Doubling Down

"Doubling Down" - what does it mean outside of the game of Blackjack?

In the days following the debate between Republican Presidential candidates on Sept. 7 at the Reagan Library, the term “double down” was used by many columnists to describe Rick Perry’s response on Social Security.  Although there is a clear meaning for “double down” when gambling on the game of Blackjack, it wasn’t totally clear what was meant in the context of the debate analyses.

In Blackjack, to “double down” means you get to split your cards and play as two hands but you have to double your bet.  It is a little more complicated than that but basically it means that you may be able to increase your chances of winning if your analysis of the turned up  face cards is correct.  I found it difficult to directly translate this into comments on Mr. Perry’s statements on Social Security during the above-mentioned debate.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) provides a definition   - “to engage in risky behavior especially when one is already in a dangerous situation.”  Translating this to Mr. Perry’s Social Security comments, they might be described as a betting behavior that entrenched himself deeper in his stance in the face of adversity, opposing arguments and perhaps even facts. 

Mr. Perry is not alone among those in government and politics to be said to be “doubling down”.  President Obama, in 2008 when he announced his Afghan surge, was said by a Newsweek columnist to be “doubling down”. In this instance his action was said to be betting that the Afghan surge would both 1) defeat the enemy and 2) leave a stable, legitimate government in place when the US left the country. That bet hasn’t been decided yet.

There are many other instances of the use of this phrase and now that I have focused on it I am seeing them everywhere.  Overall, “doubling down” can have either a positive or a negative connotation.  On the “positive side it can be construed to mean sticking to your guns when you believe you are “right”.  In the negative sense, it can mean to continue to blindly champion your own ideas in spite of poor merit. 

Be on the watch for this phrase, “double down”,  and let’s start a conversation on what it means in specific contexts.

Oh, by the way, in another usage of the phrase, and not to be confused with the current discussion, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) offers a Double Down Chicken Sandwich.  You guessed it – two pieces of chicken, two cheeses and lots of bacon.


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