In the Washington Post this week, Jonathan Haidt and Hal Movius offer up their expertise to help the President and Congress succeed at unwinding their complicated impasse while we perch teetering atop the fiscal cliff. Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner, we know you’re very busy so here’s the (aptly named) Cliff Notes version:
1. Describe progress in terms of packages rather than single axis wins or losses – that way “the base” can find a margin of success somewhere in the details.
2. Call for shared sacrifice. People are powerfully good at rising to this call (think WWII and immediately following 9/11).
3. Break impasses with contingent agreements. With dueling experts and statistics, partisan projections about the results of certain actions take wildly different directions. Solve this problem by structuring “if…then…” statements in the agreement to cover their worst fears.
4. Don’t say “compromise” too often. The base is likely to see compromise on what they view as moral issues as immoral.
5. Invoke the virtue of humility, a staple of our founding fathers.
Now, if you don’t have to personally get back to the fiscal cliff negotiations, you must now read the whole piece as it involves untying shoelaces, throwing tomatoes and some exceptionally cool founding father quotes.