An Important Lesson for our Kids: How Not to Negotiate

Had an interesting conversation with Chloe the other day about the shenanigans in Congress – the government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling disaster. The best part about the discussion was observing her avid interest in learning about what was happening and understanding why it was happening.  My husband and I explained the situation to her as best we could (and no, despite efforts to remain neutral, we failed miserably).

We discussed Obamacare and the fact that it’s duly signed legislation found constitutional by the Supreme Court; what the government shutdown meant for millions of people (furloughs, national park closures, federal agencies working at near zero capacity (perfectly lampooned in last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” cold open);  the meaning of debt and why the rest of the world relies on the stability of U.S.-issued debt; the ever-changing concessions the minority Tea Party has attempted to extort in exchange for reopening the government and ending its objection to raising the debt ceiling; the role of Speaker Boehner in this mess; how gerrymandering is nefarious; and the horrible precedent President Obama would set for the executive branch if he were to make any concessions under such duress.

There was a hell of a lot to talk about. Chloe’s reaction to the circus we described was pitch-perfect. “That’s just stupidity!” she exclaimed.  Simple, to the point and so very true.

Indeed, all of this brinkmanship – bordering on treason, if you ask me – is incredibly stupid.  Chloe couldn’t grasp why this small minority of zealots would be willing to do such damage.  Aren’t our elected representatives supposed to protect their constituents’ best interests? Will these horrible people get voted out of office? Why would they do such a crazy thing if it’s going to be bad for them, too?  This isn’t democracy, is it? Great questions without easy answers.

The one takeaway from this debacle is that all teenagers should be obligated to learn more about the genesis of this crisis and how we’ve arrived at this shameful place.  Because no matter what your political leanings are, unless you happen to be a fervent admirer of Ted Cruz, the tactics of the Tea Party and Boehner over the past few weeks are the perfect primer on how not to negotiate (evidently, none of them has read “Getting to Yes“).

As my experience with puppy Truffle has proven over the last week, you don’t give into dogs when they’re whining.  And as anyone with kids knows, you don’t give into children when they’re acting like spoiled brats.  Ergo, when these Congressional clowns act like puppies and children, standing firm is the only viable option. They all need a serious time out, i.e., they should all be fired. However, thanks to that nefarious gerrymandering, they likely won’t be. Sometimes our country really sucks.

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