Friday, June 13, 2014

Ideologues are NOT the answer to what ails us

When it comes to the civil war currently underway in the Republican Party (as evidenced by Rep. Eric Cantor's defeat), I've taken the position that I don't have a dog in that fight. In other words, I'm not going to take a position on who I'd like to see "win" that one. That's because I have concerns about both the lunacy of most of the tea party positions and the monied interests of the establishment.

There are voices on the left that want to embrace the "populism" that has gripped the tea party faction in this battle. If, by populism, we mean an equality of voice that balances an inequality of resources, then yes, I'm all for it. But Richard Eskow is asking us to embrace the very thing that makes tea partiers dangerous.
Unlike Cantor, who was a party apparatchik first and foremost, Brat is an ideologue. But is that bad? 
We all have our opinions about public policy. And most of the time those group into an overall philosophy that can be attached to what we call conservative, liberal or libertarian ideologies. But the ideologue attaches a fervency to their opinions that drives them to be more invested in defeating the "enemy" than solving programs, ie, governing. To actually govern in a democracy as big and diverse as the United States ultimately means being a pragmatist.

As an example, we saw how the ideologues on both sides of the political continuum reacted to the debate about health care reform. Even though President Obama and the Democrats proposed a plan that was based on a model developed by the very conservative Heritage Foundation, the right wing went apoplectic with charges of "socialism" and "death panels." Meanwhile, the left wing ideologues organized to "kill the bill" because it wasn't single payer. That's what ideologues do and, if we followed any of that noise, nothing would ever get done.

Rather than being the answer to what ails us, I believe that ideologues are the source of our problems these days. President Obama and many of the Democrats in Congress have embraced the idea of being pragmatic liberals. In the past, there have been pragmatic conservatives that I could respect - and at times even vote for (an example is former Governor of Minnesota, Arne Carlson). What all pragmatists share is a commitment to something President Obama articulated years ago.
Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.
Yeah, I know its a bit of a pipe dream - especially these days with the extreme polarization we're experiencing in our politics. But as Obama said, its a "core value" that is a requirement for a functioning democracy. So I'm going to stick to it because I don't want to contemplate (or contribute to) the alternative.

1 comment:

  1. Insightful and interesting as always. One minor point though - I thin that the Republican/conservative objection to health care reform was more of a partisan than ideological response. The Affordable Care Act incorporates many conservative political values, and was, as you mention, developed by the Heritage Foundation.


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