I was trying to envision a grand compromise and how it might be achieved between the Left and the Right (and other political parties too) and believe I stumbled on the perfect solution. The idea came to me while observing recently how the NFL football league handles the draft. Why not develop a draft for political issues?
The advantage of a draft pick methodology is that the teams don’t have to like each other or agree on any fundamental beliefs or positions. That has to be a key starting point for a grand political compromise – don’t make political parties agree on anything substantive except the procedure for the draft itself. This is key because, as I pointed out earlier this week, the political Left and Right (and all political parties) are like religions that talk past each other. In such situations, there is little hope that one side will convince the other to see the world or the truth as the other does. There is little to no hope for substantive agreement.
So what to do when groups of people can’t agree substantively? Give them a procedural methodology for making group decisions, like the NFL draft for instance. Each team has its own interests, strategies and gaps. Each wants to strengthen itself so it can beat the other team in the upcoming seasons. If the teams sat around the table and tried to reach consensus on which teams got which new players, it would never work. They’d be at an impasse. Sound familiar? The NFL designed the draft pick to resolve the issue. Each team gets to make the best draft pick at its designated spot in the cycle without a consensus with any other team. Depending on what pick the prior team makes, the next team in line makes its own best decision. Each team gets a choice in its own interests, given the choices that are left on the table.
Why couldn’t we do the same for the political teams? That would end the impasse of trying to reach a consensus through the democratic governing institutions we now have and we’d be able to make some substantive progress on key issues.
We’d have some complicated procedural rules to work out first, of course. Let’s imagine, for example, that a lottery would determine which party goes first each year or that a predraft vote would determine who goes first (or you could use the coin toss). Not every political team would have equal number of picks in the draft the way it is done in football. Parties would have to qualify to participate in the draft by the number of votes they get in predraft elections. There would be a minimum, so that not every Tom, Dick and Harry could create a new team.
Each qualifying team would then get a number of draft picks in proportion to the votes they received in the predraft elections. In today’s political world, the Left and Right would have the most picks but Libertarians and Green Party teams might qualify with fewer picks as well.
A governing body would have to determine which substantive topics or “picks” were eligible for the draft. One can imagine a list of the contentious issues: climate change, Obamacare, the federal budget, taxes, same sex marriage, student loans, immigration reform, gun control, and so on. We might need to get down to specific legislative proposals within these broad topics, such as Cap and Trade, or eliminating the estate tax, or raising the minimum wage, as specific examples. We’d probably also need a rule that says you can’t use the draft to overturn the choice of another team for two or four years, so each team gets to prove its approach works. Or we could say that each team could reverse up to two draft picks of another team as one of its own draft pick turns (a bit like the selection of a jury). Of course, these are just my ideas about some of the procedures we’d need to govern the draft. The country itself would have to decide on a fair draft procedure and the courts (the equivalent of the NFL) would have to monitor that draft picks didn’t violate the constitution (yes, we’d still need one of those).
As an example of how this might work, suppose the Right won the coin toss or the vote to go first and they were followed by the Left, the Libertarians, the Green Party, and so on. Each team would meet ahead of time and prioritize its own choices (yes that might be hard too, but prioritizations should be part of party platforms in the run up to the draft).
Suppose that the Right’s first draft pick is to reduce the federal budget or elimination of Obamacare. The Left would then have to decide what to choose next, for example, Same Sex Marriage or Climate Change. That would be a tough choice for the Left, of course, and require a great deal of consensus work in the team itself. The run up to the draft would be contentious inside the teams as parties pick candidates that would prioritize their choices. Then the Right would get to choose again. It could choose to end abortion or mandating the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, or eliminating the estate tax. The Left might choose gun control or Cap and Trade. At some point, Libertarians and the Green Party would get to have a choice based on their percentages in the run up to the draft.
Would this political draft pick work? Probably not. We’d first have to get all the parties to agree on procedural methods that would help dissenting groups make decisions and that would protect minorities from majority abuse. But wait, isn’t that what we are supposed to have in place today?