Last week Nancy and I watched Hatfield’s and McCoy’s on the History Channel. I was interested in part because long ago I was was involved in a coal contract dispute in the Federal District Court in Pikeville, Kentucky.
I remember this case because at the beginning of a deposition my client opened his briefcase to show me his handgun. When I look startled, he assured me he would only brandish it if things did not go well in the deposition. He also mentioned that his adversary across the table also had a handgun in his briefcase. The two parties had hardened positions and really did not like each other and I did not like the lawyer on the other side. But, somehow we ultimately compromised and settled the case.
As I watched the show over three nights, I realized that the self destructive feud between the two families that impacted their families, their communities and their states reminded me of the feud in Washington, DC. I recently read Poll finds sharp increase in partisan divides between Americans about the Pew Study finding our country is more divided than ever before. Yet, as divided as we are, the vast majority of Americans in both political parties favor politicians who are willing to make compromises to get the job done. I certainly do and I bet you feel the same way.
Clients hire lawyers to solve problems. Most litigants want their lawyers to resolve the problem without going to the brink in the courtroom. Even if the lawyers do not like each other, and each sincerely believes his client’s position is the right one, they somehow find a way to work together to solve the problem.
As evidenced by the Pew Study, most Americans want their politicians to resolve problems without going to the brink. The current crop of Washington politicians clearly do not like each other and clearly think their side is right, but they ignore the vast majority of us who want them to make compromises for the good of the country.
The president had lofty dreams of playing the great convener and conciliator. But at a fund-raiser in Minneapolis, he admitted he’s just another combatant in a capital full of Hatfields and McCoys. No compromises, just nihilism.
Columnist Jonah Goldberg attempted to explain the problem in a recent column: Column: ‘Compromise’ is not a dirty word. In the column he argues that the country is split on the issue of direction, especially the debt and government spending. It is hard, if not impossible to compromise that kind of dispute. Goldberg includes a quote from Senator Jim Dement:
Republicans and Democrats must start compromising over how much we have to cut, not how much we want to spend.
I might buy into Goldberg’s position if I had not been involved in a dispute where my client thought it was entitled to approximately $35 million from a public entity and the public entity thought it was entitled to approximately the same amount from my client. With the help of a highly skilled mediator, we reached a settlement in one day of mediation.
Maybe we need two seasoned litigators and a mediator to resolve our problems. If the clients were the democratic voters and republican voters, rather than the politicians, I am confident they could accomplish what the democrat and republican politicians cannot accomplish on their own.
It is hard to find any humor in what is going on with the current version of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s in Washington, but I confess I had to laugh at this Stephen Colbert segment A Beautiful War for Women.