Throughout history, countless wars have been sparked around the globe. The causes of wars range from relatively small disagreements, to more provocative moves, such as an invasion of another country. While many wars end only after one side achieves absolute victory, still other wars end in a compromise long before a clear victor becomes apparent.
In trying to create a truce, negotiation theory comes into play. An intermediary might be employed to persuade the competing sides to agree on small, simple issues with hopes to eventually reach a final settlement. By searching for something that the two sides can agree on, such as a prisoner swap, the negotiator identifies common ground between the two parties in order to build a foundation so that larger and perhaps more consequential issues can be addressed. Eventually this process allows the two parties to resolve the dispute at the heart of the conflict.
U.S. politicians in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House should take a page out of the book of peace negotiation theory and try to find more policies to agree on, however simple and small they may be. Taking these first steps towards agreement might yield more effective dialogue on large and impactful issues.
The current two-party political system in the U.S. has been mired in disagreement. In some instances our political disagreements involve healthy discussion in search for the best answers to policy questions. However, it seems both parties have become accustomed to disagreeing with the opposing political party almost for the sake of disagreeing. This stymies progress on small, as well as large and important issues.
It has been shown that most Americans identify themselves as being in the middle of the political spectrum. So why does it seem so difficult to find common ground and agree on certain issues? There are many topics which both parties have little need to politicize.
A recent New York Times article highlighted some of the major bi-partisan pieces of legislation that the Senate has passed, despite a relatively even divide between Democrats and Republicans over the past few years. These include an overhaul of the postal system, a multiyear transportation program, a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, revised rules at the Food and Drug Administration, and easing financing for business start-ups, among others. However, getting the members of one of the houses of Congress to agree on something seems to be relatively easy in comparison to the task of getting the other house of Congress and the President, the necessary agreeing parties, to accept new legislation.
There should be more cooperation between the House, the Senate, and the President. Our two party system should not be a hindrance to progress and we should not have to wait until one political party controls the White House and Congress to pass meaningful legislation or to simplify existing laws. We should start with something small. Think prisoner swap.
Perhaps we could try to agree on something as simple as an anti-litter effort or a campaign to raise awareness for rare diseases, which would educate people on when to see their doctor or which symptoms to look for.
Whatever the issue is, perhaps by agreeing on small yet meaningful concerns, we will embrace the process of cooperation. There are large and more vital problems on which we can agree and move forward to address. Through this process of choosing small things and then big issues to agree upon, we can create the opportunity to forge our way towards meaningful solutions, which, once implemented, will improve lives.