Defining Brinkmanship

What are they doing? A question not only on the lips of many Americans but also around the world as they watch the game of political chicken being played on Capitol Hill today. The name of the game is brinkmanship and it is a good word and technique for Civil Citizens to know. Does it make it any easier to watch what’s going in Washington DC? Not any easier than it would be to be in the back seat of a car playing chicken. There is still fear and anticipation. If there wasn’t, it wouldn’t truly be brinkmanship.

brink·man·ship

noun \ˈbriŋk-mən-ˌship\

: the art or practice of pushing a dangerous situation or confrontation to the limit of safety especially to force a desired outcome

Brinkmanship, sometimes pronounced brinksmanship is a political strategy. Yes they are doing it on purpose. It is a time where there is a falling off the cliff type of moment that can be utilized to force a political agenda. Usually an unpopular political agenda that needs that type of forced pressure to make a decision. In other words one side holds a needed outcome hostage until they get what they want.

This is one of those nuclear war type of tools that should not be used too often. It also has a very real chance of backfiring for the group or person trying to use it which many Freshmen members of  the 112th Congress are finding out. Especially with Americans or any other population in which Freedom is such a vital part of identity. People don’t want to be forced into big decisions with these types of panic tactics. Brinkmanship has already been used twice this year both with military and social security recipients on the edge of their seats wondering whether they will get their much-needed and deserved checks. Causing some to question whether this tactic is being overused in this session of Congress.

The opposite of brinkmanship is statesmanship.  That is the calm discourse and debate of important issues. It is rational and calm. What many would expect of mature leaders. It is prudent, not panicky, it is elegant and regal, dignified even. It is not the gorilla, terrorist kind of crazy that brinkmanship looks like from the outside looking in.

Brinkmanship, now you know how to answer the question “What the heck are they doing in Washington DC?”

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