There is a type of mediated dispute resolution which I think is more analogous. In this type of resolution, each party writes down its demand/offer. The third-party mediator also writes down his opinion of a fair resolution. Let’s say it’s a money demand of some kind, for simplicity’s sake, so both parties write down their demand/offer, and the mediator writes down what he believes is a fair number.
Crucially, in this type of resolution, the mediator’s number will not, under any circumstances, be the number imposed on both parties. His number — somewhere in between the two, a compromise — will not form the basis of the settlement.
In this type of mediation, one or the other party’s number will be used. The mediator will choose one of the two party’s numbers, the one that is closest to his own.
The point of this sort of mediation is to force the negotiating parties into making more reasonable demands, to start the process much closer to what each figures the final resolution will be.
Because in this sort of mediation, if Party A offers $10,000 in compensation, and the mediator thinks that $500,000 is fair, but Party B decides to demand thirty million dollars, guess what? Party A’s offer is closer to the mediator’s number and Party B walks out not with thirty million, nor with $200,000, but with a paltry $10,000. He has walked in with a demand so far from the mark that the other party gets to make all decisions about the resolution.
I like this example because it precisely replicates what happens in an election. The voters are the mediators, but they don’t get to choose whatever they want. They are presented with two options, and they must choose one. They will choose whichever is closest to their desires.
Part of the job is educating the mediator. Litigants need to explain to the mediator that their position is reasonable — just like part of a candidate’s job is to explain to voters why his principles are the best.
But at the same time, ultimately you’ll get only so far with education. In the final analysis, the candidate’s position has to be closer to the voters’ desires than his opponent’s. Or he will lose.
This means that you can’t get too far in front of the voters. If you care about winning.
Some people like to talk about “sticking to principles” and saying that it’s not as important to win elections as it is to stick to the fundamentals. That’s wonderful rhetoric. It sounds great on a blog. By articulating such a position, you can often get a few dozen commenters to come on and type “Damn right!” into their little comment boxes.
And then your side loses, and the other side starts passing even more laws that kill our country.
Hey, at least you “stuck to your principles” while you sat and watched our country get torn apart. You were able to maintain your sense of self-righteousness. And isn’t that what really matters?
Those of you who care about getting things done in the real world should pay attention to Ace’s explanation. For example, apologizing to a company that has polluted the holy hell out of the Gulf of Mexico is never a position that is going to be closer to the voters’ wishes.
I’m not saying abandon principles. Far from it. I’m saying: be smarter about how you articulate them.
I recognize that this may be an unpopular position on a blog, and that I will get fewer “Damn right!” comments than a self-righteous screed might produce. So be it. I’m not in this to make money (although there are some shiny new PayPal buttons on the right sidebar now!) or to get the “Damn right!” comments. I’m in this to call things the way I see them and try to help us win, while staying within the bounds of truth and sense.
So that maybe we can stop some of our Dear Leader’s agenda that he is ruining my kids’ future with. On this Father’s Day, I’m keeping them in mind.