14 October 2011

Changing the Political Conversation from Debate to Negotiation

I can't help but wonder if we've gone through three stages in our political conversation. Years ago, in stage one, politicians talked to complexity in fairly complex terms. More recently, in stage two, politicians simplified a reality they realized was complex into sound bites. Now, it seems as though politicians have come to believe their own sound bites, confusing their simplifications of it with actual reality. How else to explain Herman Cain's 9-9-9 proposal that would slash revenues in a time of chronic deficits and zero out capital gains tax but create a 9% national sales tax? 

I blame the League of Women Voters for this. They were the early sponsors of presidential debates who agreed to debating terms that essentially meant that a candidate had only to defend his position for - at most - two minutes. The debates became the forum for discussions about real issues that were, necessarily, simplified. 

Which brings me to my point. 

My buddy Eric made a really insightful comment. He asked why we have candidates debate when the real test of their time in office is their ability to negotiate across the aisle, reaching an agreement with folks who have a different ideology?

So, why not replace debates with live negotiations? Rather than have Obama debate fine points of disagreement with Hillary Clinton, why not have him come to some agreement with Eric Cantor? Or instead of hearing Rick Santorum attack Mitt Romney over some minor disagreement, why not hear him try to reach an agreement with Harry Reid?

Wouldn't a negotiation tell us much more about a candidate's ability to govern than a debate? And wouldn't it force them out of sound bites, force them to do more to acknowledge the complexity of reality? And wouldn't it tell us much more about what they might actually accomplish as opposed to just what legislation they might oppose? 

It's a fairly simple idea. But it just might make things more complex and interesting. 

1 comment:

Curt Matsen, CPA said...

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