This commentary was originally published on Medium.
As an entrepreneur and investor, I prioritize construction and collaboration. Whether it's a five-person start-up or a global giant, the companies that are most productive are the ones whose employees operate with a shared sense of purpose and a clear set of policies for responding to changing conditions and new opportunities.
That's why I'm so appalled by what's happening in the Senate this year, and how starkly it illustrates the differences between Silicon Valley and Washington, DC.
Just hours after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died in February, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the American people not to expect a replacement any time soon. The vacancy created by Justice Scalia's passing, McConnell insisted, "should not be filled until we have a new president."
Since then, Leader McConnell's position has remained unchanged — he won't even meet with any nominee until January 2017. Effectively, he and his allies are in the midst of a year-long strike.
Imagine if entire departments at Fortune 500 companies announced they were going to stop performing key functions of their job for a year or more, with no possibility of moving forward until a new CEO took over. Investors would start dumping their stock. Customers would seek out alternatives. Competitors would make these companies pay for such dysfunctional gridlock. Eventually executives and employees would be fired.
In Silicon Valley, such behavior would be corporate suicide. In Washington, DC, it's business as usual.
So Mitch McConnell's strike goes on and on — he refuses to even meet with any nominee until a new president takes office. Other senators like Richard Burr (R - NC), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Rob Portman (R - OH) have followed McConnell's lead, either refusing to even informally meet with Judge Garland, or meeting but still reflexively insisting that a formal Senate hearing is not an option.
But the Constitution does not give the job of nominating and appointing Supreme Court Justices to the next President — it gives it to the current one.
Respecting the Constitution's authority and the obligations of his job, President Obama nominated a potential replacement for Justice Scalia, Judge Merrick Garland, on March 16.
To date, only two Republican senators — Senator Mark Kirk (R - IL) and Susan Collins (R - ME) — have resisted peer pressure and publicly stated that Judge Garland should be given a formal hearing. The rest are joining McConnell in his strike.
In a 2013 op-ed, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman explored the difference between Silicon Valley's conception of collaboration and Washington, DC's. In the nation's capital, Friedman observed, collaboration "is an act of treason — something you do when you cross over and vote with the other party." In Silicon Valley, companies that are "trying to kill each other in one market [are] working together in another — to better serve customers."
As Friedman went on to explain, Silicon Valley's version of collaboration doesn't mean groupthink or lockstep consensus. Vital organizations and industries cultivate diverse and competitive viewpoints, because it's this very "clash of ideas" that tends to produce innovation and adaptation.
But Silicon Valley situates its clash of ideas within a larger framework of cooperation and compromise, under the premise that what's good for the ecosystem as a whole will also benefit individual players, even if they sometimes have competing interests.