Human Contradictions and the Ugly Side of Reciprocity
In 2008 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a republican from Kentucky, said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one term president.” He and the republicans did everything they could to block President Obama’s initiatives.
In 2016 McConnell’s tone was much different when he spoke these words, “It’s time to accept the results of the election, to lower the tone and see what we can do together to make progress for the country.” Mitch seems to have done an about face when it comes to the opposing party working with a president elect.
Remember during the election there were fears of rioting after the November 2 results? Those fears were voiced by Democrats who thought Trump supporters would riot if he lost. It turns out the fear of riots was right…except it’s been Hillary supporters who’ve been rioting.
No doubt each side will rationalize their words and actions. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely likes to point out; we’re not rational beings who occasionally act irrationally but rather, we’re irrational beings who occasionally act rationally. Salespeople have always known this and sum it up this way, “People buy based on emotion and justify with logic.”
Most of us are reactive and our reactions are based on emotion. The sad reality is this; had Republicans been conciliatory when President Obama won and had they honestly tried to work with him they’d have a leg to stand on when asking Democrats to work with Trump. That’s reciprocity.
Instead we’re seeing the ugly side of reciprocity play out in an eye for an eye manner right now. What basis do Republicans have when it comes to expectations of the Democrats working with them? None. And two years from now when the Democrats retake the Senate – mark my words they will because of the natural ebb and flow of politics – our country will be caught in another political quagmire where the highest importance in Washington isn’t getting things done for the good of the country but rather blocking the other side from doing anything to promote their agenda.
All is not lost however and there is a glimmer of hope. The Democrats and their supporters don’t owe anything to Republicans but should they decide to turn the other cheek and try working with Trump then they’ll have a soap box to stand on next time their candidate wins – and surely there will be other Democratic presidents. They’ll be able to appeal to republicans and the nation saying, “Work with us like we worked with you.”
You see, reciprocity can work both ways. When someone does us a good turn it’s easy for us to do something good in return. However, when someone harms another person the natural inclination is to inflict harm back. As a nation we find ourselves in the downward negative side of the cycle but we don’t have to stay there. We can make the conscious choice to look for what we have in common – and there is much – then work together to achieve something good based on those common goals. That may be all it takes to turn the tide and start an upward cycle where favors are traded in a positive way that benefits us all.
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