The Case for Pragmatism

Politics in America is broken. We all know that; we all feel it. Congress can barely legislate; families and individuals disagree sharply on almost every issue imaginable. And yet, despite the recognition, it keeps getting worse. Not only have political parties sorted themselves almost completely by ideology, but extremism is on the rise on both the left and the right. Indeed, things have become so contentious that that almost every fact-based article likely will not help towards resolving the unproductive tensions that plague our discourse; rather, it will probably serve to further exacerbate them. But I just can’t take it anymore. I’m sick of the puritanism, the all-in-one position packages people accept to be a part of their liberal or conservative tribes. I’m tired of the feel-good rhetoric that spouts simplistic messaging that caters to the predispositions of people, oftentimes without basis in truth. Whatever happened to American thinking and intellectualism? Whatever happened to solving problems, to recognizing trade-offs, to thinking critically about each issue and doing the research to determine the facts? More importantly, whatever happened to an emphasis on the unbiased and objective determination and analysis of facts?  Politics has turned much too much into a basic football game, with teams and fans cheering or sneering at the players. It’s a feel-good game that people participate in to feel included in their team, instead of recognizing that the entire stadium is on fire. It’s time to grow up and get past our differences to put out the fire; not only that, but to actually do things that will actually put out the fire, not make it worse.

As a country, here are the things we ought to agree on and base our actions on:

  1. Almost all of us like freedom. It’s defining it and the extent it should be allowed that becomes challenging
  2. Our civic values are what unite us as a nation. Not religion, not race, not even culture. Rather, it is our core beliefs in Western values.
  3. There is an important role for government, albeit a “limited” one. Defining limits is tricky and subject to different, reasonable arguments.
  4. Proper policies should favor the inputs of data and context over ideology. Different situations and results call for different actions/non-actions.
  5. There are many problems, some of them serious. But in myriad ways, America has never been “greater”. No matter what Trump, Clinton, or Sanders think, things are actually pretty good.
  6. All sides have something to offer. There is not one set of “correct” solutions that should be implemented puritanically. Rather, a mix of solutions that is dependent upon context and data are necessary.
  7. Never believe everything you hear; rather, challenge everything (appropriately). 

These points of (what should be) agreement naturally call for cautious and thoughtful debate and consideration of each problem and possible solutions to lay out a program of gradual reform. In other words, the exact opposite of what we actually have.




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