Sociological theory holds that every successful organization needs “glue guys.” Coaches of sports teams agree.
“Glue guys” are the people who do the little things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, or the balance sheet, but that are crucial to moving the overall endeavor in the right direction. On a basketball team they take the charge, dive for the loose ball, and cheer like crazy for the team when they are on the bench. In an office, they might bring in a dozen doughnuts for no reason, take the new guy in accounting to lunch during his first week, or try to smooth ruffled feelings so a minor incident doesn’t become a major blow-up.
The “glue guys” typically aren’t perceived as superstars, and often their contribution is just assumed. But if the “glue guys” leave, suddenly the office or the the offense doesn’t run quite so well, the prima donnas start battling for attention, and bad feelings start to grow. Before you know it, people are hogging the ball and communicating with each other through passive-aggressive notes stuck to the front of the office microwave.
When I reflect on our dysfunctional political environment, I wonder if the real problem is that we lacki those political “glue guys” — the Senators and Representatives who, in the past, could swallow their pride, work with people in the other party, keep their word, and forge a fair compromise that would allow the necessary work to get done. Now, it seems, everyone acts like a superstar — they raise huge amounts of money, they send countless overwrought e-mails soliciting even more cash by presenting opposing views in the most dangerous possible light, and when the party talking points get circulated they dutifully go on MSNBC or Fox shows and say pointed, terrible things about the other side. How many of these preening politicos would take a charge or dive for a loose ball to try to, say, develop a rational approach to immigration issues?
I think we need more of the “glue guys” in Washington, D.C. The question is, how do we accomplish that in our modern polarized, money-saturated, poll-driven political system?