By DAVID ROCK
History is often made when adversaries with well-established biases overcome expectations to find common ground: Ronald Reagan negotiating arms reduction with Mikhail Gorbachev, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signing a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, or Saudis joining the first Iraq War coalition as staunch allies. These events become history because they are so unusual. When enemies beat their swords into ploughshares, it is front page news.
That’s one reason President Obama’s bromance with Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey remains an enduring story from the 2012 presidential campaign, an example of unexpected cooperation across a cultural and political divide that shaped countless narratives since the early 2000s. The two political leaders toured the Shore, met victims, and continued to cooperate with ease during the entire crisis. While we don’t know what strategic machinations played out behind the scenes, this televised news drama left millions of us with a powerful visual reminder that bipartisan cooperation is possible.
However, research shows us that uniting against an overwhelming outside “enemy” such as a killer storm is easier to do than negotiating successfully with entrenched opponents to address complex, abstract policy issues such as deficit reduction. What’s more, the American political realm is comprised of strongly polarized factions around budget and fiscal issues.