The New American Political Dichotomy

Before we get to politics, I want to tell you about a business exercise.

The Universal Veto Game #


Sometimes my job as a consultant involves helping people decide what to do when no ideas have a consensus. Sure, someone in a hierarchy can dictate terms, but dictated solutions don’t really work in business. Cooperation and collaboration are too important for success, and dictated terms are usually executed half-assed.

So we play this game. It’s called the Universal Veto game.

Everybody in the meeting (usually 15-20 people) writes one project they’d like to do on a 3x5 Post-It note. Then they write another. And another until everybody has 10 notes and 10 pet projects.

Next, each person selects three “cannot live without” projects from his stack and posts those three Post-Its on a wall.

Then, we take 10 minutes to walk along the wall and read all of the projects.

At the end of the 10 minutes, everyone is authorized to remove any Post-Its they don’t like for any reason. Everyone has a veto over every idea.

We usually end up with 3 or 4 Post-Its that no one objects to. At least a few people consider these remaining ideas a top three priority for the company. By focusing on any one of those three projects, management and the project’s champions can count on broad support and no strong opposition.

Problem solved.

Political Dichotomies #

Now, imagine if we brought together 15-20 representatives of various “warring” political factions in the USA and played the same game. You’d see Post-Its that say things like “Kill the Rich” and “Outlaw Abortion” and “Ban Guns.” There’d be ideas like a balanced budget amendment, the fair tax, flat tax, and $25 minimum wage.

But there would be a few ideas on that wall of Post-Its, too. “End Crony Capitalism,” “Abolish Corporate Welfare,” “Stop Spying on Americans,” “Audit the Federal Reserve.”

I bet if we brought together hard left Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and hard-right Republicans and Libertarians and Occupy Wall Streeters and Focus on the Family and whoever, those last four ideas would remain.

That’s the new political dichotomy in America. The old left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republican, progressive vs. conservative, atheist vs. evangelical dichotomies aren’t dead–they just don’t matter right now.

Those old dichotomies that you and I grew up fighting don’t matter because none of us is in control of the debate. We’re not allowed to fight our cherished old battles because we’ve lost control of the debate switch.

The new dichotomy in America is Elite vs. Plebeian. It’s the Political Class vs. the Subject Class. And it’s the only dichotomy that matters.

At some point, we are called to fight the battle the new dichotomy poses. That might mean a new party that includes some former enemies. And that new Plebeian party will have a focus as narrow as the Republican Party did when Abe Lincoln was elected. Imagine a platform with these four planks:

** Crush crony capitalism ** Abolish corporate welfare ** End warrantless domestic spying ** Subject the Federal Reserve to regular public audits

I suspect such a platform would generate broad support. We’d knock off these projects in fairly short order. We’d then deal with the unforeseen consequences of our ideas. (They’ll come. Believe me.)

Then we can go back to our old battles, but those battles will be less bitter because we’ll be fighting against our brothers and sisters in arms.

Challenge Question #

Would you tear down any of these those four planks? If so, please tell me why.