Sid Roberts: We’ll need to meet in the middle to get work done

Many of us find comfort on the fringes with those we agree, but it’s keeping us from reaching accord.

By Sid Roberts / Herald Forum

The lack of political moderation today in this country is problematic. While the term “missing middle” is a concept often used to refer to lack of available mid-priced housing stock, it is also quite apropos in describing our current political environment.

Simply stated, it is no longer fashionable to be a political moderate. Politicians such as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., because of their moderate views, are regarded as those who have sold out politically. Apparently, many feel more comfortable moving to the political fringe, with like-minded people. Breath of thought and respect for one another’s opinion is missing in our politics and in life, and we are all being hurt by it.

In today’s world, if someone doesn’t accept your version of the truth, they will often label you as an extremist. Conversely, it is easy to label them back if they don’t agree with you. It no longer seems agreeable to simply work for the truth or a solution and agree to disagree.

Nowadays, it seems part of the game plan to insult the person who has an opposing view. In politics, healthy debate and discussion are essential to the formation of good policy.

Nonetheless, instead of debating policy and rationally negotiating the issues, the dialogue has unfortunately turned personal and ugly. We can’t seem to discuss issues without also lobbing verbal bombs at each other or saying hurtful words.

Bombastic silos aren’t good and have existed long before former president Donald Trump perfected them. Just ask the Democrats who they believe should get the blame for lack of gun control; it is laid at the feet of those awful Republicans! If we are to ever solve the horrible dilemma of gun violence, we need to approach the problem differently. We must first learn to control our verbal weapons before we can ever reign in deadly weapons. Somehow, we need to garner emotional intelligence and come to the table and talk sensibly.

Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic candidate for governor in Texas, recently confronted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott during a news conference after the horrible school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Regardless of whether you believe this was a courageous act or a blatant campaign stunt, I’m pretty sure an honest meeting, without the drama, would have been better.

We certainly don’t have to compromise our core beliefs to have dialogue with those we disagree with. In fact, honest dialogue may give one new insight and may help you strengthen your position. The trick is to listen without overt reaction.

In fact, ignoring the cognitive dissonance one feels in a polarizing discussion is a great way to show strength while displaying a form of emotional intelligence. When sitting at the negotiation table, showing temperance by conceding on some small but irritating polemic will help one later to get to a win/win with the more important issues.

Sadly, if tough discussions begin with acrimony, you have instantly created a wall and no real compromise or agreement is possible. Disagreeing amicably seems to be key here. Blowing one’s top usually also blows the chance for a meeting of the minds. Ignoring the cognitive dissonance caused by a disagreeable premise and pressing on nevertheless toward the goal will yield fruit.

To solve complex and difficult issues, we must roll up our sleeves and endure some political cognitive dissonance. We must come to the missing political middle at least to negotiate. If we can do that, we can change the world. If we don’t, there may not be much world left to change.

Sid Roberts is the mayor of Stanwood.

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