THE BLOG
07/04/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Game Change: How Democrats and Republicans Can Get on the Same Team

(Obama to Hillary Clinton) But the thing is, the economy is a much bigger mess than we'd ever imagined it would be, and I'm gonna be focused on that for the next two years. So I need someone as big as you to do this job. I need someone I don't need to worry about. I need someone I can trust implicitly, and you're that person.

Hillary raised a matter far more intimate than her personal reluctance. You know my husband, she said. You've seen what happens. We're going to be explaining something he said every other day. You know I can't control him, and at some point he'll be a problem.
I know, Obama replied. But I'm prepared to take that risk. You're worth it. Your country needs you. I need you. I need you to do this....

It was nearly one o'clock in the morning on the East Coast. I don't want this to be your final answer, Obama said quietly in conclusion. I want you not to say no to me. I want you to keep thinking. I want you to sleep on it....

In Chicago, at the Kluczynski Buildin, Obama walked into Jarrett's office and told her where he was with Clinton. She said no last night, Obama reported--but she'd called him back that morning. "She's going to do it," he said...

It was November 20. The election was sixteen days in the past. But today, Obama had pulled off the grandest game changer of them all. On the brink of great power and awesome responsibility, he and Clinton were on the same team.

(from Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (Harper Collins, $27.95)

The Game Change was not merely that Obama got Clinton to join his team. It was that after being the grand champion in the transactional and clearly "zero sum" battle to become President, Obama saw that being President wasn't about him or about Clinton, but about serving the American people who were entrusting their future to him. And it was because of his awareness of this overwhelming responsibility and a "duty bound" core value to perform it that enabled him to become vulnerable to Clinton and her to become the same with him. The Game Change was Obama's baring his neck that inspired her to do the same and about letting go of winning and replacing it with collaborating to serve a higher purpose.

This incident brings to mind another game changer when President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the general secretary of the Communist Party and first executive president of the Soviet Union, met and were locked in a standstill in attempting to thaw relations between the US and USSR. The tipping point to move them towards collaboration appeared to be when Reagan and Gorbachev possibly realized that neither were truly "the evil empire" and that they were there not because of themselves, but because of their responsibility to their people. And it was perhaps that realization that enabled Reagan to say to Gorbachev: "I think the time has come for us to be on a first-name basis. Call me Ron."

What should Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill and locally take from these examples? The answer is simple. Realize that your job is not about you, but about serving the American people who all have in common fear, confusion and a deep need and desire (under their skepticism and cynicism) to trust those representing them in Washington to do the right thing.

To put it simply and bluntly. The time has come for Republican and Democrat alike to realize that attacking the other will only result in both sides becoming further entrenched, resistant to collaboration and most important, further removed from serving the American people. Each party needs the other's cooperation to accomplish anything and it might help them do it if they would just reach across the aisle, as Obama did with Clinton, and ask for it.

When baring your knuckles and baring your teeth doesn't achieve the results you are seeking, maybe it's time to bare your neck.*

*read more about this in: "Chapter 10: When All Seems Lost -- Bare Your Neck" in "Just Listen" Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (Amacom, $24.95)