I’ve got some good news for you.
First, the world didn’t end. Stop hoarding batteries and canned fruit and start saving for retirement again. Life goes on. (And by the way, if you were using the Mayans as an excuse to not buy any Christmas presents … well, you still have the weekend.)
Second, and more important, is this: We’re not a partisan nation after all.
Sure, we disagree pretty strongly at times over things like gun control, or global warming, or gay marriage. But when it comes to the fiscal direction of our country, we’re more alike than the world — and our elected leaders, apparently — realize.
That’s the word from Adam Davidson. In a recent TED Talk, the “Planet Money” co-host dismissed the idea that we’re a nation of Democrats vs. Republicans. According to Gallup research, 31 percent of Americans identify themselves as Democrats, 27 percent say they are Republicans, and a whopping 40 percent say they are Independents.
And when it comes to America’s finances, we’re downright chummy.
Take the fiscal cliff. “When it comes to these issues, the American people as a whole are moderate, pragmatic centrists,” Davidson said. “They are largely in agreement on what they want to happen when it comes to the nation’s finances.”
So why have our politicians adopted “the worst kind of cynical party politics” and made the issue as divisive as possible?
Good question, especially since a little compromise could go a long way toward fixing what ails us.
“What is most maddening is that if Congress were able to simply begin the process toward compromise, we all are instantly better off,” Davidson said. “The fear is that the world is watching. The fear is that the longer we delay any real solution, the more the world will look to the U.S. not as the bedrock of stability in the global economy but as a place that can’t resolve its own fight.”
That could play havoc with our standing in the global economic community. But worse, it could paint our country as one that’s woefully behind the times.
Apparently our politicians didn’t get the memo: We’re living in a new era, one that is turning its back on hierarchy and the quaint but outdated command-and-control structure of leadership. The keywords today are collaboration, networks, and people.
What does all of this have to do with the fiscal cliff?
Just this: It’s time to stop looking at this as a partisan problem. This I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong posturing will get us nowhere. Unless we sit down and collaborate on this problem, we’re doomed to repeat the same old tired mistakes.
Or, as Davidson says, “Talk about (the economy) like what it is — not an existential crisis, not some battle between two fundamentally different religious views, but a math problem, a really solvable math problem, one where we don’t all get what we want and where there’s going to be a little pain to spread around. But the more we address it as a practical concern, the sooner we can resolve it, and the more time we will have to resolve it, paradoxically.”
That means our elected officials must look at themselves and their opponents as people — humans capable of logic, reason, collaboration, and compromise.
Then again, this is Washington we’re talking about.
Watch Davidson’s fascinating and enlightened presentation in its entirety.