Of Athletics and Elections

The winners of athletic contests are determined by the established scoring rules.  Under the rules for basketball games, the winning team is the side that scores the most points by passing the ball through the hoop on the opposing team’s side (with various shots scoring various assigned numbers of points).  Per the rules for baseball games, the winning team is the one that has the most home plate crossings by its players who finish rounding the bases.

The rules of golf and of cross country provide that the low score wins.

Participants in athletic contests are expected to know the rules under which the game, match, or meet will be conducted, and implicitly agree to the scoring methods provided under the rules.  Merely having control or possession of the ball for the majority of elapsed time will not make a team the winner in a basketball game, nor will attaining the most first downs in a football game; points must actually be scored.  In a baseball game, it is possible for a team to get the most hits and yet lose the game.

In league play, there usually are procedures for contesting the results of an athletic event; indeed, my junior high wrestling coach once had occasion to successfully dispute a referee’s non-imposition of a penalty as provided in the rules, thereby converting what had been an official loss into a win.

And while there is nothing untoward about suggesting changes in scoring methodology for athletic contests (I myself have done so), contestants must abide by the existing rules unless and until such changes are actually implemented.

Political elections are similar.  There are rules about who is eligible to vote, there are rules about how the votes are counted, and there are procedures to challenge the counting  and procedures applied in the voting process.  Every candidate has the right to have the voting verified.

And in the very special case of electing the President of the United States, just as home plate crossings are what count and not number of hits, Electoral Votes are what count and not the popular vote.  There are practical reasons for this, perhaps the most salient of which is to ensure that the needs of low density population regions are duly addressed by those who aspire to the Oval Office.  [In such regard, at the time of this writing, Joe Biden is not the “President-elect,” he is the “President-presumptive;” there is no President-elect until the Electoral College officially votes.].

The latest Presidential election in the United States, between candidates having their own extreme faults and deficiencies, has been fraught with unprecedented discord amongst the populace.

[Like every other Times of Israel blogger (and everyone else), I am biased and opinionated; the reader has the right to know what those biases are.  To exercise full disclosure:  I am the most despised – and dangerous – voter of all:  An independent thinker who does not vote according to any party’s stereotype.

I voted for Donald Trump.  In the course of my pre-Aliyah law career I had some cases in which Donald Trump himself or one of his entities had an indirect connection, and while I never directly interfaced with Trump or any of his attorneys, I was privy to certain documents which, in toto, gave me an insight as to his many character flaws and his modus operandi.  Knowing what I know, I nevertheless voted for him because of my concern over the downside baggage carried by his opponents.

It is, I believe, relevant that though I am registered as a Republican, I voted for him not on the Republican Party ticket, but on the New York Conservative Party ticket.  I did this because the Conservative Party has long kept the GOP honest in many elections for local office and higher.].

Having disclosed my personal biases, I do not now purpose to reprise in this blogpost all of the respective arguments for voting for or against one candidate or the other; the thrust of this posting is to discuss how the American people in general (and American Jewry in particular) might move forward from our current untenable situation.

The American public is now deeply fractured, the main fractures being between those who for whatever reason favored the Trump-Pence ticket and those who or whatever reason favored the Biden-Harris ticket.  So deep and wide are those fractures that people on whichever side of the divide are now conditioning their relationships (personal and cyber) upon the other person being on the same side of the divide, and on social media are “unfriending” those who voted for the opposing ticket.  Individuals, myself included, have been and continue to be personally attacked on social media (and physically) for even their suspected political views.

The situation is made all the more complicated because each side is now, in many respects, taking the diametrically opposite stance it took as little as two years previously; current calls for unity from those who condoned if not facilitated the “Not My President” movement now ring hollow and are devoid of credibility.  Conversely, The Trump campaign’s stance on whether the vote counts should or should not continue is the diametric opposite approach from that of the previous campaign.

Worsening the situation all the more is that individuals fear for their safety, livelihoods, and even their lives if their political stances are known.  Donald Trump is well known in reputation if not in fact for vengeance and vindictiveness (an impression he has strived to maintain reputationally if not factually), while elements in the Biden-Harris camp have directed explicit threats against “Individuals and organizations that publicly endorsed either of Donald Trump’s campaigns for President, in 2016 or 2020.”  Members of the public accordingly fear, with good cause, that if they assume a public conciliatory tone they will be perceived as weak, and attacked in their vulnerability.

Ideally, the Trump camp and the Biden camp will unequivocally denounce and distance themselves from such threats.  Given the dearth of credibility on each side, however, the chances of either side effectively doing so now are very remote.

I have no control over the Trump campaign (just as ordinary members of the public who voted the Biden-Harris ticket wield no control over that campaign).  What I do control are my own actions and social media.  What I have done and continue to do is to accept and include people of diverse sociopolitical orientations in my social circles (in-person and cyber), and insist upon politeness and civility in the political discussions.  In other words, it is okay to attack a person’s politics, ideas, or beliefs; it is not okay to attack an individual personally.  Within the past week, for example, a social media friend of mine, whom I have known from our pre-school days and whose politics are quite contrary to mine, was personally attacked by someone whose politics are very compatible to mine (though his tactics certainly were not).  I promptly warned the attacker that he would be blocked from my social media page if he continued to personally attack others on my page; the attacker persisted and I promptly blocked him.

If the norm among the populace shifts over to respectful tolerance, then a reconciliation can occur, notwithstanding the gaping flaws and credibility gaps in the respective candidates and their campaigns.

As Meira E. Schneider-Atik has recently noted on these pages “We all have the choice to connect or disconnect. I choose to connect.”

About the Author
Born in Philadelphia, Kenneth lived on Long Island and made Aliyah to Israel. Professionally, he worked as a lawyer in the USA (including as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service), a college professor and an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. He's also a writer and a traveler.
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