Everything I needed to know about bad-faith negotiating, I learned from my deadbeat biological father.

My mother divorced my biological father in 1974. She was granted custody of my sister (age 6) and me (age 5), while he received visitation rights. The details of visitation were to be negotiated between them. (This was before guardians ad litem.)

They would agree to a time and place to trade us off – often a discount department store parking lot, like Zayre, or Bradlees, or Ames. More often than not, he did not show up, and we were left to wait with our packed bags in the agreed-upon location – sometimes for more than an hour.

At some point, my mother was forced to make the call that he wasn’t coming and take us back home. We usually begged to stay and wait longer. Sometimes he would pull up just as we were leaving and there would be an altercation. Each parent ordered us to “come with me,” and we were caught in the middle, sometimes literally.

At those times, he accused my mother of being unreasonable and not being willing to renegotiate. He levied those accusations in front of us – and we echoed them, accusing her of “not being fair.”

What it looked like in my child eyes was that my father had (finally!) arrived to pick us up and she was not letting us go.


“Forget the hour-plus wait!”

“Forget the original deal!”

“I’m here now – let’s renegotiate!”

But my mother would not forget the hour-plus wait, or the original, mutually agreed-upon deal.

He even went as far as to accuse my mother of being unfit and filed (multiple times) for custody of us, but as with our scheduled visitation pickups, he failed to show up for the court dates, too.

My mother used to say that when a person’s words and actions do not align, listen to their actions.


In the decades since that time, I have worked to understand the family dynamics that provided the context of my early life. To this day, I hate waiting, I deeply resent having my time wasted and I have no patience with people who do not negotiate in good faith and are not true to their word.

I have been following the infrastructure negotiations, and I have noticed what looks to me like some bad-faith negotiating. It was my understanding that the infrastructure deal President Biden proposed in March was a two-pronged deal: “hard” infrastructure that would appeal to conservatives and moderates, and “soft” social spending that would appeal to progressives. The conservative-moderates organized a committee – including Maine’s two senators, Susan Collins and Angus King – to hash out the “hard” infrastructure deal, and Sen. Bernie Sanders spearheaded the “soft” infrastructure deal through budget reconciliation.

Progressives were not happy about the deal struck by conservative-moderates – and vice versa – but both groups agreed (albeit grudgingly) to vote for the other, in order to get theirs passed. That was the deal: The bills would pass in tandem.

Negotiating in good faith would allow the progressives’ “soft” social policy spending plan to pass the Senate – like the conservative-moderates’ “hard” bill already has. That’s what progressives are waiting for.

But it seems that now that their bill is ahead in the legislative process, conservative-moderate members of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus – including Maine Rep. Jared Golden – are threatening to withdraw support for the still-in-negotiation “soft” bill.

The media narrative wrongly frames this as a “stalemate” borne from the intransigence of both sides, with Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times reporting that “… scores of (progressive) Democrats say they will not vote for one without the other, versus the nine (moderates) on record that want action now on infrastructure. But one side will have to blink.”

I stand firmly with my mother on this: Do not forget the original deal, and do not renegotiate with bad-faith negotiators.

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