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  • Reverend James Squire

17 Percent

As we hurtled through a week where the FBI raided Trump’s home and found highly classified documents, we saw the usual suspects coming to his rescue such as Hawley, Greene, McCarthy, and MAGA Republicans. They didn’t even wait to learn the facts of why the raid was needed. Granted they were somewhat humbled, when the truth came to light, but they still supported every excuse that Trump put forward. Keep in mind that they are performers and not politicians concerned with policy. Their response was predictable particularly as it was a week where Biden seemed to have many key victories for the people. All the more reason to crank up the negativity.

The problem in America right now rests in that word predictable as well as the phrase cognitive dissonance which refers to when two things don’t seem to go together but turn out, like the raid, to be focused on where our focus needs to be. Another word that captures its meaning is the word paradox which is defined as self-contradiction in our actions.

Malcolm Gladwell who has spent his life looking at relationships as well as getting to the issue of why we do what we do has a new theory that he thinks would benefit our political life. What would our political and ethical life be like if we couldn’t predict what our elected representatives were going to do? What if we began rewarding politicians for their open- minded nature and not what we could predict what they are going to say about every issue? What if we could know the issues that are good for each politician’s constituents but we were more concerned about their openness to new ideas when it came to issues facing our nation? I am looking for exchanges like, “I can’t believe X voted for that. It’s out of character, but it will be good for our nation.”

Our problem today is that we can predict politicians’ actions including the actions of the Supreme Court. If we chose people based on an openminded nature and not their positions on issues, we could bring about more change, more possibility, and more cooperation between a two-party system that we need.

We can look to behavioral economics, psychology, and ethics to finally raise Congress’ abysmal job approval rating beyond 17% which was Congress’s rating as of July 26, 2022. If this were any other job, they would get the boot. But instead of indicating why it is so low, as is true in any evaluation process, we need to help them get better. Right now, voting determines their job rating. I can’t imagine any institution that evaluated more than EA. But each evaluation had a growth piece. I would meet with people periodically to see how they were doing on various points. I required them to evaluate me in the same way so no one should be surprised when that moment of truth came at the last evaluation for the term.

When you can predict what someone is going to do or they are constantly repeating unhelpful behavior, they have no inclination to be openminded. That is a recipe to get you a 17% rating. They are focused on evaluating the wrong stuff over and over. They wouldn’t last a term in a school. They are so predictable that we have this week’s events and excuses referred to as the Trump Playbook. We can predict what he and other members of Congress are going to do and what serves them best first, and the nation second. Power rules. Power gives them a 17% rating. That is the paradox.

What is needed is what we know in Ethics, Psychology, and Behavioral Economics and apply it to the Washington politicos. Nobody is focused on helping them do a better job.

They have a permanent mindset. This is the way I have always voted and thought and I am not going to change now. Everything is permanent including who is demonized and who isn’t. They need a growth mindset. What needs to be done to help the American people (students) and how can I make that happen in a new and different way?

For a growth mindset to occur, you need to be able to have two different ideas that may not go together and figure out how that can be done. It is called compromise. Sorry Bernie, you’re not going to get everything in a bill that you want. It is that great mantra found in the Gospel of Luke that “to whom much is given much is expected” (Luke 12:48) and in the paradoxical motto that “you only get to keep what you are willing to give away.”

If we expect this from schools, shouldn’t we expect the same from a group with a 17% approval rating. We need compromise more so than ever to save our democracy. It’s more important than your voting record every year the same way for whatever issue.

Lindsay Graham would not like the fact that contracts at EA are for a year not a lifetime. I wish he worked for me as I would quickly counter his famous statement that “if you don’t want to be reelected, you’re in the wrong business.” I would say, “Lindsey, you better look elsewhere. 17 % approval rating. Not good enough!” I am looking for someone like Tevya in The Fiddler on the Roof. You know the song, Lindsey, On the one hand this, but on the other hand that.” It’s what is best for your constituents and our nation not what’s best for you, Lindsey!” “At EA it was about what was best for the teachers to bring their best to the students. It wasn’t about me either.”

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