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Dr. Tom H. Hastings, PeaceVoice Senior Editor, is Coordinator of Conflict Resolution BA/BS degree programs and certificates at Portland State University.
Tom H. Hastings, PeaceVoice Senior Editor
Published: 16 October 2023

Little boxes, made of ticky-tacky...--Malvina Reynolds

When someone is determined to ignore the obvious, we sometimes say, "Um, he really has his head in the sand." 

What is patently obvious to all Americans right now is the adolescent dysfunction of Congress.

Republicans blame each other. If they are not grenade-throwers, Trump labels them RINOs, Republic In Name Only, one of his many favorite go-to insults, as if he is the sole arbiter of who gets to call themselves Republicans.

Democrats blame Republicans, with the bright lights showing the reasons for that. Republicans control Congress but cannot control themselves, which means Congress is missing all the levers of power right now.

They are not playing well with each other in the sandbox we call Congress.

Time to get their heads out of the sandbox. 

Think outside the sandbox.

What would you do if you were Hakeem Jefferies, the minority leader in Congress? So far, from the original battle to select a new speaker nearly a year ago--15 ballots finally installed a weak Kevin McCarthy, forced to make fake promises to the farthest of the far right--to the current rudderless ship of state, the Democrats have played it one way, entirely partisan, understandably.

But our understanding has limits.

In my field, Conflict Transformation, we might suggest getting far more inclusive, creative, and collaborative. The Democrats should be brainstorming toward solutions, not toward more adversarial dead-ends. They could easily expand on my little list: 

  • Caucus with moderate Democrats, especially those from safe districts, to see who is willing to take slight risks.
  • Find and engage in private discussions with moderate Republicans to see about possible collaboration. Ironically, the Democrats who will virtually certainly win reëlection are the best partners with Republicans who also will. 
  • Keep close count of the numbers as private talks produce willing members who want to restart Congress and actually get back to work.
  • Find a moderate Republican who will agree to stand for speaker if guaranteed at least 217 votes.
  • Go public, go big, get public opinion quickly on the side of those prepared to take power from the flamethrower extremists.
  • Win the floor vote, get back to doing the business of the American people, not the firebrand business of the anti-democracy zealots.

If we believe this type of thinking outside the sandbox is impossible, we quite literally are giving up and giving in to the worst ones, the ones who seek power over instead of power with.

I do not claim my version of thinking outside the sandbox is the best, but I will vigorously claim that it's better than the status quo, the Great Sandbox Full Stop we see now.

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