America strives to defeat itself … and succeeds.
(We’re Americans. We’re good at that.)

Pew Research recently published a study reporting that 48% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans would rather their political leaders “stand up to” the opposing party, rather than “work with them to accomplish things.”

The survey illustrates a common predisposition in politics today toward emphasizing the partisan “digging in of heels” over the “getting things done.” I suppose one rationale could be the belief that through greater fortitude one might overcome opposition and pass one’s priorities. Of course, this assumes the opposition does not equally believe in greater fortitude in resistance.

Meanwhile, in the last twenty years, how have we done on Climate Change? Middle class prosperity? Border security? Gun violence? How has this “digging in of heels” worked out for anyone? Have we gotten things done? Has either side “out-fortituded” the other?

– In 2000, Republicans won complete control of all three of the House, Senate and Presidency.
– In 2008, Democrats won complete control of all three of the House, Senate and Presidency.
– In 2016, Republicans won complete control of all three of the House, Senate and Presidency.
– In 2020, Democrats won nearly complete control of all three of the House, Senate and Presidency.

It seems we Americans are pretty good at defeating each other. And so … lo, here on twenty-two years later, has either side gotten anything done? On Climate Change? Middle class prosperity? Border security? Gun violence?

In 2022, in all likelihood the Republicans will recapture control of the House and possibly Senate. What will then be accomplished?

If we keep “digging in our heels,” we should expect the same thing to be accomplished as in the last twenty two years.

Here’s the problem. It’s straightforward.

In a union — especially one relatively equally split across perspectives — one has no choice but to negotiate go-forward paths that are acceptable to sufficient numbers on both sides. That is the reality; one has no choice but to work with opponents.

Being right is one thing.
Figuring out how to accomplish what’s right is another.

Because yes, principles are important. But being right is one thing. Figuring out how to accomplish what’s right is another.

It is difficult — yes, it’s true! (I get it.) — to contemplate working with people one finds objectionable. But it is a delusion to think we have any other choice. In a union, there is no other choice.

We have to come back to realizing, as our forebears mostly did through United States history (with tragic exceptions), that we not only have no choice but to figure out how to work together, but that indeed the good news is — when we are able to find pathways where sufficient numbers on both sides pull together — America accomplishes mind-boggling things.

The people who would lead us to do that THEY are the ones we need to be looking for, electing and … celebrating in our Pew Research polls.


Learn more about research on and the failed history of the “we just need to overpower the other side” fallacy in the partisanship fallacy.

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