Empty Seats in the Senate Make Persuasion Impossible

Persuasion is something you do with people, not to people.  And that’s why my blog at Huffpo today is a bit on the miffed side.  We’ve been scratching our heads and wondering why so little gets done in the U.S. Senate and House while all along a key reason has been staring us in the face — empty seats.

There are certain types of agreements that can be made via e-mail or telephone.  But when it comes to issues of significance, nothing beats face-to-face communication.  If the government were composed of teenagers, we could look to social media for a reason why they don’t even show up when their colleagues are presenting ways to deal with serious problems.  But senators and congresspeople are adults.  Yet, we’ve come to accept that they will address empty seats when advocating for their views even on issues as critical as 26,000 unwanted sexual contacts and assaults in the military during FY2012 — to say nothing of that being up by 37% from the year before.  That’s a crisis!

For persuasion to be effective on such issues, there is no substitute for talk.  There is also no excuse for leaders not showing up unless they’re speaking into a camera.  The result is a series of televised gotcha moments.

Mass media and social media have many positive attributes.  Being vehicles of effective persuasion and negotiation is not one of them.  It’s likely that my complaint will fall on deaf ears in the Senate and House.  But I’ve been itching to bring up an obvious reason for so little progress on so many important issues.  There’s no one home.  When that happens discussion and creative solutions are out of the question.

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