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The cost of lost opportunities

One of the things that binds us all together is opportunities. Each one of us gets them, and with each opportunity there are consequences for the choices we make to either embrace them or reject them. Some may be life-changing and completely alter the paths we take while others only affect us, marginally. The opportunities can be as simple as choosing the right education or college or saying "I do" at the altar or "yes" to a promotion. Investors know that a missed opportunity to buy or sell at the absolute optimal moment can result in massive stock gains or losses.

Manufacturers that ignore the changing desires of their customers can miss a market moment by not introducing or changing a product that would take advantage of those new preferences, the result of which is a loss of market share to their competitors. There are these magic moments with just about everything we touch in life and that is especially true in politics. Take for example the entire political year of 2017 that began in November 2016 with the election of Donald Trump. If we look back at that period, objectively, we can see that the Left's wholesale rejection of the new direction the country's voters chose has led to an enormous opportunity that the entire country ended up paying.

What if, that instead of creating an entrenched 'Resist' movement whose goal was to obstruct everything the new Administration and the new President proposed or did, this same movement decided to take another approach along with left-of-center Congressional Representatives, Senators, Governors and mayors? Let's include the Left-leaning media, university administrators and special interest groups too. Instead of spending every waking moment bad-mouthing and trying to incriminate all those supporting the Administration's agenda these groups decided to take the high road of public debates and intelligent conversation. Let's say that they rejected mass marches and avoided shouting matches and that the media brought no unsourced reporting. No time was devoted to bringing down public officials with phony scandals or by character assassination.

Instead, reporting was fully-vetted and the reader/viewer only went to their respective political corners after thoroughly digesting the facts. When national catastrophes like hurricanes, forest fires or school shootings occurred we didn't let our knee-jerk partisan reactions take the place of reason and common sense. In short, we maximized the opportunities for doing something positive by putting rivalries and anger aside and subordinated our political ideologies to find solutions that were consistent with our laws and our core American beliefs and that benefitted the entire country. How much progress would we have made by now?

I would guess that if we acted at home like we've been doing do in public (opposing everything our husbands, wives or parents proposed) we wouldn't have much of a family life. When push comes to shove, and shove comes to total obstruction, we all pay the price in the form of opportunity costs. You don't have to be a genius to understand that pettiness and internecine squabbles in our Congress add to the cost of governance and squander our valuable resources of time and personnel. While there may be some battles worth fighting to preserve fairness and equality and to defend our Constitutional rights, those are generally few and far between...except when ideologues are in power. Good government depends on civil discourse and civil discourse can only come from mutual respect. It's hard to respect anyone that insults or shouts their way to public attention from the streets, the well of the House...or from the digital water closet of Twitter.

America's pockets are not so deep that we can afford to write off the opportunity costs for opportunities missed. There is no depreciation schedule for years lost to senseless resistance.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired U.S. diplomat and now political analyst and author. He has written nine books and over 800 articles on politics, economics and social trends. He can be reached at:

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