I'm afraid I was too subtle. Someone close to me said of the blog: "It's a good read". Not exactly the reaction I was going after. For the couples treatment to succeed, each partner needs to stop focusing on and criticizing the other and start looking critically at themselves and their contribution to the dysfunction. Last night, Nancy Pelosi, was interviewed on Sixty Minutes. Leslie Stahl, not exactly an arch conservative, asked Pelosi if blocking the stimulus package for eight months was a mistake. Pelosi stiffened and both denied blocking it and justified her blocking actions as protecting several groups, including teachers, minorities, etc. Stahl pushed a little but Nancy would not budge. Did her efforts in the end get her what she wanted? If so, only in part. What happened in those eight months that made compromise possible when it was not earlier? Stahl's inference was that the "political" wind had changed, not Pelosi's vaulted principles. Was the good of the country served by failing to compromise for eight months? For its part, the Republicans also need to look at their contribution to the stalemate to see if they could have better met the needs of the Left in an effort to serve the common good.
On the news this morning, James Clyburn, representative form South Carolina, was asked about the next steps after Biden is sworn in. He spoke of bipartisanship as a goal but then stated that the Democrat agenda had to to be enacted. His message, like Pelosi's, was: " we welcome the other side as long as they agree with us completely".
Using the couples analogy, let's look at a real life conflict. The husband in our example is a firefighter and the wife is a work at home Mom with three small children. They do well enough financially but depend upon the husband's overtime. The husband always wants to accept overtime when it's offered because the family "needs the money". The wife needs help with the kids and so wants the husband to refuse overtime, at least some of the time, to be at home. Who's "right"? On the one hand, overtime money helps the family financially but the husband's absence leaves the wife with her own "overtime" work in managing the kids and the couple spends even less time together. A classic coin with two sides. In the ensuing discussion, the husband might say to his wife: "I'm earning extra money for the family. Stop being so selfish". The wife might retort: "You don't want to be here with us. You're escaping your responsibilities as a father and husband. And by the way, forget about sex". If the husband continues to accept overtime whenever it's offered because he has the ability to do so, over time the wife may become discouraged, depressed and overwhelmed and not care for the children as well as before. The husband may feel rejected, start stopping at a bar after work and end up in the arms of another woman. Both are justified to a point in their positions but, if the common good of the marriage is not paramount, failure on many levels will likely occur.
The couples analogy when applied to our political climate is as follows. The Democrats have the presidency and majorities in Congress. Like the husband who can accept overtime despite the objections of his wife, they can pursue and likely pass their agenda without the consent or approval of the Republican minority. If so, roughly half the country will feel like the wife or like the Democrats did when Kavanaugh was confirmed. It will be legal, it can happen but will it serve the common good of the Nation, will it promote unity. To assert that a statistical tie in popular voting is a mandate is no more true today than it was in 2016. Because one party has the ability to do something does not mean that it should do it. When I treat couples, I tell them that they are equal partners, that neither of them has more power than the other when it comes to issues of common interest. I also tell them that they are representatives of the marriage, wherever they are and whatever they are doing. They do not speak badly about their spouse to others. The marriage is above the individual.
A patient of mine told me that she is worried about China and Russia. I agreed but said that I thought we could handle the threat if we were unified. A divided house is weak, a divided house falls. Just like the couple, individual Democrats and Republicans need to represent the country above their parties. They can disagree about policy and utilize compromise strategies to resolve the conflicts. What they cannot do is vilify the other. Political allegiance can mimic religious allegiance. When it does, it treats policy disagreements as though they are matters of absolute right and wrong, good and evil. When that happens, the proponents themselves are good or evil depending upon which side they are on. You mean you had lunch with Senator so and so! How could you?! He is a bad person. And what possible good can come from dealing with a bad person so don't even talk to him. But guess what? If people who disagree don't talk to each other, the differences become crystalized and hard like rocks. The few psychological studies in this area agree that communication between the conflicted parties leads to understanding, mutual respect and actual cooperation between them. If either political party in power adopts the stance that it is "my way or the highway", we will continue to be divided as a Nation and we will fail. There is no winner in a marriage/relationship. There are two winners or two losers.
Please share your thoughts and comments.