The key to getting along is some beer and a good football game.
Successful organizations find ways to bring their people together at various opportunities in order to break down the barriers that inhibit efficient operations. More than one deal has been struck over a cold beer. In business, in politics, and in life in general, the more we interact with each other, the more likely we are to find common ground.
Competing idea’s are not new to our country. In fact, they are the heart of what makes us great. One of the best books I’ve ever read on this is The Thirteen American Arguments. In it, the author states that arguments are the heart of our government. But disagreements don’t mean we can’t talk to the other side.
Two hundred years two of the most polar opposites in American Government were Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. But these two individuals still managed to come together in what is known as one of the great compromises in our nation’s history when Jefferson invited Hamilton to his house for dinner. What became known as the Dinner Table Bargain shaped both financial policy as well as the location of our nation’s capital city.
What we need is to seek out opportunities to talk to the other side without shouting and yelling. We have seen some efforts to this end recently that should be celebrated. It was good that President Obama went to speak to the Republicans. It was good when Jon Stewart appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor”.
What is not productive is when one side of the argument tries to use these episodes to keep score. Also not productive is when opportunities to truly build bridges are missed, purposefully or not. The President missed a golden opportunity to build alliances with his Super Bowl gathering tomorrow. Only one Republican was invited. Was an invitation extended to Representative Cao (R- LA) because he, like Obama, is rooting for the Saints, or was it because is one of the few Republicans that supported the Health Care Bill?
Either way, he’s not the guy that needs to be there. Granted it’s a small gathering of people. (Politics Daily reports that there will be three other Representatives and one Senator, along with some military veterans and various Cabinet members at the event). But this is definately an opportunity lost. What would have been better is if he would have invited people of differing thought process and then made the mandate “no talking about business”.
How about Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell sharing photo’s of grandkids at halftime? How about Nancy Pelosi telling Scott Reed about great places to take the family in Washington this spring? How’s that for incomprehensible images? What about a gatering of nothing but Republicans? Unfortunately, as is, this event will do nothing to break the echo chamer of party politics. If anything it may add to it.
If these people don’t have the ability to drink a beer and watch a football game together, how do we expect them to solve trillion dollar problems? Congress needs to accept the fact that, despite differences in philosophy, they, as a group, are tasked with getting things accomplished. If they don’t learn to hang together, they should hang separately. We as Americans must quit cheering for “our side” at the expense of progress. We need to demand from our governemnt (as opposed to demanding from our party) results, not excuses.