BANGOR – We’re locked essentially in stalemate in this country on any number of important policy issues.

Therefore, not surprisingly, we’re also at a stalemate in Maine on such issues as health care, tax reform, same-sex marriage, gambling, etc.

Policy is of course crucial, but policy differences can only be effectively and honorably reconciled via good processes. This is especially true in a highly divided electorate.

A citizenry that is angry becomes oppositional, so that no one can claim victory in major or meaningful ways. One who is disillusioned or disengaged robs us of the participation needed to make solutions work.

A manager makes the most of what one has, but a leader, working with others, elevates the playing field to a higher level.

Good processes are inclusive but not watered down. Bridging elements from competing positions only occurs when demanded by participants highly engaged and operating from a foundation of trust.

Trust is engendered by leaders not beholden by limiting constituencies or interests.

Leaders working together evolve group vision based upon decided merit. A broad brush stroke says that attention to process is simplistic or even naive. However, the same factors that keep us largely in stalemate are unlikely to get us out. A different emphasis is required for a different result.

Focuses that are somewhat new or even less conventional can be either positive or negative, depending upon the results that occur. In a civil society, laws help guide behavior, and police and jails are necessary when serious infractions occur.

But “winning hearts and minds,” an overused phrase now almost to the point of triteness but still important, helps individuals internalize norms and values and want to seek common ground.

Similarly to a “quality decision” that sticks in contrast to things we tell ourselves we should or ought to do which may involve more ongoing internal struggle.

While there is a place for each, “soft power” is not always weak, nor is “hard power” always strong.

If Maine, and the nation, are not to keep going in circles on the important policy issues of the day, we need better methods of defining what is achievable as common ground and what are best practices (or tools, if you will) that will help us advance.

While the referendum and initiative process holds a healthy check on our elected officials and is in line with Maine’s rich history of direct citizen involvement, the ultimate answer to ideologically divided policy-making is not necessarily for citizens to take policy into their own hands on a massive scale.

That is, unless they possess better processes as well to break through the essential stalemate found also in the electorate.

Instead, we must recognize that a force/counterforce impasse or “scorched-earth mentality” leads fundamentally to Pyrrhic victories in which one wins many battles with both sides losing the war.

Frankly, political rhetoric often does not meet reality because too many politicians, not content to win over voters via good processes little by little by little over an extended period of time, take shortcuts to attempt to get there more quickly, seeking backing from entrenched and powerful interests.

It may seem the only way to get elected at all.

This then limits their ability to embrace true 360-degree processes that analyze the merits of proposals apart from overriding interests or ideological concerns.

Using effective processes done honorably and done well is itself one important principle.

Being effective and productive in resolving deadlocks and advancing solutions is, of course, not exclusive to any one political stripe.

There are some policy issues on which I would never bend. And there are others on which, when truly most productive, I would.

I haven’t shirked from outlining strong policy positions. Importantly, good processes never replace good policy. Instead, they serve as a facilitator so that good policy can be formulated, debated, disseminated, etc.

We’re all Mainers, so don’t let it be said that we have absolutely nothing in common of great importance upon which to start. Certainly, we can do better in Maine.

While Maine is already fundamentally a great state with significant strengths, some might argue in this continuing age of stalemate that it might be difficult, also, to do much worse.


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