The Power of One: The Deciding Vote
We have all heard the terms "tiebreaker," "holdout," "bottleneck," "obstacle," "veto," "the straw that broke the camel’s back," and my personal favorite…"The Deciding Vote."
All of these expressions have one thing in common; each is connotative of the power to keep something from happening. In some cases, that same power can be used to permit something to happen, or to force it to happen. But the most important point is the tremendous leverage that one person, thing or process, regardless of its seemingly miniscule magnitude or the smallness of its number can have over something that is going to effect everyone else. This leverage is tremendously powerful.
Setting aside any subjective discussion of morality, if you wish to have the most power, you must hold the deciding vote. Looked at from the opposite perspective, if you wish to dictate terms, set policy and be in control of your destiny, you must also be certain that no one else is in the position (other than yourself, of course) of casting the deciding vote.
When a company is owned by three shareholders, even if one shareholder owns 49% and a second shareholder owns 49%, the third shareholder, owning only 2% can be the ultimate decider in the event that the two major shareholders fail to reach an agreement on an issue which must be voted upon. Suddenly, the owner of the smallest stake is courted like a trust fund heiress by both sides, each eager to sway the decider’s vote to his or her advantage. In this case, the power fell into the hands of the minority stakeholder because the two major shareholders could not agree. The greater the polarity (or the propensity to disagree) on each side, the greater the likelihood is that the smallest stakeholder will come into a position of power.
The Bottom Line:
When either evaluating your situation or structuring your affairs with other people, keep this situation in mind. You have two objectives, one affirmative and one negative.
1. The First: Be the decider if at all possible; and
2. The Second: Be certain that no one else can be the decider in the event that you cannot assure yourself the security of that position.
Case In Point:
Recently, on the matter of a legislative vote concerning a national healthcare bill, Senator Joe Lieberman was able to flex his muscles (such as they are) in order to get his way…The text that follows was extracted from a solicitation which I received from MoveOn.org. Please note that I pore through petitions, letters and leterature from virtually every political group from far right to far left. I subscribe to as much of this propaganda and pleading as I can in order to collect and analyze as much information as possible. I am neither "Progressive" nor "Conservative." I have never consistently agreed with the doctrine or dogma of any political party, but I thrive on informational input representative of as many points of view as possible. I am not affiliated with any party, with the possible exception of one held by a friend which is catered and has a really great live band. Back to Lieberman…
Dear MoveOn member,
The latest Senate health care bill has no public option. No expansion of Medicare. And it does too little to guarantee that uninsured Americans will actually be able to afford the coverage they’ll be required to purchase.1
Former insurance executive Wendell Potter put it best: the bill is "a big bailout to the [health insurance] industry."2
But it’s not too late to fix the bill. And as Joe Lieberman has shown, just one senator willing to stand in the way can force legislation to be changed dramatically.
Senator Bernie Sanders, a strong proponent of the public option, has already made clear that he’s opposed to the legislation in its current form—and he could decide to block it until it’s fixed.3
But there’s enormous pressure from all sides to pass a bill quickly, no matter how weak it is. Let’s show Bernie and other progressives that we’re counting on them to block this version of the bill—and we’ll get their backs if they do.
Can you sign our petition opposing the current Senate health care bill? Clicking here will add your name:
The petition reads: "America needs real health care reform—not a massive giveaway to the insurance companies. Senator Bernie Sanders and other progressives should block this bill until it’s fixed."
Despite this latest setback, we can still win the health care fight. The House has already passed a strong health care bill with a real public option. It would cover millions of uninsured Americans, offer real competition to the insurance companies, and reduce costs in the long run.
MoveOn members overwhelmingly support the House bill. But it’s clear from member feedback and surveys that the majority of MoveOn members oppose the Senate bill as it now stands.4
And recent polls show growing opposition among grassroots progressives generally—the very folks Democrats in Washington count on to volunteer and donate to their campaigns.5 One found that one-third of Democratic voters will be less likely to vote next year if Congress doesn’t pass a public option.6
So to get real reform, we need to immediately send a powerful message to Senate progressives like Bernie Sanders, Roland Burris, and Russ Feingold that we’re counting on them to block this bill until it’s fixed.
Click here to add your name to the petition:
Thanks for all you do.
Now that we’ve seen a real-life example of The Power of One, think of this broader, far more frightening scenario. Imaginge, if you will, that a small group of very wealthy, very powerful individuals gets together and decides to do something unscrupulous to further their advantage – why, I’d bet that a group like that could destroy the entire economy of the world and virtually enslave the rest of us. You ask me, incredulously, eyes wide … "Mr. Castle; Do you that that could really happen?"
And I look at you after a moment’s dramatic pause, and with the voice of a man much older than my actual years, I say, "I believe that it already has."