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In which John discusses his 15-year friendship with a mathematician who now might be the next governor of Illinois??? Learn more about Daniel Biss and his campaign:

Daniel and I will have a Facebook Live chat THIS THURSDAY at 1pm eastern:

And if you donate to Daniel's campaign now, your donations will be matched:

Other topics include electoral politics in the United States, the kind of people who run for office, and John's avoidance of professional mathematicians.

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Good morning, Hank. It's Tuesday

So one night about 15 years ago, I went to a bar in Chicago and, through a mutual friend, I made the acquaintance of a mathematician named Daniel Biss.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed talking to Daniel that evening, on account of how throughout my life I had worked pretty hard to avoid interactions with professional mathematicians. Like I chose the college I attended in part because you didn't have to take math to graduate

Also it's hard to make friends in adulthood and I've never been good at it, but as Daniel and I played an exceptionally poor game of pool that night I had the feeling that I was making a friend. And it turns out, I was right. Daniel and I have now been friends from within a third of our lives.

He is the smartest person I have ever known. He was 25 when we met and had already gotten his PhD in math from MIT, and was working as a professor at the University of Chicago, but he has never treated me as anything other than an intellectual equal.

And we remained close throughout big changes in our lives. I met Sarah and moved to New York and then eventually Indianapolis and became a dad. Daniel fell in love with a historian and they got married and moved to the suburbs of Chicago and had two beautiful kids.

Everything was good and normal and then one day Daniel called me with the worst idea I had ever heard in my entire life, which was that he wanted to leave his very good job at the University of Chicago and run for a seat in the Illinois State House of Representatives

This seemed like a bad idea to me first because Daniel is, like, nerdy. In my mind politicians were slick and wore tailored suits and, damn, I don't know that Daniel owned a suit. Sarah and I were in the audience for Daniel's campaign announcement, and what may have been his first-ever campaign speech. And while his eloquence and intelligence were obvious, as I was driving home I couldn't help but think that Daniel- how do i phrased this gently? Might eventually find his way back to abstract mathematics

And indeed while Daniel's 2008 race for state rep was agonizingly close, he lost. But he ran again in 2010 and won and, then in 2012 he became a state senator and over the last eight years Daniel has become a brilliant politician and an extraordinarily effective legislator in a state where it's famously hard to get anything done.

He's built bipartisan support on everything from improving retirement benefits to ending exploitative student loan practices and now he is running for governor of Illinois. Not just running in fact he has a very good chance of winning the Democratic primary on March 20th, even though his two opponents are a billionaire who has spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising and a literal Kennedy.

Those are the kinds of people we tend to think of as likely politicians: heirs to famous families, billionaires who can buy all the TV ads they want. I don't generally think of politicians as people. Like, in my mind, they're somewhere between super heroes and super villains: larger-than-life characters with tremendous powers battling it out while the rest of us get our houses stomped on by their giant robot suits

But imagining electoral politics that way can become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Like the main reason I didn't think Daniel should run for office all those years ago was because he didn't seem to me like the kind of person who would succeed at it. But if people like Daniel don't run for office or we don't elect them then we end up with the comic book version of electoral politics.

Obviously we don't need Lex Luthor running our governments, but I also don't think we need Superman. We need capable people who know how to govern who can build consensus, who can listen well, and who can hold competing ideas in their minds.

When your friend runs for governor you realize that politicians are people, even the billionaires, even the Kennedys. So the question becomes not who looks or acts the part or who has the money or whatever else, the question becomes: which of these people, no more or less human than I, do I think would be best at this job?

And if I thought of politics that way I would have understood from the beginning that Daniel would make a successful politician and for me that is real cause for optimism. I am so proud of Daniel and really excited to support him.

He and I are gonna do a Facebook live event this Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. I'll ask him some questions, you can ask some to more. Info in the doobly-doo below.

And if you live in Illinois, VOTE. Also if you don't live in Illinois, VOTE.

Hank, I will see you on Friday.