Role Play on the Campaign Trail

The mariner watches the Presidential campaign from dockside. He is not an active soldier day to day in the campaign skirmishes – although he is active in some important advocacy groups. All the candidates play one role or another as they seek any advantage to move ahead. Now, as months have passed, the mariner is reminded of role play that is similar to labor union negotiations.

In 1975, the mariner was fortunate to have the Maryland Secretary of Public Safety as a mentor. Mariner had the opportunity to attend a number of top notch training courses in management, systems development and labor negotiations. The labor negotiations class was sponsored by the American Arbitration Association in Washington D.C. The class of ten was divided into two teams, one representing management and one representing a labor union. Each team had separate instructors who taught the methods and strategies of labor negotiation. After a few days, it was time to negotiate.

Each team had been coached about the various roles that each team member played at the table. The chief negotiator was the only one who could commit to contract terms. His role was to be calm, self assured, but very direct in his comments. Another member was responsible for being the guy the other side could talk to and befriend – usually away from the table; another member played the role of a fact checker who kept the other side honest; then there was “Mad Dog.” Mad Dog had to show simplistic aggression, demanding concessions that were beyond what the team actually would accept. As a footnote, after six days, mariner’s team won the concession battle and had a good contract.

It was an interesting and intense experience. Everything we did, even in the evenings, was filmed to be used in a debrief session after the negotiation.

Mariner is reminded of that training as he watches the candidates. Guess who the Republican Mad Dog is…. His outlandish opinions and poor manners make the rest of the Republicans sound reasonable and urbane; Donald does a good job! On the Democrat side, Bernie is Mad Dog. He forces the dialogue to include progressive ideas that are so removed from the Republican dialogue they seem to be in a different language. However, Bernie’s unexpected influence in the democratic race has pulled Hillary to a more liberal platform. Bernie’s outlandish demands for a rebellion make Hillary’s comments more acceptable.

As to other team roles, one should watch the Republicans to see who emerges as chief negotiator. Will it be Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio? Some say Chris Christie has a chance although Chris is a better mad dog by nature. Jeb will be the fact checker; Lindsey Graham could be the nice guy everyone can talk to – if he makes the team.

There are only two team members on the Democratic side. Post Election, Martin O’Malley could play a role in the Administration. As mentioned, Bernie is the Mad Dog. Hillary has a lock on chief negotiator. It’s as if she is the CEO of management and no one has the authority to unseat her.

The only issue is that the candidates aren’t negotiating a labor contract; it’s dog eat dog.

People watching is fun.

Ancient Mariner

 

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