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Opinion Editorials

Reid’s use of the nuclear option is understandable but short-sighted

Although an argument can be made that filibustering has been abused, implementing the nuclear option is a bad move in the long run.

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Putting the nuclear option on the table

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “nuclear option” to end the abuse of the filibuster by Senate Republicans amounts to treating strep throat with a throat lozenge. His action may have a short term benefit, but is unlikely to help in the long-run, just as changes to the rules of the Texas Senate helped move the majority’s agenda forward this summer, but damage the institution going forward.

Why should you care about the filibuster? Why would we ever want to allow one person or a minority in a deliberative body to have that much power? Let’s take a look at the issue for a moment and consider the significance of this crisis in American legislative processes.

What is popular may not be best

While “majority rule” is a common form of decision making and is easy to understand, there are many times in our self-governance that we use other standards. It takes a 2/3 vote to ratify treaties and it takes unanimity to convict someone of a crime. One over-simplified reason to look beyond 50 percent making our decisions is to think back to the popularity contest of high school student government elections – sometimes what is popular is not truly the best choice. And sometimes – to implement critical policy, it takes the support and cooperation of more than half of the people.

Another important fact to remember is that the United States was set up to both allow the rule of the majority and protect the rights of the minority. Put yourself in this scenario: Your child belongs to a club that has a set of bylaws that says that all children can participate in the activities of the club. Let’s say that while you have been a dues paying member and supported the club, some of the rest of the club has become frustrated because a few of the children are left-handed and other equipment must be purchased to accommodate the left-handed kids.

A majority has decided to change the bylaws and exclude left-handed kids from participation. Most organizations require a supermajority of 2/3 or more to make it harder to stick it to the minority in situations like this.

Considering the minority

The filibuster in parliamentary bodies is sort of like that. Filibusters can be stopped by a supermajority, but one incentive not to stop a member from halting the action on the occasion that to take a particular action would have a significantly negative impact on a constituency they represent is that such a scenario could arise for any member. So, historically, for better or worse, members of the Senate have been allowed such power for use on rare and important occasions.

And importantly, it placed a requirement of deliberation upon the body that the minority must, at times, be negotiated with. Most reasonable people would concur that in the end, accommodating concerns of the minority usually makes us stronger. In strictly majority-rule, one does not have to even consider the needs or desires of the minority.

Not without good cause

Reid’s action to dilute the meaningfulness of a filibuster in the current atmosphere is not without good cause. A procedure that was used one time when LBJ was Senate Majority Leader has been used over 400 times during the Obama administration to hold Obama appointments hostage and halt legislation of the majority. The chart below shows the escalation in recent decades of the use of the procedure:

filibuster

The fix is not this simple

In the U.S. Senate, the rules meant to protect the minority have become abused to the point of halting action of the institution. The fix is not this simple, but one alternative to simply ending the power of the filibuster would have been to require that members maintain the floor for the duration of the filibuster. Everyone remembers Wendy Davis’ marathon filibuster at her desk in the Texas Senate. Currently in the U.S. Senate, a member only has to declare a filibuster and does not have to actually stand and speak during the procedure. To require such would likely cut down on abuse of the rule.

In Texas, both the filibuster and another rule that requires 2/3 of the members of the Texas Senate to bring a piece of legislation up for debate have been under fire in recent times. Just as Wendy Davis’ filibuster was cut short by a non-traditional majority vote in an inexplicably amateurish move by the head of the Texas Senate this summer, there is much discussion of the Texas Senate simply doing away with the rules that require 2/3 of members to move forward with legislation. This rule has served Texas well for decades through both Democratic and Republican majorities, but the radical divide in today’s state and national politics is pushing once-minorities to change rules that will ultimately come back to hurt them.

This nuclear option does not solve the problem

In Texas, the causes of the problem are not the same. Rather than abuse by the minority, it is simply the contempt of the majority that has led to the changes in long-standing rules. On the federal level, both Democrats and Republicans have abused this system, but in the current administration the problem has reached new levels.

Reid’s implementation of the nuclear option, while understandable from one perspective, does not solve the problem that caused the crisis. There are efforts by organizations like No Labels to solve some of these problems in a non-partisan manner. And there are pressures to change the underlying problems – like redistricting gerrymandering and campaign finance issues – that could change the atmosphere over time so that there is less pressure to change rules that are in place for very good reasons.

David Holmes, owner of Intrepid Solutions, has over 20 years experience planning for, avoiding, and solving crises in the public policy, political, and private sectors. David is also a professional mediator and has worked in the Texas music scene.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. rolandestrada

    November 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    The framers of the constitution had in mind that the Senate should a more deliberative and as part that, the filibuster. They did not want a majority position to be able to lord over the a minority.

    The use of the nuclear option shows the desperation of the administrtion, realizing some of the battles of Obamacare may play out in the DC district court system. The administration needs more liberal judges for future battles.

    Interestingly, Senator McConnell voiced that should the GOP regain control of the Senate, the nuclear option would be reversed. Hopefully this doesn’t turn into a ping pong enact and repeal option.

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Opinion Editorials

How to sound more confident in your next interview or office email

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) After COVID, collectively, our social skills need a little TLC. What words and phrases can you use to sound more confident at work?

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In-person work communications are on the rise, and it’s no surprise that, collectively, our social skills need a little bit of work. CNBC shares some examples of common phrases people tend to use when uncomfortable – and what you should use to replace them to sound more confident in your next interview or office email.

After explaining a personal philosophy or situation, it’s all too common to say, “Does that make sense?” Aside from occasionally sounding patronizing, this question more or less implies that you believe your worldview or lived experiences to require validation. CNBC suggests saying “I’d like to hear your input” or – if you’re in an inquisitive mood – asking “What are your thoughts?” instead.

This invites the interviewer to give feedback or continue the conversation without devaluing your own perspective.

CNBC also recommends getting rid of weak introductions, listing examples like “For what it’s worth” and “In my opinion” in order to sound more confident. Certainly, most of us have used these phrases to recuse ourselves from perceived criticism in meetings or emails; the problem is that they become an indicator of lacking self-confidence, at least for employers.

Simply jumping straight into whatever it is you have to say without the soft-paws introduction is sure to be appreciated by higher-ups and colleagues alike.

Passive voice is another thing you should remove from your communication when trying to sound more confident. For example, saying “I performed this action because…” instead of “This action was performed because…” shows ownership; whether you’re taking credit for an innovative decision or copping to a mistake, taking responsibility with the language you use is always better than removing yourself from the narrative.

“I’m not positive, but…” is yet another common phrase that CNBC eschews, opting instead to start with whatever comes after the “but”. It’s always good to maintain a certain amount of humility, but that’s not what this phrase is doing – it’s getting out in front of your own process and undermining it before anyone else has a chance to evaluate it. Regardless of your position or responsibilities, you should always give your thoughts the credit they deserve.

Finally, CNBC suggests removing perhaps the most undervalued phrase on this list: “I’m sorry.” There is absolutely a time and place to apologize, but “sorry” gets thrown around the office when a simple “excuse me” would suffice. Apologizing in these situations belies confidence, and it makes actual apologies – when they’re necessary – seem hollow.

The language people use is powerful, and as arbitrarily contrite as the workplace may inspire many to feel, humility can absolutely coexist with confidence.

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Opinion Editorials

10 tips for anyone looking to up their professional work game

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s easy to get bogged down by the details, procrastinate, and feel unproductive. Here are a few tips to help you crush your work goals.

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Self-reflection is critical to a growth mindset, which you must have if you want to grow and improve. If you are ready to take your professional game to the next level, here are some stories and tips to help you remain focused on killing your work goals.

1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the quote goes. And, in the workplace it’s bound to make you second guess yourself and your abilities. This story explains when comparison can be useful, when to avoid it, and how to change your focus if it’s sucking the life out of you.

2. Burnout is real and the harder you work, the less productive you are. It’s an inverse relationship. But, there are ways to work smarter and have better life balance. Here are some tips to prioritize your workload and find more ease.

3. Stop procrastinating and start getting sh@t done. The reason we procrastinate may be less about not wanting to do something and more about the emotions underlying the task. Ready to get going and stop hemming and hawing, you got this and here’s the way to push through.

4. Perfection is impossible and if you seek this in your work and life, it’s likely you are very frustrated. Let that desire go and learn to be happy with excellence over perfection.

5. If you think you’re really awesome and seriously deserve more money, more responsibility, more of anything and are ready to drop the knowledge on your supervisor or boss, you may want to check this story out to see if your spinning in the right direction.

6. Technology makes it so easy to get answers so quickly, it’s hard to wait around for things to happen. We like instant gratification. Yet, that is another reason procrastination is a problem for some of us, but every person has a different way/reason for procrastinating. Learn what’s up with that.

7. Making choices can be a challenge for some of us (me included) who worry we are making the wrong choice. If you’ve ever struggled with decision making, you know it can be paralyzing and then you either make no decision or choose the safest option. What we have here is the Ambiguity Effect and it can be a real time suck. Kick ambiguity to the curb.

8. If you are having trouble interacting with colleagues or wondering why you don’t hear back from contacts it could be you are creeping folks out unintentionally (we hope). Here’s how to #belesscreepy.

9. In the social media era building your brand and marketing are critical, yet, if you’re posting to the usual suspects and seeing very little engagement, you’ve got a problem. Wharton Business School even did a study on how to fix the situation and be more shareable.

10. Every time you do a presentation that one co-worker butts in and calls you out. Dang. If you aren’t earning respect on the job, you will be limited in your ability to get to the next level. Respect is critical to any leadership position, as well as to making a difference in any role you may have within an organization, but actions can be misconstrued. There are ways to take what may be negative situations and use them to your advantage, building mutual respect.

You have the tools you need, now get out there, work hard, play hard, and make sh*t happen. Oh, and remember, growth requires continual reflection and action, but you got this.

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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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leadership Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are maybe a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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