A pragmatist’s view on politics

The Bosses of the Senate by Joseph Keppler, Wikimedia Commons

The Bosses of the Senate by Joseph Keppler, 23 January 1889, Wikimedia Commons

I have always preferred progressive policies, and I disagree with nearly all of the views of the far right conservatives, but where I differ with some is how to proceed.

I see the division and partisanship as a destructive force that will only do further harm to our nation, and the only way forward is if some common ground can be found between the left and the right. It is true that there are some people that cannot be reached, but if some can be, I would consider it a win. At least it would be a starting point, and it would be a beginning for future dialog.

Knowing that principles alone could not make a difference and that I needed to think of the situation pragmatically, I began to wonder what it meant to be a pragmatist. Merriam-Webster defines Pragmatism as follows:

1: a practical approach to problems and affairs <tried to strike a balance between principles and pragmatism>

2: an American movement in philosophy founded by C. S. Peirce and William James and marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief

It’s true. I do see that a balance will be needed between my principles and pragmatism. I believe it is practical to try to understand the reasons why much of the population is polarized today, and it’s reasonable to believe that our government of obstructionism will continue as long as everyone is doing the same as our legislators, fighting with each other and avoiding the word compromise.

At the same time, the ‘too big to jail, fail or nail‘ banks and the corporations that destroy competition with small businesses, as well as continuing to keep wages low with little benefits for their workers, have taken control of the political narrative in our government with their lavish campaign donations and ‘pay to play‘ lobbying efforts.

Conservatives are hurt by these tactics as much as any liberal, and for this reason, I believe there is a really good chance that the rational minded, in all parties, will see that we all have a common cause here to stand up and change the policies that have become so prevalent in our government, which favor only the super wealthy powers of industry over everyone else.

This is definitely an issue that both conservatives and liberals can agree. It has always been dangerous to our economy having businesses and banks that are too large, and there was a reason the Sherman-Antitrust Act was passed in 1890. Our country had learned that when companies grew too large, they could, and usually did, stifle competition.

Anyone wanting to start their own business has to contend with these super corporations that can outbid and have lower prices than anyone, and the ‘Super Banks’ can get away with breaking laws without fear of prosecution. One would think our country had outgrown this past by allowing and accepting these tactics today.

AT&T Building - Nashville, Wikimedia Commons

AT&T Building – Nashville, Wikimedia Commons

With the Sherman-Antitrust Act, the Federal Government was authorized to institute proceedings against trusts to be able to dissolve them. It was an act  that was meant to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies.

An example of breaking up a company occurred in 1984, when Ma Bell, known today as AT&T, was broken up as a result of a federal antitrust suit, because of it’s monopoly over the telecommunications industry, and when this was done, our economy did not suffer because of it.

Practically speaking though, there are differences this time, because breaking up the ‘too big to fail’ banks could have negative consequences on our economy and the world.

It is obvious though, something does need to be done besides deregulating and simply fining ‘naughty’ corporations with a slap on the wrist, while exempting individuals within those organizations from the fear of being prosecuted for their unlawful actions. ‘No one is above the law’ is what we have always been taught, liberal and conservative.

I have also been reflecting on the Republican Party’s civil war that is raging in the country, and there has been a civil war in my thoughts as well. Wouldn’t it be better for the liberal progressive cause if the Republicans destroy their credibility for decades to come? Should I grab the popcorn and sit back and enjoy the show?

However, I have this nagging thought in the back of my mind telling me not to gloat because their civil war is hurting everyone else in the country as well, because of the continued obstructionism. Some democrats argue that it is best to stand back and to not get involved so the republican brand will continue to be damaged, but I’m not sure if this is the best course of action.

The way that I see it, a balance is required for our government to run efficiently, and at the moment, that balance is askew. When in balance, the extreme voices can be held in check by the moderate voices in government, and this creates a better environment for reaching consensus and compromise. Something that is sorely lacking at the moment.

The Republicans, over the last few years, have been systematically weening out their moderate voices, and this has caused a massive disruption in our government with their wave of obstructionism. So the question that I have been asking myself is if the Democrats should stand up and join forces with the moderate Republicans, to help them get the upper hand again for the sake of the sanity of the country.

Barack Obama signs 2013 inauguration proclamation, Wikimedia Commons

Barack Obama signs 2013 inauguration proclamation, Wikimedia Commons

Both sides are very passionate with their beliefs though, and the continued fight between them will keep going if calmer minds don’t prevail. Let’s just say your side is right (as I still do), this doesn’t mean the other side will somehow see the light and change their beliefs, and I don’t see an end game by continuing the fight.

In diplomacy, a mediator is used to try to resolve two side’s differences. Our elected figures are reflecting our differences only and not trying to be mediators themselves and govern, even though they represent all the citizens within their districts, regardless of party, and the cable news media loves this fight too much to want to change anything, because it is great for their ratings.

I am a liberal progressive that is ready to stand side by side with those in the Republican Party that want to restore the balance that has been lost, and fight with them against the powerful moneyed interests that have been hoarding the wealth at the expense of everyone else for their own gain. But, I’m only one person. It seems that many more mediators will be needed.

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6 thoughts on “A pragmatist’s view on politics

  1. Great article, John. I think that the toughest part of this mediation will be establishing something that defines a center. For example, my center includes marriage equality. The GOP appears to still be a long way away from me on this basic civil and human right. It’s encouraging, however, to see OH GOP Senator Portman change his mind. Still, I put most of my hope in my kids’ generation. We seem to be too rigid, and with apologies to all my conservative friends, conservatism nowadays is akin to regressive instead of progressive ideals.

    • Thanks Greg. I continue to see both sides fighting to no end, and I believe we must remember that we are all Americans. Facts alone will not persuade them to end the fight but maybe a common cause can.

  2. Well crafted John. However, my issue is that you seem to be stuck in the paradigm of a two party system. Within that, you’re observations are flawless. However, why dismiss the possibility of a third voice; a third position; a third option which puts pragmatism over partisan politics? What if the answer lies in an outside force that values transpartisanship, civility, and the seeking of common ground instead of a struggle for power and the spoils offered by a multi-trillion dollar budget? Dismissing this possibility leave me little to know hope that compromise is possible. Both sides have too much to lose.

    • I understand what you are saying, Dan. I have been trying to keep it to liberal and conservative philosophies as opposed to Democrat versus Republican versus Libertarian, and so forth, because I see it more as an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality, especially if you view the comments on Facebook. What I am trying to do is go beyond the political concept to one that remembers community and the security of the family as the issues that matter most, and I am trying to show that it is one powerful similarity that we all share as Americans. Also, if you think about it, I am offering a third voice, one of the mediator.

      Also, I believe sometimes, there are bigger fights to fight. Our country has had a problem in the past where the leaders of industry have had too much sway, and ignored the rights of the working class, and there were those in the past that fought them and succeeded. I want to remind people of that because I believe this is a time in our history that people need hope the most.

      • Again John, we are in full agreement. However, the “pragmatic” questions remain. Can the divide be bridged? Is there a path to common ground? Can civil dialog even exist when both sides openly show contempt for the other while practicing partisan hypocrisy? Please remember my battle cry. 81 million eligible voters didn’t bother doing so. If you win them over, you don’t have to change a single immovable partisan. I believe that appealing to these people offers us the best choice. This path also allows you to ignore the hard-headed stalwarts entrenched in each of the extreme positions; those who I believe are making open and honest dialog virtually impossible.

  3. You’re right. Behind every hard-headed stalwart is the more rational that remain quiet, which could fall in your 81 million voters. I am trying to reach these people. I am hoping the benefit is that if I am able to reach some, they can talk with those that will not listen when they are in a calmer state of mind where different ideas ‘may’ actually take hold. The problem, as I see it, is that change can come slow, and look impossible to some, but it took the Woman’s Suffrage movement years to succeed before an amendment was ratified and enacted.

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