Give negotiation a chance

The Capitol insurrection on January 6th was effectively a rejection of negotiation. The most extreme adherents of the President, self-proclaimed artist of the deal, visibly revealed their rejection of negotiation as a workable method of conflict resolution. Instead, they chose violence.

Joe Biden’s inauguration speech on Wednesday was effectively a call to give negotiation one more chance. Importantly, Biden didn’t try to paper over or obscure our nation’s numerous differences. Overtly acknowledging those differences, he called on all of us to address them within the “guardrails of our republic.” And those guardrails, with obvious exceptions like the Civil War, have traditionally been planted between negotiation and violence. Vigorous discussion between dissenting parties, often spirited or even angry but always oriented toward decision-making—within the guardrails. Smashing windows, stealing podiums, beating police officers with an eye toward domination—outside of them.

The next few years, and really the next few months, will reveal whose view of negotiation predominates. Is negotiation a feckless and antiquated way of dealing with disagreement on its way to the dustbin, as the Capitol insurrectionists’ actions would suggest? Or is negotiation, deep as our many disagreements may run, still worth a try? The last few years would certainly lend credence to the former. And the latter will be far from easy in the context of an impeachment trial. Still, the negotiation professor in me would be remiss to reject negotiation out-of-hand. And the American in me would consider it irresponsible to do so.

If you feel even remotely the same, and regardless of your preference for Biden vs. Trump, I hope you’ll join me (and echo John Lennon) in giving negotiation a chance.