Celebrating Sway of Mind

Terry Schwadron
4 min readMay 10, 2024

Terry H. Schwadron

May 10. 2024

We’re so lost in our need for certainty in public policymaking that we can’t even seem to recognize negotiations when they are underway.

Instead, every public utterance, whether by officials or by those pushing for lawmakers to take a stand take every move as if it is the end of the discussion, and it is now time to whine, cajole, and denounce as if it is the last move.

We’re seeing plenty of examples.

When Joe Biden announced this week that he is withholding some offensive weapons from Israel over the continuing dispute over whether the Israeli military launches an assault on refugee-rich Rafah, we should be seeing this as a pressure point in negotiation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rather than the abandonment of our key ally in the Middle East.

Biden is frustrated with Netanyahu’s insistence on flipping off U.S. proposals to be careful about the inevitable harm to a million or more civilians. The offensive weapons are a negotiating tool, not a new policy, and the ammo for defensive Iron Dome missile systems, for example, continue without question. Israeli right-wingers are incensed.

But for Republican critics in Congress, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham Jr., R-SC, it sounds as if Biden is inviting Hamas terrorists to take over the world. To the campuses where protests continue towards non-specific objections to the continuing, over-the-top reprisals for the Oct. 7 horrors, there is no recognition that Biden is taking an important military step towards showing care for civilians.

And for those of us watching, one must wonder why Israel needs 3,500 heavy-duty bombs, including 2,000-pound and 500-pound munitions, to bust through tunnels in a single corner of a whole territory the size of New Jersey, while causing lots of indiscriminate civilian death.

Looked at broadly, there is no celebration for negotiation as a means to sway minds. Of course, the outcome of negotiation is, well, compromise.

In Congress

The temporary alliance of convenience from Democrats this week in Congress that kept Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., in his job was a form of negotiation as well.

This time, the greater evil was seen as continuing power politics from the Republicans’ most extreme flank, carried forth by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., whose bid to oust the Speaker was unceremonious buried in a wide bipartisan vote.

But it would be silly to think that either Johnson has come to a bipartisan epiphany about looking logically at legislation based on its merits alone and not for partisan gain, just as it would be inane to think that Democrats actually want Johnson as their congressional leader.

No, this was an alignment of convenience towards having a functioning Congress altogether. Still, in our personality-based politics, the number of news reports that presented this push and pull as an intellectual showdown of competing policy agendas frankly was staggering.

Rather, this style of political posturing is better understood as one in a series of clashes that aim for bigger stakes in an election that will pit very different visions of an America that either recognizes its fundamental injustices or not, that value democratic values including the peaceful transfer of power and a system of checks and balances or not.

Broader Disagreements

You can see much the same on dealing with the current campus unrest, with the debates having turned away from the substance to talk about when to call the police, an act that, in itself, prompts more street protest.

Whatever “negotiating” is going on, it focuses on the wrong issues because the parties are interested in diametrically opposing conversations.

The faux-negotiation attitude is in the atmosphere of these continuing, barely disguised congressional hearings over schools and anti-Semitism policies that are not aimed at protecting Jewish students, but on spreading a partisan attack on woke schools and colleges over hated rules and practices towards racial diversity and identity recognition. If anti-Semitism were the goal,

Republicans leading these congressional hearings would have to deal with their presidential candidate who dines with white supremacists and their own congressional members who attack “Jewish space lasers” for wildfires and Jewish philanthropist George Soros for every prosecutor whose work they abhor.

Attitudes that accept negotiation as a necessary tug of war in our society would recognize that Republican dominated state legislatures should not be passing strict abortion bans while state after state votes popularly to maintain abortion rights, or to loosen gun ownership rules when poll after poll suggests that the public wants gun safety laws.

Substitute immigration, health care, education, race relations and you get the same problem over and over. Rather than negotiation, we want our way — whatever it happens to be.

In that spirit, it is unsurprising that whatever the latest statement, suggestion, negotiating stance is seen as a final demand by whoever opposes it.