Compromise and Coalition: They’re Not Dirty Words!

Coalitions and Compromise: They’re Not Dirty Words!

From childhood, we are bombarded with axioms meant to propel us toward playing well with others.

  • Many hands make light work.
  • Two heads are better than one.
  • No man is an island.
  • It takes a village.

As we age, however, we’re susceptible to the siren song of absolute power. Some of us are no longer comfortable just living in the village. We want to be mayor. And that’s fine as long as what’s driving us is the desire to lead, not to dictate.

Leaders understand that without the crowd behind them, the work can’t get done. But without negotiation, coalitions, and compromise, there is no crowd. There’s only multiple factions.

Coalitions and compromise used to be hallmarks of American life and politics.

Now, many – especially the anonymous cyber warriors among us—see those tactics as signs of weakness. For doctrinal zealots, regardless of situation, party, faith, ideology, or identity, the new “third rail” is Compromise. In some quarters, willingness to compromise gets you cut from the herd.

The Knight Canney Group worked on two projects this week that reminded us how mobilizing stakeholders and building coalitions from across multiple spectrums is an energizing, satisfying, and productive way to play well with others.

The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, in Maine, delivered more than 70,000 petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s office, from across all 16 counties, comprising multiple political parties, and including voters of all ages. The RCV campaign is working to give voters more power by letting them vote “their hopes and not their fears” via an instant run-off system known as Ranked Choice Voting. The committee also boasts a long list of endorsers that includes equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Will they ultimately be successful? We won’t know until November 2016, but the initial broad coalition of support certainly encourages others to listen.

In Washington, D.C. the “Innovation Imperative” was presented on Capitol Hill. A coalition of more than 300 organizations, colleges and universities, businesses, and nonprofits from across all 50 states have endorsed “Innovation: An American Imperative,” a call to action urging Congress to enact policies and make investments that ensure the United States remains the global innovation leader. Ten CEOs and chairpersons from major U.S. corporations doing business internationally also are signatories to the Innovation Imperative. A bi-partisan, bi-cameral group of federal lawmakers actively endorses the effort.

Breathing life into public policy by forming coalitions is far more effective than breathing fire into the crowd. The latter may be cathartic, but in the end, it’s corrosive, not productive.

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