Compromise Our Way Off the Fiscal Cliff

Posted by Kristin Arnold on November 26, 2012

If I could wave my magic wand, I would have all our politicians serve the greater good of our country versus serve the interests of their constituents.

Keep waving that wand, Kristin, because that is never going to happen.  Our politicians get elected by people they represent.  Do you really think they will take away programs used by the people who voted them into office?  Nope.  Raise taxes on their voting bloc?  Political suicide.

Perhaps that’s why I always liked the TV show, Commander-in-Chief where Geena Davis plays an independent “got the soccer mom vote” Vice-President who ascends into the Presidency upon the unexpected death of the President.  She knows she is a one-term president and so her actions are predicated on doing what’s best for the country.  That may also be the reason why it was only around for one season….

Beyond television, let’s get real here about the way politicians make agreements.  “Consensus” begins with a state of mind – thinking of the greater good – the ultimate objective – and then casting about for possible solutions.  It may be your initial, well-considered position, but more often than not, the final solution is better than that which one individual brings to the table.  It’s about believing that we can all “win” if we put our brilliant minds together.  Of course, that requires those brilliant minds to actually believe that everyone can win.  Stephen Covey calls this mindset “an abundance mentality” where we live in a world of multiple wins – which strikes at the very core of our democratic society where we pit democrats vs. republicans every two years.  Somebody has to win; ergo somebody loses.  Want to stay in the game?  It won’t be with an abundance mentality.

When building a consensus, the group also knows what a “win” is – the focus is on the end result and not on the specific position each person brings to the table.  Sure, it’s important to bring a well-thought out idea, share it in a constructive way and listen equally to the other ideas.  Once the ideas are out on the table, by having a robust conversation aimed at the best way to achieve the end result, you’ll find the positions morph into an even better idea.  Oh yeah, unless you doggedly hang on to your position versus serve the greater good!

Frankly, I just don’t see our politicians serving the greater good.  And it’s not their fault; it’s the way our political system is set up. My magic wand won’t work in Washington DC.

The only way our politicians will be able to make a decision is through “compromise” – the least palatable way teams make decisions.  Why?  Because a compromise is only partially satisfying.  No one walks away feeling particularly great about the deal.  No winners, and everyone is a loser.  It’s a close as you can get to the end result while everyone is hanging on to their positions and pet projects.

Today’s political reality is that Republicans and Democrats are going to have to give in a little on each side to avoid the fiscal cliff.

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