Newt Gingrich likes to portray himself as a thinking Republican, someone who studies the situation and comes up with intelligent solutions. It was in this vein that Gingrich proposed the idea that government would work better if people stopped saying no to politicians’ ideas, and found ways to say yes and all work together nicely.
If we can get people to say, ‘Yes, you could do that if’, instead of ‘No, that will not work because’ it changes the psychological dynamic of the argument. If you present a new idea and someone says ‘No’, you instinctively lose energy. Now you’ve got to win an argument over the ‘No’ before you can get to the argument over the ‘Because’ before you even get to start talking positively. However, if someone says ‘Yes’ you automatically gain energy and immediately start thinking of creative ideas to answer the questions posed by the complexity of new ideas.
Let’s skip over the fact that when he held political power in Congress, Newt Gingrich was not known for working well with opponents or coming to win-win situations. Let’s evaluate the Gingrich Republicans’ idea of reforming government by replacing no with yes in terms of a practical example: The decision to go start a war in Iraq.
Would things have turned out better if the Democrats in Congress had responded to George W. Bush’s proposal to go to war in Iraq with a message saying Yes, Mr. Bush, you could invade Iraq if…?
Come to think of it, that’s not a hypothetical question at all. Democrats in Congress could have stood up to President Bush. They could have said no to war. They could have prevented this whole mess if they had had the courage to say no to what was, even at the time, an obviously flawed idea.
Instead, many Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and John Edwards, were afraid to say no to President Bush. So, they said yes. They said that yes, George W. Bush could go to war, if only he would go through a few token gestures first.
The idea of starting political negotiations with yes is a great idea if all you care about is pushing an idea through and getting it accomplished. If you care about making sure that the proper action is taken, and bad ideas like invading Iraq are weeded out, starting with yes just doesn’t work.
Newt Gingrich and his right wing allies would love to have an American public that reacts to every one of their proposals with an automatic yes. They would love to have a Congress that works with the presumption that the President can do whatever he wants, with just a few adjustments here and there.
We progressives, however, see things differently. We believe in the value of saying no. We believe that when the President of the United States proposes radical action, like going to war, the automatic reaction of the Congress and the American people ought to be to say no. We believe that the burden of the argument rests with those who propose extreme, violent shifts in policy.
I’d like to have a new President who understands this attitude, and is willing to work harder to gain the trust of the American people. That’s why, in 2008, I am looking for a good progressive candidate whom I can support for President.
(Source: WinWithYes.com, 2007)