Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Seeking To Understand a Puzzle

At least one “gamer” agrees with the Speaker of the House of Representatives that the strategy by a small cadre of his members is not a game.  Instead, it’s a puzzle.

Negotiating in a political sense has always been the work of moderates, but the problem today,  according to Pew Research, may be that the majority of moderates are Democrats or swing Independents such as me.

This breakdown is based on how people identify themselves in surveys.

Moderate doesn’t mean squishy as those on the right mean when they use it as a pejorative.  To adapt a description used by Micah Sifry, co-founder of Personal Democracy Media, I prefer to think of moderate as being willing “to find a way forward.”

An analysis posted on “Third Way” found that on average over the past thirty years, nearly half of American voters have been moderates, close to the proportion of conservatives and liberals combined.

This probably means the mayor of Blount County, Tennessee took a moderate position last week.  Blount County lies on the Tennessee side between Knoxville and the Great Smoky National Park, due west across the amazing national treasure from Asheville, NC.

Last Friday, the mayor sent a request to the Federal Government, which was shut down, not by a majority of lawmakers but by a very few using parliamentary maneuvers, asking if the county could pay on its own to reopen the national park, a key part of the economy there.

That’s one way forward.

The four House members representing districts along the Tennessee-North Carolina line that dissects the Great Smoky Mountains are among the 18% of the House of Representatives responsible for the shut-down strategy.

I didn’t vote for any of them, nor did the overwhelming majority of Americans, and thus is the flaw in the “representative” form of democracy.  Due to partisan redistricting, those in that tiny group feel ensured re-election and thus willing to put a proverbial gun to the nation’s head.

A fascinating study released this month provides a glimpse into the mindset of not only this estranged minority but the political party that harbors them.  It notes that Republican moderates (1-in-4) want no part of the small group responsible for the shut-down, but they also don’t want to be ostracized as “illegitimate.”

Worse, word is they are blackmailed with threats from within their party to unseat them.  Many are speaking out anyway.

This means that while those holding the nation hostage demand negotiation the Republican moderates likely to pursue a way forward are reluctant to be at their table, robbing Democrats of those who would truly negotiate.

Ostensibly this is all about the Affordable Care Act, and the story this small group tells themselves, but that claim is largely symbolic.  Ironically, many of those creating the shutdown in hopes of defunding the program represent parts of the ten states with the worst healthcare.

These folks seem to be telling themselves a story that the Act is a conspiracy to expand government and ensure Democratic majorities by expanding Medicaid.  Ah, attributing motive is one way fuel confrontations.

This worry has repeatedly proven unfounded since the 1930s.

But an analysis for Wall Street investors notes that Medicaid actually plays a very small role, not to mention the Affordable Care Act is based on a Republican idea.  True, but half of Republicans according to the recent study are either Evangelicals or Tea Party partisans.

According to experts quoted in the report, the real problem is that the private insurance provided by employers and relied upon by 65% of Americans is no longer sufficient.

“All of the ten states with the lowest overall health insurance coverage rates had among the lowest rates of employer provided insurance.”

I wonder if Republicans actually understand this but oppose it because, as the study notes, many have convinced themselves that Affordable Care will become another way Democrats build up constituencies, ones they tell themselves are grounded on dependencies.

There is a kernel of truth about the issue of dependencies and safety nets, but I believe, deep down, if they have actually studied the Affordable Care Act they understand it is truly an attempt to control hidden healthcare costs.

The costs from leaving so many Americans uninsured are ultimately shifted onto taxpayers as well as increasing premiums for those who have insurance, something no longer sustainable.  It isn’t a problem resolved by “shoulds,” it is simply a business issue.

No, there must be much more to the hostage taking debacle.  But one thing is for sure, telling stories and attributing motive which in turn creates a lack of trust are at its foundation.

Years of research into organizational and individual behavior has shown this is usually at the basis of all confrontations.

I know from experience, it is nearly impossible to negotiate with people who are telling themselves stories.  I am also pretty good at telling myself stories and attributing motive.

A way to understand the current dilemma is to view it through the Doonesbury lens on a state where the hostage takers are now in control of all three branches of government, such as North Carolina.

Then, apparently “negotiation” suddenly becomes a one way street.

I want to believe those holding a gun to the nation’s head are well meaning but regardless of intent, I keep remembering that the first time this was done, we ended up embedding slavery in the U.S. Constitution.

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