A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
- Max Planck
It would seem that the above observation by Planck might apply to the DNC/GOP stalemate in Washington and that we are destined to endure the current gridlock until the older guard dies off and a younger generation of leaders and elected officials rise up and declare in unity and in no uncertain terms, “Enough already!”
However, given how long that will take — especially without term limits legislation — and countered by the collective impatience of all generations, might there be an alternative approach to stopping gridlock?
Wayne Dyer famously said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
What if we were to look at “resistance to change” by both Democrats and Republicans that appears to underly gridlock in a different way?
What if resistance to change doesn’t actually exist?
“What?” you might respond, immediately showing your resistance to what I just said.
What if what we call resistance to change is actually, non-rational, non-functional, self-preservation?
Let’s unpack that.
Imagine how universally important it is for people to feel that they are in control and that merely feeling not-in-control is the same as feeling out of control, a state of mind that is intolerable.
Furthermore, imagine that feeling in control rests upon feeling confident and feeling confident rests upon feeling competent. To further clarify with the obverse, feeling incompetent leads to feeling doubt (non-confident) and feeling doubt leads to feeling out of control.
If in fact, Democrats and Republicans are feeling increasingly incompetent in serving both the Constitution plus their total constituency, who they represent — POTUS is literally the President of (all of) the United States — and their party, their confidence that they individually will be able to get anything done has begun to wane, and with that their sense of having control of accomplishing anything.
When that occurs, both the DNC and GOP default to their party lines vs. the Constitution and their total constituency, because if they cross their party lines in favor of doing what’s right, they risk losing control of their future electability.
Not serving the Constitution or their constituency is non-rational (in that it goes against their mandate). However, serving the Constitution plus their constituency is non-functional if it puts them at the risk of going against their party. And if going against their party puts their self-preservation (or future electability) at risk, both the DNC and GOP are going to default away from doing what is in the best interest of the majority of those they represent and the Constitution.
What’s the answer?
To quote Former Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” And although the more recent usage of that is different than his original intent, few would disagree that the current manner in which the DNC and GOP cooperate in the best interest of the American people and in service of the Constitution is greatly in need of “sunlight.”
There should be an initial publicly viewed meeting of both GOP and DNC members of Congress (both the House and Senate) to develop a consensus of what it means to serve the Constitution plus full constituencies of those they represent and what commitment in actions that translates into, i.e. what actions are in service and what actions are not in service to those.
Following that, there needs to be a formally scheduled monthly half day publicly viewed meeting of the GOP and DNC members to assess, “Are we on track with our commitment to serve the Constitution plus our full constituencies? And if not, what do we need to do to get back on track?”
Without such an action to clarify our representatives’ commitment to us and a method to hold them accountable, we may just need to default to Max Planck’s observation and wait for the old guard to die off (which may take some into their nineties).
Or maybe we just need to follow a modified version of General MacArthur’s famous parting words to: “Old soldiers never die, but they do need to move aside to let younger soldiers lead.”