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topic jujitsu

The road in front of Fort Rucker’s Enterprise gate performs an S curve down a fairly steep hill. The average speed for drivers at the top of the hill is around 65 mph; everyone knows that at the bottom of the hill, their speed will be zero to have their IDs checked at the gate. Depending on how much traffic into the base there is at the moment, the line of cars queued up can be a few hundred meters long. The shape of the road prevents people from seeing how long the line is until they are nearly upon it.

Braking late raises the risk of becoming unable to brake hard enough to avoid rearending someone. Braking early ensures that more aggressive drivers will maneuver around you and get ahead in line. It’s interesting watching people choose when to begin their deceleration and inferring truths about their personality.

I tend toward a cautious aggression: I begin braking, softly, at a point which ensures that even if the queue extends as far as I have ever seen it, I will not cause an accident. Speed, in this context, becomes a resource that I hoard until forced to dispose of it by traffic. It’s an essentially centrist approach, pleasing to neither passengers who demand defensive driving nor to ones who want to spend as little time on the commute as possible. However, I usually end up with a pretty good position in line without ever facing moments of real risk.

I’m curious to see in the debates tonight how close the candidates come to a centrist, presumably populist approach, and how far out they go to appease the extremophiles among their supporters. Their problem is analogous to the braking problem: how close to the center can they come without angering their hardline supporters at the edges?

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