Needed in Egypt: A Potluck, Not a Hosted Dinner

potluck diversity.jpgEgyptians are still in the streets. There is violence in some parts of the country. The demands for Mubarak to go are still echoing through Tahrir Square.

And Vice President Suleiman seems to be scrambling to find the point of equilibrium between the ego of his former (and current) master, Hosni Mubarak, the broad Egyptian establishment, which I think is still very much on the sidelines hedging their bets, and the people on the streets who are genuinely diverse and broken up into a great number of frustrated political factions.

The problem in the equation is that what we are seeing is Egyptian political incumbents offer deals to the opposition, some of which is organized and some in great disarray, but the incumbents still have the power, determine who is or isn't in the room and generally still control the pivots of power and the instruments of force available to the state.

I think that the people in the streets want regime change in the form of anything other than the Mubarak franchise. If Suleiman and the army would get Mubarak on a plane to any one of his many international homes, they would seal their position as champions of the people -- despite some very sordid issues in his and the military's past.

As one senior White House official said to me yesterday:

"The way we want to see the negotiations go is that we want to see the government have a potluck -- not a dinner party."

This is exactly right.

Suleiman can't be the host of a dinner party to which he controls the menu and the guest list. People representative of most aspects of Egyptian society need to bring their own views and stakes to the dinner.

The power and vision Egypt needs now at the top should be shared by a collective set of stewards -- not focused on the one holding an incumbent position.

That's the challenge today -- getting to a "potluck" version of negotiated regime change.

Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note.