The Michaud Collaboration Method
Justin already referred to the position paper sent out by the Dennis Michaud campaign. The linchpin to many of Michaud’s positions seems to be not so much what he’d do differently than Governor Carcieri, but that it is his belief that he will be better able to bring people together. He really puts a premium on “collaboration.” The truth is, I agree with many of Michaud’s goals and can appreciate his desire to bring people together. However, I think it is either naivete or a large dollop of hubris for him to believe that somehow he would manage to succeed where so many others have failed. Let me give some examples.
For instance, in stating his position on education, Michaud suggests
Collaborating with educators, organized labor, the executive branch and legislative assembly to improve education
For more specifics, follow the above link to the actual document. In short, this plan doesn’t much differ from some of the things the Governor has tried. Thus, we are left to believe that, somehow, Michaud will be able to convince educators, labor leaders and legislators to support the establishment of more charter schools (again, read the document), something they have vehemently opposed in the past. How is he going to get them on board?
Michaud also addresses labor issues by saying he wants to
establish a collaborative dialogue with organized labor…
I’m sure, as history has shown, that organized labor will be very open to reducing their benefits just because Prof. Michaud asked them to.
On health care:
I will implement a collaborative approach with health care professionals, insurance professionals, organized labor, business, and General Assembly to come up with new innovative solutions…
Michaud also wants to be bipartisan when it comes to tax policy by
Creating a bipartisan commission that incorporates members of the business community, the general assembly, the executive branch, organized labor, academia/economists and civic groups to address state taxation policies…
In Prof. Michaud’s world, collaboration and the formation of bipartisan commissions automatically leads to the solutions he seeks. It’s really that simple. We all know that Governor Carcieri never attempted to sit down and deal openly and honestly with some of these same people, right?
Of course, the belief that through collaboration and dialogue all things can be solved is a common conceit held by most of those found in faculty lounges across the country. They are wise and informed on many and sundry theoretical problems and are also able to formulate brilliant and theoretical solutions to the world’s problems.
However, the world of hardball RI politics is not theoretical and the players have some very real motivations and desires. They don’t always mean or do what they say. Any given solution thought up by Prof. Michaud will be viewed by some entity (unions, Democrats) as a threat to its power or well-being. What then?
What if in the course of your dialogue you discover that one or more of the entities won’t budge? Do you push them and risk a break down in your collaboration and risk being accused of being undiplomatic? Do you try to outlast them and hope they come around, which risks a perpetually inconclusive “outcome?” Do you keep talking for its own sake? Do you give them almost all they want and claim victory over their token concessions on one or two points?
Missing in this list is the course so often taken by Governor Carcieri: taking the issues directly to the people and working with those who will work with him honestly and above the board. This also means calling attention to the intransigence of those with whom he has tried and failed to deal. This is the only path to real reform: bring bold solutions to the table and call attention to those blocking reform. Of course, to Prof. Michaud, that’s just being “mean.”