatic. Thus there is a 25% chance that any team will play a team in the other conference in any given year.

The first Super Bowl was held in 1967, following the merger of the National Football League and the newer American Football League. Between 1967 and 1997, there was a rematch of the teams playing in the Super Bowl in the following season only 5 times. This hasn’t happened since 1997. In other words, it has taken 17 years for the teams that met in the Super Bowl to meet in the very next regular season.

So the question is, what is the probability that a game (or in probability terms an ‘event’) with a 25% chance of happening in a given year will not happen for 16 years and will occur in the 17th year? The answer is (0.75)16 * (0.25) = 0.0025, which is a quarter of a percent chance! So if you watch the Seattle-Denver game today please realize that you are watching something that is really rare.

A final note for inside the ballpark NFLers, and my colleagues who teach Statistics – in doing this calculation we have ignored the reorganization of the NFL conferences and divisions in 2002. We’ve assumed that 1997 to 2001 was organizationally the same as was post 2001. Taking that difference into account will change the result marginally, but the central story that this is really, really rare will stay on. My Stats colleagues who think it is worth making your students read this piece may want to ask them to go and research the organizational structure of the NFL pre-2002 and see how that will change this result!

P.S. The central ideas in this piece are Aditya Krishnan’s. So, I got a blog entry for the tuition payments we made!

Envy, Nostalgia, and Voting Twice in the 1977 Election

Elections are just around the corner in India. And I sit far away in the mid-west of the U.S. looking on with envy at those who are right in the thick of things. I wish I was there; but then choices have consequences, and missing the elections in India is a price that I have to pay given my choice of place and profession. Along with envy I feel nostalgia. This feeling returns every time there is an election in India. But this is the first election in India after my father’s (Appa) passing away and I fondly remember casting two votes in the same election!

Mrs. Gandhi’s Emergency rule was on, and for reasons which are unexplainable even today she called an election. It was the election of March 1977. She called the election on January 18, 1977. The period between 1975 and 1977 was the foundation of my peer group’s political awakening. Those years, after most Saturday scout meetings Rajeev (now Professor IIM-B, spokesman for the Congress Party, and Nandan Nilekani friend/adviser – read below why this connection is relevant) and I would eat idli-vada-sambhar at (if memory serves me right) Prakash Hotel on Residency Road, opposite the old Reserve Bank of India building, in spite of my mother warning me not to discuss politics in public (or private) lest I be arrested! Paranoia was normal, given the happenings of the Emergency. We may not have been able to philosophically differentiate between left and right, but we spoke a lot about the right and wrong of politics. And Rajeev, even in those days, was well versed in the sociology of politics. And even though we were just entering our teens, we were politically aware and engaged, and we chose sides.

Mrs. Gandhi’s call for the March 1977 parliamentary election was a game changer. Jagjivan Ram, H.N. Bahuguna, and Nandini Satpathy abandoned Mrs. Gandhi and formed the Congress for Democracy, which later merged with the newly formed Janata Party which put up a united (and based on the outcome, formidable) front to the Congress. It seemed that this time there was a contest.

It was under these circumstances that I cast two votes – well before Sharad Pawar recommended that people do the same!.

We lived in Wilson Gardens and our constituency was Bangalore South. The election in Bangalore South was mainly between two men of renown. K.S. Hegde (Janata Party – symbol Farmer) and K. Hanumanthaiah (Congress – symbol Cow and Calf). Hegde, who was running for the Lok Sabha for the first time, was a former Justice of the Supreme Court and would later go on to become the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Hanumanthaiah who held the seat, was a former chief minister of the erstwhile (that is nostalgia speaking) Mysore state, who went on to become a member of the Union Cabinet, and after whom Double Road (the one that leads into Lal Bagh) is named. There were well attended rallies at the Hombe Gowda Boys School grounds. Oh the joy I felt after attending one of those K.S. Hegde rallies. I can still recall the loud speaker’s call of, “Please cast your alubil alubil ote in favor af K.S. Hegde. K.S. Hegdege nimma matha kodi, nimma matha, K.S. Hegdege

It was also the time when Appa had come down with a bout of jaundice and was bed ridden. He was on a diet on Keelanalli and bland veggies, and was ordered to ‘bedrest’. There was no question of him going and standing in line to cast a vote. And my mother (Amma) was going to not vote with him. Damn be that this was possibly the most important election in the short thirty year history of Indian independence, and that they should make their vote count. My mother was playing nurse and worked out that at the margin their two votes would make no difference, while it would matter if my father’s liver would take a turn for the worse. The doctor had ordered bedrest and bedrest it would be.

I argued my case over and over again. Appa discussed a great deal of politics with me and I was pretty sure that if he voted he would vote for Hegde; Amma I was not sure. I was Hegde’s operative in our house. But I was up against jaundice and Amma. So I struck a deal with Appa – he would go and vote if he did not have to stand in line. Reluctantly, Amma fell in line. So off I went to meet the polling officer in the Hombe Gowda Boys School polling station. I explained the situation to him and inquired whether my sick father and mother could jump the line and vote. He agreed. I returned home triumphantly, and packed my parents into the car with our driver Janardhanan steering us to the polling station. The voting took place as arranged – two votes were cast by people who drove down in a nimbus blue Premier Padmini, or was it the light green matador, ah memory fails me. And a fourteen year old was responsible for casting two votes.

I have no idea if those two votes had any effect on the final vote difference between KSH and KH – as I said I’m pretty sure how Appa voted, but Amma’s vote still remains a secret. I do not know if she added to Hegde’s total, or neutralized Appa’s vote. And in case you were wondering, K.S. Hegde won – the only non-Congress candidate to win from Karnataka that year. (That last sentence is wrong. On reading this blog Rajeev just informed me that Hassan was also won by the Janata Party – Nanjesha Gowda was the candidate. I could have simply corrected my error, but then…Thanks Rajeev)

While the farmer, and, the cow and calf are no longer competing symbols, there are parallels in Bangalore South between 1977 and 2014. Again it is a contest between a veteran and a newbie, though this time the BJP candidate Ananth Kumar is the veteran, and Nandan Nilekani the Congress candidate is running for the first time. At that time Rajeev supported the Congress as he does now. But unlike last time, he’s working to get people to the polls for his guy in Bangalore South. Then, I was engaged and enthusiastic. Now, I am envious, and nostalgic!

Oh, how wonderful!

P.S.

  • The Rajeev I refer to is Rajeev Gowda. I called him Rajeev because in those days he was M.V. Rajeev.
  • Rajeev’s uncle successfully contested the 1977 elections from Chikballapur in Karnataka.
  • Also if anybody reading this knows why all the Janata Party candidates are listed as BLD (Bharatiya Lok Dal, presumably) in the official elections results, please tell us.