We Need a Third Party Think Tank…
In Brief: When we make decisions with 51% to 49% majorities, half of us lose. True democracy requires engaging in genuine debate until solutions are found that serve most of us and are destructive to none.
Have We Ever Had Collaboration and Consensus?
This is not to say that there was no dissent, or even rancor in the founding proceedings that birthed our political heritage. There were both. But the people who affixed their signatures to those documents had some things we seem to lack. They had dedicated and wise leadership, a deep devotion to purpose, a commitment to principle, and a process of collaboration and consensus.
We actually use collaboration and consensus often outside Federal government. It's common in small political bodies such as city councils, in some businesses, and in many community, spiritual, and charitable organizations. We use it better in lesser venues. Can we learn to use it on the big issues?
Collaboration involves assembling diverse ideas into a workable whole. It involves finding areas of agreement, and building new agreement upon those. It is creative work, often allowing for the discovery of ideas that hadn't existed before, or the adaptation of old ideas to new purposes. It involves careful presentation of one's own positions, and honoring the positions of others with thoughtful understanding.
Consensus is not so much process as it is acceptance of a status—the state of being in collaboration until some level of unanimity is achieved. It is a decision not to accept narrow victories. It is abandonment of the concept of winning at the expense of others. It is commitment to finding the best solution, rather than an adequate solution.
So, the two go hand in hand. Collaboration is the process of bringing our best assets to bear upon our most important needs. Consensus is applying those assets until we find the right solution. Do we deserve less than that? Can we afford less than that?
Some will argue that this kind of process is impractical, that is too time-consuming, and that consensus will often be unreachable. But where collaboration and consensus are employed, they are often successful. And we might ask how well the alternative is working. How often has legislation been abandoned in Congress because partisan division made agreement too costly to achieve? How often have we worked through months and months of a budget year on continuing resolutions because partisanship made budget agreement impossible? How often have judges' benches gone unoccupied because partisan obstruction made confirmation unreachable? If we pursue a course of collaboration and consensus, over partisanship, it may not always work. But can it be any less effective than what we're doing now?
Achieving the Best
Consider this: In a democracy, a consensus solution is the only real solution. Think of the Declaration of Independence. Certainly not every person in the colonies agreed with it. Even the delegates who contributed to its writing had widely differing ideas. But when they ultimately penned their signatures upon the document, they mutually pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to support it. That's serious business They could not have made that pledge if they had not dwelled in the collaborative process until they achieved consensus. They could not have pledged everything if they had not all believed that their declaration was the best and only solution—for all of them, and for their new countrymen and women.
Of course, not every difficulty we face is as grave as what confronted those patriots. And the resolve that was essential for them will not always be required of us. But today, our democracy may be in exactly as much danger as it was in 1776, and we may need every bit of the resolve they had. They strove for the best they could achieve. So must we.
How We Get There
Please Speak Up…
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The political saga of the past several years has brought changes across the polical spectrum. It has not, however, changed the fundamental principles expressed on these pages.
Some of the pages have been revised, and some await revision, to add content and to update specific references to parties, events, etc. While that revision proceeds, please read the information posted here for its fundamental ideas and principles.
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