Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Pragmatic Party (the "vast middle") is Defined by Principles that Honor Our Founders

I am tired of hearing people like Ted Cruz insinuating that they are seemingly the only people standing on principle, and that those who seek compromise are all without values or principles themselves, or more to the point that they are willing to put aside their principles when it is convenient.

Now for some politicians that may be the case, but Cruz also seems to suggest that the so-called “vast middle” is without principle and easily manipulated by those on the left and right.
I respectfully disagree, and in fact believe that those in the “middle” are expressing a principle as old as our nation, and that those expressing this principle are more steadfast in their belief, less willing to compromise, than those on either end of the political spectrum. This of course is the pragmatic principle. It is no doubt expressed in many ways, but in essence the principle states that “given situation X and choices A and B, I will select whichever choice has the greatest likelihood of resolving situation X.” The premise of this principle is that progress is the primary goal of society, with progress being defined as the removal of impediments to the “motion” of society. It assumes that society must be on a continual path to growth, and that the only way for that growth to be manifested is by resolving any problems put in its path by using the power of reason.

Pragmatists don’t always agree on a particular decision to achieve that growth, but they all share the belief that their choice is defined as that which has the greatest likelihood of achieving progress. Stasis is anathema to a pragmatist. A pragmatist would view those who hold steadfast to premises (the free market is always a preferable choice) that have been proven to be untrue as unreasonable; those that hold these seemingly recalcitrant principles are denying the power of reason, which is of course the foundation of our political system and its social contract.
Reason is the true “religion” of our nation, a nation borne of science, and pragmatism is the only philosophy that truly embodies the use of reason. Those in that “vast middle” are expressing a philosophy that honors our Founders. Its “members” may not be part of a political party, but maybe it is time they be thought of one. A strong Pragmatist Party is the only true hope for our future.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just Who Exactly Makes Up The "Vast Middle," and Why Understanding Them is so Important

I read Kathleen Parker's Op-Ed today in the Trenton Times on the NBC/Esquire poll, and believe there is a very important element of the “vast middle” that is being overlooked but may be the single most important characteristic of the group.

The research I believe broke those in the middle into 5 distinct groups, each with its particular group of issues that supposedly motivates the “members” voting behavior. However, there is one unifying principle among all of these groups that defines them better than anything suggested by the poll, that being their pragmatism. 
Pragmatism IS the truly defining characteristic of the middle. I would in fact argue that pragmatism is one of the core values of our culture dating back to our Founding Fathers. Understanding those in the middle as pragmatists goes a long way in explaining their absolute frustration and disdain for our political parties. I would argue that most Americans would identify themselves as pragmatic and identify their position on issues like abortion, affirmative action, gun control, etc.. as being the most pragmatic.
FURTHER, this belief in pragmatism leads to another important yet never mentioned political fact: Voters in the middle do not shift liberal or conservative; the idea that our citizens are becoming “more liberal” or “more conservative”  shows a total misunderstanding of the pragmatic center. It is actually somewhat insulting to try and argue that their opinions are so fungible and “mushy” that they can so easily be swayed left or right. The strong opinions among those in the 5 groups is clear evidence that those in the middle do not shift. Rather, and this is the salient point, it is the parties that move to the middle, offering policies that they hope will be seen as the more pragmatic and thus garner the support of this “vast middle.”

The ramifications of this help explain why the Republican Party is doing so poorly. The Party has shifted so far to the right that they have a “longer distance” to travel with their policies to connect with the center. The left, on the other hand, is situated much closer to the middle, making it far more likely that they will construct policies that will appeal to this pragmatic center.
For the immediate future Democrats have a decided advantage over Republicans on the national scene, and Republicans will be unable to cut into that advantage until they restore the diversity of opinion and commitment to policy making that they had prior to 2008. That was, of course, about the time of the Tea Party's ascendency, and my decision to leave the Party.
It is time for true conservatives and moderates in the Party to show the guts to confront this insurrectionist, obstructionist faction of politicians, politicians who came to Washington not to help make policy and strengthen government, making it more effective and efficient, but who came to D.C. to disrupt the political process.
The Tea Party, is, frankly, ill-suited for our system of government with its separation of powers. It is, rather, designed for a parliamentary system. In such a system  loyalty and unanimity is necessary; this is a system where party discipline is expected and being in a party means you all share core beliefs. LIbertarians, conservatives, liberals, they each ARE a party, not part of a larger, amorphous body.

You can use many words to describe the Tea Party, but pragmatic is not one of them. As long as they are able to have such disproportionate influence over the Republican Party, the Party will never be able to connect with the "vast, pragmatic middle. This is tragic for our democracy, because two vibrant, healthy political parties is essential for our system to work.  We need a healthy Republican Party with the capacity for pragmatic action, and the only way that will happen is by attacking the Tea Party virus that has weakened its body and placed it on life support.

Pragmatism has a long history in this nation and is consistent with what is called “the American character.” Our Founders were pragmatists. The center is in fact “The Pragmatist Party.” The implications of this are very important to understand.

It is time to recognize the power of pragmatism in American politics, and the crucial role it plays in “picking winners and losers.”  I would argue that we have always been a pragmatic nation, and that this will not change. The Pragmatist Party will forever rule the day; the thought of a  coalition between Republicans and Pragmatists is laughable, as long as Democrats recognize this and don’t start believing that the nation is becoming more liberal. I wonder if they are that smart.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Battle for the Pragmatic Center

Anyone following the lunacy now passing for governance in Washington will be relieved to see that when it is all said and done, the true victors will be the pragmatic political center. This center has and will always be the true "majority party" in Washington. In interview after interview, moderate and "true conservative" Republicans such as Peter King have expressed the opinion that the current government shutdown will only be resolved by devising a "CR" that is pragmatic, a solution that the majority determines is reasonable and practical.

As I've declared time and again, the center in American politics is neither Republican or Democratic, regardless of their expressed allegiance to one party or the other. Those declarations merely place them on the left or right side of the continuum, but still tethered to the center. These pragmatists DO NOT become more or less conservative or liberal based on the policies of either party. Rather, the parties will move from the left or the right towards the center. In this vein, it is the Party that starts its "journey" already near the center is more likely to emerge victorious. Currently, that would be the Democratic Party. The "policy making," agenda setting wing of the Republican Party is so far to the right that it simply cannot make sufficient concessions, even if it actually wanted to, that would have any appeal to the pragmatic center. For the Republican Party to survive this upheaval, it is absolutely necessary for members in the center to recapture the role of "policy makers," meaning that they have to reassert themselves in the public eye and be able to be the agenda setters of the Republican Party. This will allow them to engage in the type of "priming"- through the cable and network news- that is necessary to isolate the Tea Party and drive them towards irrelevance.

The salient issue in all of this is that for the conservative yet pragmatic Republicans to accomplish this job they must engage in an all out, overwhelming assault on the far right of their Party. This internecine battle will split the Party but will restore the long term health of Republicans at the national level. Personally, as a former Republican that fled the party in 2008, this battle would force the Tea Party to see that the only way to stay viable would be to create its own political party. Such a move would lead to my return, and no doubt the return of countless other moderate Republicans who have been waiting for the center to "grow some balls" and put the Tea Party in its place. Let's hope that this is that moment. PLEASE