We've got this quaint Village Square-ism called "68% solutions" that refers to problem solving that aims to widen consensus. We contrast this idea with the trend toward 51% politics, which seeks only the barest majority to act and relies on tactical strong-arming to get it. Once you've got the 51%, it's winner-take-all. America's all about 51% politics these days, and we operate in an entirely different civic environment than our grandparents did because of it.
Our unique number is derived from the theoretical 68.2% of a population within one standard deviation of the mean. This approach considers the more challenging engagement between the political left and right critical to creating intelligent solutions. It's how we get a wide view on civic problems.
68% solutions are more durable solutions that transcend ideology, discourage political gutterball, outlast the next election cycle, avoid head-spinning policy shifts, and create a stronger foundation on which to build lasting results.
Back in the day, we might have called this statesmanship. When elected, partisan politicians were expected to work with their political foes to govern. They at least made a showing of representing citizens who didn't vote for them. Today, if you didn't vote for the winning politician, you're not a constituent, you're the enemy.
Mind you, there were plenty of occasions when leaders in days of yore didn't even try to live up to this high bar (see Figure 68.1). But it still existed as an ideal presumably demanded by the citizen voter... an ideal that at least at times kept the children (politicians) behaving (sort of).
The primary concept behind 68% solutions isn't exactly centrism. In a vibrant civic dialogue, good solutions can and do sometimes come from the political extremes. If you slide back their volume a bit, extremes can be the canary in the coalmine in guarding an important ideal that the rest of us just don't notice in all of our moderation. If you're seeking 68% solutions, the key is that you're constructively engaged across diversity of opinion.
68% solutions aren't about high tea and crumpets or a mushy middle of not really believing anything. A healthy civic dialog can get difficult. Chairs sometimes fly in small New England town halls of yore, but at the end of the day, the person who threw the chair is still your neighbor, and who knows when you may need to borrow a cup of sugar. The best ideas come out of the struggle of opposing ideas. Our founders bet our future that we would have these difficult conversations, so we'd better get back to it.
68% solutions are more aspirational and intentional than realistic. By advocating 68% solutions, we are suggesting we at least wonder how we can widen the consensus in seeking to solve a particular problem. It's fairly unlikely we'll actually get to 68% consensus on much of anything. But it's starting the journey pointed in an entirely different direction.
And isn't it high time we point another direction?