Class Warfare Blog

December 10, 2013

Finding the Middle Ground

Liberals like me tend to hammer President Obama for taking the middle ground. This is because the Republicans have moved far enough to the right to be snuggling up to Attila the Hun, and Liberals were in full retreat prior to that sudden lurch (Hello, Tea Partiers!), such that the middle ground is considerably right of center if one uses the axis developed some years ago (between the two parties, not the American people—just look at the polls: people want gun controls, people want the rich taxed fairly, people want sensible environmental regulations, people want marriage equality and the legalization of pot and a better immigration system, etc. and none of these are in the offing).

I used to advocate finding the middle ground, but it was based upon something I learned as a trained negotiator and that is you need to have a negotiating partner. Consider the traditional haggle. All you have to do is to view “American Pickers” or any of the various car restoration shows, etc. In the most common negotiation scenarios to be seen on these shows, one party starts with an “offer.” If the buyer offers first, they tend to offer “low.” If the seller offers first, they tend to offer “high.” Then each party edges in toward the “middle ground” until a mutually agreeable price is found . . . or not.

Occasionally we see a haggle go like this:
“I’m offering $3.”
“I can’t go that low, how about $50?”
“Oh, that’s too much for me, I could go as high as $10.”
“How about $50?”
“I might could go up a little, how about $20?”
“How about $50?”
Obviously this is not a negotiation. The seller probably doesn’t want to sell and put an unacceptably high price upon his goods to block any such deal. The buyer is negotiating, the seller is not.

Yet, this is the Republican stance on most issues—unacceptable high prices and “no compromises,” in other words they aren’t negotiating . . . on much of anything. There is no conclusion to a negotiation that does involve two or more parties. It can look like there is a negotiation going on, but there is not. So, we get negotiating stances like: we want to balance the federal budget but there can be no increase in revenues and we are filibustering this or that nominee for a judgeship but there is nothing objectionable about the nominee. Sound familiar?

The Republicans have one objective: to discredit and shrink government until it can no longer restrict the activities of the wealthy individuals and corporations who are lining the Republican’s pockets. By not negotiating and not agreeing on anything the federal government has ground to a halt, which is exactly what they wanted.

Trying to find the middle ground in an existential battle is the height of foolishness.

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