By Amber Lee
Some of the most skilled negotiators I’ve ever met are my children. It’s a combination of their shameless use of all negotiation tactics, general lack of empathy, and total disregard for logic and the rules of the universe. They put most lawyers and politicians to shame.
Over this last decade I’ve learned I have two choices. Choice one: I can descend into the mental chaos of their arguments until I’m left wondering if I am, in fact, being unreasonable and they should be able to keep a wild weasel as a pet. Choice two: I can stand outside of the chaos, ask them some questions, quietly pose my concerns, and wait for their mental and physical flailing to wear down enough that they might be able to have a semi-rational conversation. Honestly, I could go either way depending on the day.
So, when Sen. Lisa Murkowski appeared to be standing calm at the edge of this last health-care debate, I got it. She was one of the adults standing on the side of an ego-driven temper tantrum that came in the form of poorly-thought-out legislation that terrified a lot of Americans.
Yes, she could have stood at a pulpit and added her screaming voice to the cacophony of arguments, most of which were made just to create confusion and media spin. She could have yelled statistics into the deaf ears of fellow Congress members who simply wanted it to pass no matter what the cost.
Would it have been cathartic to see her rage against legislation that I think will hurt myself and my family? Absolutely. Just like it’s cathartic when I finally lose my temper and yell: “Why in the hell is the kitchen ceiling covered with silly string?! Have you lost your minds?” Would it have changed anything? Yes, but most likely not what we would have wanted it to change. Because the answer to the question: “Why are you proposing such harmful legislation?” is the same as the answer to the question “Why did you put silly sting on the kitchen ceiling?” The answer is: Because I felt like it. And how do you argue with that?
So, she wouldn’t have gotten real answers, and she wouldn’t have gotten substantive changes. She most likely would have gotten even more pressure from her peers and the current administration than any one of us would want to imagine. She probably would have lost her bargaining power on things that Alaska really needs right now. And, if Graham-Cassidy had passed with her screaming logic at it, Alaska would have been absolutely and totally screwed. Take all of the Alaska “add ins” that were trickling in as her peers tried to convince her to vote for it, and multiply those by negative fifty.
A lot of my friends disagree with me. I told a close friend of mine about my thoughts on the issue while we were eating lunch Friday, and watched him mull it over as he ate his Cuban sandwich. “Politics is too much positioning,” he said. “You should just put your cards on the table.” And I one hundred percent agree with him. Everyone should have their cards on the table. They should be working together to build consensus and move the country forward. But right now, someone turned some preschoolers loose in D.C., and if you’ve ever tried to negotiate with a room full of preschoolers, frankly, you’re going to do whatever you have to do to get out alive. So, yes, I’m glad Alaska has a thoughtful negotiator at the forefront of the health care debate, and I hope she continues to stand up for Alaskans in a way that might not earn that high-fiving you “you-tell-them” admiration, but instead and more importantly earns a sincere and heart-felt “Thank you for protecting my friends, my neighbors, my coworkers, and my family.”
Amber Lee is a writer, mother, marketing consultant, blogger and pet-wrangler, among her other duties. She was a journalist, then legislative aide, early in her career. Currently she consultants on marketing and public relations projects for a variety of Alaska businesses and organizations. She resides in Anchorage.