How to Get a Governing Congress
The 2016 election had a singular message: American’s want conservatives to govern.
Governing requires leaders with the capacity to make deals that benefit others – not themselves.
Since 2010, Gallup has reported that Congress’ approval rating is 15%, but they have a reelection rate over 90%. The reality, therefore, is that Congress is comprised of politicians who have mastered reelection, not governance.
Given the recent failure of House leadership to pass its Repeal/Replace bill, Republicans need to learn how to build teams and develop effective strategies so that they may govern according to the consent of the American people.
Leadership, as I have written, is about people. Governing a nation, passing sound policy, and abiding by the Constitution and the consent of the people all centers on relationships of people. Here is the key idea and a few ideas to help elected leaders govern responsibly.
Leadership is the solution to America’s problems.
1. Build a team with a purpose. Politics is messy because it involves people. People can be erratic, selfish, deceitful, and many other things. Lawmakers, as power brokers for the People, are just as susceptible to human frailties as anyone else – a title does not protect virtue from temptation.
The first step in channeling people is to identify a purpose. Football teams play football. The Allies fought the Axis. Every paratrooper that jumped on D-Day understood their purpose for jumping out of planes. Purpose gives focus so that people direct effort, time, and talent.
Although Congress had a team (Republican House, Senate, and Oval Office), its purpose was not clear. In year’s past, Republicans ran on repeal. After Trump, Republicans added “and replace.”
Omitting “and replace” during Obama’s presidency prioritized ideological purity – not sound policy. Conservatives were functionally unprepared for Trump’s victory.
2. Honor trust. The phased approach threatened trust, because it wasn’t what Americans were ready for. Should lawmakers do as they campaigned and repeal, or do they avoid Americans losing coverage and do a “and replace” plan? It’s as though leadership forced members to choose sides – for or against.
A body of Congress that honors trust can do both Repeal and Replace…and anything else.
Trust is an essential element in governing because government in America is a concept of trust. We the People trust Government to protect our God-given rights. We trust representatives to make laws that reflect our values and defend our way of life. We trust that our taxes pay for necessary and effective government.
Every lawmaker, therefore, should cherish integrity as they cherish their individual freedom. Honest dealing does not mean being soft or being taken advantage of; instead, it clarifies intent and creates an inviting relationship that bypasses the typical political posturing.
3. High stakes negotiation requires humility. This sounds counterintuitive, but when I was in the most danger from negotiating with Afghan warlords, I’d ask them, “Am I missing something?”
This does two things.
First, humbling myself and giving the other side the chance to clarify an idea or introduce something lowers barriers towards cooperation and mission accomplishment. People prefer to do business with people they like. And people don’t like jerks.
Second, it gives me more leverage in the negotiation because I become more persuasive. Human nature is self-preservation. Humility offsets self-preservation because it is non-threatening. Doesn’t matter if JFK is standing strong during the Cuban Missile Crisis or if Donald Trump is negotiating Repeal/Replace of Obamacare, if the parties involved in the negotiation don’t feel threatened into a deal, they will be more willing to make concessions.
Pride kills negotiations. Humility closes deals.
America shifted gears when it elected Trump – and that’s a good thing. Conservatives, for good reasons, have a very sensitive and (maybe) an over-developed sense of resistance. But government does serve a purpose and can make (some) things better.
Free markets, competition, and de-regulation are the keys to successfully restoring healthcare to what it was and allowing it to get better than it ever has been. If elected leaders are going to solve major problems with sound policy, they need to understand the basics of governance.