The biggest obstacle to politicians actually governing rather than posturing is the erroneous belief that my side has a monopoly on how to solve the public policy problem at hand and the views of the opposition have little or no value. It’s my way or the highway.

This “either/or” rather than “both/and” thinking typically leads to the proposal of inadequate one-dimensional solutions to multi-dimensional problems, when what is needed is to strike a proper balance that addresses the various dimensions of the problem. Examples of the failure of political legislation that refuses to seek a proper balance are legion.

The stalemate in attempts to solve the Federal Budget Deficit problem results from one-dimensional thinking on both sides of the aisle: either we cut expenditures or we increase revenues. No solution is in sight unless we pursue both strategies, creating a workable balance between them.

The recent failure of proposed gun control legislation reflects a failure to adequately recognize and address the multiple dimensions of the problem of violence in America. The choice is not between either addressing the mental health and “culture of violence” problems that beset our nation or enacting some common sense gun control measures like strengthening the system for background checks. It has to be both.

I am encouraged by the balance that I perceive in the proposal for comprehensive immigration reform that is currently being debated in the U. S. Senate. For those legitimately concerned about law and order issues, the proposed legislation includes strong measures for strengthening border security and combating visa overstays. But it also provides a viable pathway to citizenship for those undocumented workers who are making an enormous contribution to our economy and our country and whose families are being decimated by current immigration laws. However, in the early stages of the debate on this proposed legislation, one-dimensional political voices are already being heard. Time will tell whether this balanced approach has any chance of being legislated.

The need for multi-dimensional solutions to problems extends to American positions on thorny foreign policy issues. Consider, for example, our stance regarding the seemingly intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine. There is absolutely no hope for a solution unless it is recognized that the only viable solution will need to treat both Israelis and Palestinians “justly” (enabling both peoples to flourish). And America will be on the wrong side of history if it fails to advocate for such a balanced solution.

I could go on. But by now you get my point.

If I am right about the need to seek a “proper balance” between competing views on most domestic and foreign policy issues, then that points to what I believe to be two primary reasons for the current gridlock in Washington.

The first reason is that proposing one dimensional solutions to multi-dimensional problems is a piece of cake. It all too easy to argue for either/or solutions that lend themselves to 60 second sound bytes or bumper stickers, and to simply demonize those who do not agree.  Seeking for multi-dimensional solutions is demanding work. It requires that you actually engage those who disagree with you in respectful conversation as you seek to forge a workable balance between competing viewpoints, which is an enormous task since there will be much disagreement about how to define that balance.

A second and even more ominous reason for the current political gridlock is that in our current political climate those who seek for balanced solutions will likely be punished. This is due to the huge lobbying efforts and obscene amounts of money that are expended on promoting the election of one-dimensional politicians and thwarting the political aspirations of those who wish to engage in “principled compromise” with members of the other party toward balanced solutions to our most pressing societal problems. This will not change until the American public refuses to elect politicians who are committed to one-dimensional either/or thinking.