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Ken Adelman
Political advisor

Ken Adelman

A Reagan-era Ambassador and Arms Control Director, Ken Adelman is co-founder and vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which offers executive training and leadership development.

Gridlock has its rewards

Question: In a high-stakes game of political chicken, President Obama appears to have bowed to Republican threats to block the extension of tax cuts to the middle class--and all other legislation--unless a similar tax cut for high-income households was also included. Is this realistic bipartisan compromise after a sobering election, or is it a sign of weak leadership?

Leadership experts lament our political machinations as playing "chicken" or focusing on the "horse race" of who's winning--or another barnyard phrase to express frustration over the inefficiency and rancor.

Gridlock prevails. Partisanship has never been worse. It's tragic what Obama has to endure from Republicans, or they from him, or all of us from all of them.

So what's new?

Our political system was designed thus. James Madison explained in Federalist X (10): In a democracy, the only way to protect the public from "special interests"--which he dubbed "factions"--was to have lots of them. Then they'd block each other, later deemed "gridlock," with plenty of rancor but scant results. Quite fine, our wigged founder found.

So not much will happen, at least on the federal level. Anything coming out would be a compromise, disappointing to virtually all parties, but not too harmful to any. Well, that's just how it's working (excuse the expression).

Madison would be proud, and we should be more understanding. Gridlock has its rewards. Grudging compromise its advantages.

By Ken Adelman

 |  December 6, 2010; 4:25 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Economic crisis , Government leadership , Managing Crises , Organizational Culture , Political leadership , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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