Counter-intuitively, this midterm outcome enables us to actually get lasting work done
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For a moment imagine that we actually got things done. The middle class had increasing economic opportunity. The world did not cook off. We had really good healthcare! That the recent election resulted in not just a “check” on the other party, but actual progress for the country on multiple important issues.
It’s not far-fetched. I’ll show you how.
What gives me hope about this midterm result is that it opens a window of rationale for the parties to attempt bipartisanship again. Neither party controls both houses of Congress, so, unless there is collaboration, nothing will get done. And Nancy Pelosi, love her or hate her, this woman knows how to bargain.
Will she? Is there an opening here for some cross-party progress on issues like healthcare and gun violence? Or are we looking at two years of locked horns whilst global temperatures keep rising?
Pelosi is at least giving it lip service:
“A Democratic Congress will work for solutions that bring us together, because we have all had enough of division. (cheers & applause from crowd) The American people want peace. They want results. They want us to work for positive results for their lives.”
Here’s the question to ask: Do we want to actually accomplish any of our goals? Do we want to address declining economic opportunities for the middle class? Do we want to fight climate change? Do we want border security? Do we want to improve our health insurance situation?
Of course we do. The pertinent question then is … how?
Just for a moment let’s devote ourselves to that question, “How?” The more brain cycles we direct toward it, the faster we will figure it out, so I will ask you, just for a moment, to walk with me through that question, in an undistracted manner.
By undistracted I mean, we’ll get through this faster if — just for a few moments — we don’t allow ourselves to get distracted by “Who is to blame for this?” or “What is wrong with those people?” I wouldn’t want to deny us those pleasures; there will be plenty of time for it later. So let’s get through this quickly.
Imagine with me that there is a group of people…
Let’s imagine this group has agreed among themselves not to take any action unless a majority of the group agrees to the action.
But let’s also imagine that the group is evenly divided on many issues.
This presents a challenge. The group cannot take any action on those issues, because it can never form a majority that agrees to the action.
But it is confronted with pressing problems; it needs to take action. What are the group’s choices?
(1) Butt heads with the opposing half, get nowhere. Nothing happens. Everyone dies.
(2) Occasionally establish a transient slight advantage over the other half, use it to “shove down their throats” an action they oppose, thereby incite them to fight harder in the next decision cycle and gain a transient slight advantage over one’s own half, which they then use to reverse the action one just took. That thereby incites one’s half and the cycle resumes anew. ( … Maybe you’ve seen that movie.)
(3) Come to the realization that (2) above does not result in lasting solutions for one’s half, exercise leadership to persuade some portion of the other half to also realize (2) does not work for them either, and thereby resolve among those crazy rebel collaborators to craft a bipartisan solution to the problem that will be supported by enough members of both halves that it will not be immediately overturned in the next cycle. Problem solved.
(4) Or … abandon all hope and take no action. Everyone dies.
Does this make sense? Any need to spell it out further? Then let’s drop reality into the imaginary placeholders: (2) above does not result in lasting solutions for declining economic opportunities, income inequality, climate change, affordable health care, border security, trade pacts, nuclear treaties or … really anything.
So we need to evolve to (3). (If you agree, you’ll be needing to work on your persuasion skills, which you can read about here.)
Now, I know, one is anxious to observe that “the other side” (whichever) is blocking this notion of reasonable bipartisan collaboration. But here is the whole point about avoiding the finger-pointing “distraction” about which I spoke earlier. It doesn’t matter what the other side has done. That is only a distraction from what matters.
What matters is that, if we want to actually accomplish anything at all, we only have those four choices above. And, confronted with that reality, the question before us is not whether the other side has done something; it is which of those four choices we are going to make.
And truly, there is only one.
So we must lead. We must first lead our own half to realize that #3 is necessary. Then we must be leaders in persuading a portion of the other half that #3 is necessary.
Don’t think that is possible? Did you know over 8 million Obama voters voted for Trump? That basically proves that it’s possible for either party, no?
Of course it is possible.
We must lead toward mutually supportable solutions, not mimic the failed head-butting nor down-the-throat shoving approaches that brought us to this current, seemingly endless cycle of angry, frustrated … nothing.
Do we wish to be leaders?
Or just wallow down here in the mud?
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