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Ratcheting (DRAFT)

Ratcheting is a management technique for improving a situation over time. For example, first you set a goal of reducing defects to 10%. If the current defect rate is 12%, that that feels achievable by the workers, who gladly set up measurements and processes to get there. When that is achieved, you set the goal to 5%. When that is achieved you set the goal to 1%. And so on and so on. The point is that if you had set the goal to 1% at the start people would feel it is hopeless and not work on it. Ratcheting works very well.

ratchet set A ratchet gear The name "ratcheting" comes from the name of the tool called a "ratchet", pictured on the left. The key element of that tool is that it only turns in one direction.

The key part of such a device is the "Ratchet and pawl" mechanism, pictured on the right.

In politics, the ratcheting technique is also useful.

For the last 15 years when we've fought for Marriage Equality, the radical right was smart enough to not say they are against it for the real homophobic beliefs that they hold. They said, "Why aren't civil unions good enough?" When states pushed for civil unions they said, "why isn't domestic partnership enough?" When we pushed for domestic partnership we were told, "it's too expensive".

We've seen D.P. in New Jersey, Civil Unions in Vermont, as so on and so on. All of these have shown that "almost enough" isnt good enough. We must continue to fight for the fullest, most equal status: full marriage equality.

The breakthroughs in marriage equality around the country that have been springing up just this year are excellent examples.

Ratcheting can be used not just to tear something down, but to build something up. Martin Luther King, Jr's Civil Rights Act passed but only after various states implemented something similar to show that it was possible, and to discover what techniques work.

Ok, that's where this draft ends. The problem that I'm struggling with is that I need better examples of political ratcheting used against us, used by us, and future uses of it. Suggestions?

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First two that leapt to my mind: conservatives using the "new baseline" of the Bush II tax cuts to call people "socialists" advocating "class warfare" for suggesting a return to a tax structure that's more generous to the richest 1% (and harder on the working class) than Reagan's was...

and the process that gets cited at the Smithsonian as a prime example of "ratcheting" social change: the mass of legal precedent that Marshall et al. built up throughout the 40s and 50s with the end goal of overturning Plessy v. Ferguson. By challenging specific inequalities in segregated facilities first, the NAACP lawyers could build an "exhaustion" argument to foil the segregationists' claims that "separate but equal" could be just if implemented correctly.

And of course, the "right-to-lifers" nowadays who are borrowing that strategy, ratcheting the abortion debate their way via "fetal personhood" clauses in statutes regarding things like health insurance and domestic violence.

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