Strong interpersonal relationships help people reach a consensus, psychologists and negotiation experts say. But few congressmen these days can point to a buddy they can count on across the aisle.
It's been a longtime gripe that bipartisan friendships have been on the wane on Capitol Hill, particularly as many members increasingly leave town for the weekends and don't move their families to Washington. And in an environment where expressions of bipartisanship can be politically toxic, it doesn't do to be caught having a beer with the guy sponsoring the bill your caucus wants to torpedo.
It's also the case, some experts say, that when it comes to high-stakes negotiations, secret agreements can help everyone save face and come out looking like a strong leader--not a weak compromiser. Decision-makers reach a private consensus, but agree to hide it behind public spectacle until it makes sense to officially capitulate. Imagine a secret debt-ceiling deal that leaders can live with, combined with public bickering that allows everyone to save face. Sounds a lot like the bad-old days, when lawmakers decided the fate of the nation over a whiskey and a fine cigar.
But perhaps that's better than not getting any deals done at all.
Maybe politicians need more private dinner parties, more secret meetings, and less scrutiny from activists and the media.
What do you think? Does Congress need to return to the bad-old days of backroom deals and Establishment handshakes to actually get things done?