This week, as I’ve read about the confirmations of the next Education Secretary and US Attorney General, I’ve thought to myself: “It’s going to be a long four years if we don’t get used to losing.”
News about this administration has a pattern already: the left fears, and mobilizes its networks, and plans actions; and then the status quo absorbs the challenge, perhaps using strict majorities in the Senate or leveraging the vice president to break a tie.
Whatever the method, the left loses. It loses the election, and then any hope of moderating advisors, and then key executive orders, and then cabinet nominees one by one.
It really is going to be a long four years if we don’t get used to loss and disappointment. With this Congress and executive branch, there’s no question that we will lose. What wins are possible in this environment?
My office hosted a bystander/upstander training coordinated by the Arab-American Association of NY tonight. We talked about and practiced several tactics for deescalating violence, and the one I had the hardest time with was “losing to win.”
Losing to win is a preemptive compromise: one party cedes an item the other wants in the hope that they’ll gain a different item of greater value to them.
In interpersonal conflict, this might mean risking public embarrassment to intervene in a dispute between strangers, but stopping their fight before it escalates. It could also mean giving up cash during an attempted mugging to avoid yielding one’s wallet and identification. In each case, a person is giving something (i.e. dignity, cash) to get something greater (i.e. reduced harms, protected documents, and personal safety).
Whatever the details, the tactic requires that we make peace with losing something. There’s an implied win later, but right now, the tactic predicts loss.
And this doesn’t always work. Inc Magazine quotes Stephen Covey on how tough negotiators can interpret this technique when people use it on the other side of the table: “I’ll be so considerate of your convictions and desires that I won’t have the courage to express and actualize my own.”
In North Carolina, in December, the City of Charlotte volunteered to repeal its own hard-won nondiscrimination ordinance on the promise that the State of North Carolina would also repeal House Bill 2 (HB2).
The repeal hasn’t happened yet. “To win” hasn’t happened yet, but “lose” already has. Sometimes the interim between loss and win is so long that it swallows people up: this tactic asks a lot from those who “lose” for the greater good.
Perhaps you can tell it’s still early days and I haven’t made peace with the tactic yet.
I’m also uncertain there’s an alternative.
What do you think? Tell me on Twitter.