Pragmatism does not mean paralysis

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lasix medication side effects contraindications (Cross posted from Daily Kos, published last Wednesday.  I made just a few modifications for this site and no doubt missed others.)

It has been a while since last I posted.  ek — the wily ek — convinced me to come here and post this.  I thought that it might be provocative despite being meant with affection, but he thought it would be worth your collective time.

It’s a good time to note, by the way, why I haven’t been here much.  It’s the same reason I’m not on Open Left, Boo Trib, and countless other progressive blogs: I have simply found that for whatever reason I operate best when I limit myself to one blog; it lets me keep up with the conversations I start.  If I switch around, I write diaries and comments that I won’t follow up on for hours, days, weeks, months….  It feels to me as if I’m being rude.  So, given my limitation, which I’m glad that others do not share, I contribute only on El Permsimmon Grande, although I’m always (well, almost always) happy to see my Docudharmatic friends there.

Best holiday wishes to you all and I hope that you are happy and hopeful — even if hesitant in ways — over the political transition now underway.  I’ll try to come around more and prove myself a liar in the preceding paragraph.  If I don’t, feel free to hound me; apparently it works.  (And also feel free to port anything I write to here.)

Two years ago on DKos, in the wake of the 2006 election, came a rumbling on the right column of the front page that led to a series of withering assaults on Markos and some of the contributing editors.  Two years ago tomorrow, in fact, saw publication of a great example that will give those who were not yet here a sense of the arguments then taking place on the site: “Calling Bullshit on America,” by OPOL.  He and I “shared words” in the comments section of that diary and many others; it’s funnier now that we are friends.  His diaries — while still pungent and potent — have ratcheted down a little and I have come to better appreciate his talents.

The fight back then was between Pragmatists and Purists.  I was one of the loudest Pragmatists commenting on the site.  I’m still a pragmatist.  And here, today, we hear shouting once again from the right side of the page towards many CEs and others who dare criticize Obama’s choices — and again I find myself disagreeing with my fellow diarists.

I disagree because I don’t think that their position is pragmatic at all.

http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=accutane-canada-lawsuits 1. Pragmatism two years ago

Two years ago, those who were not yet on site may be dumbfounded to learn, there was great upheavel over what quartet would be elevated to the ranks of the front-pagers.  (This year, the sole new Contributing Editor, Jed L, ascended without a murmur of protest that he did so alone.  It was a well-earned promotion, but the interesting thing was the lack of discussion as people promoted their vested interests of who deserved the position.)

The big issue of the day was impeachment.  I was an impeachment skeptic, though I later changed my mind about Cheney and ultimately about Bush as well, albeit on a more limited range of charges than many would have suggested.  (The most thoughtful impeachment proponents, in turn, honed their arguments, eventually centering on the pragmatic argument that impeachment investigations would elevate the status of the investigation to the point where it would be harder for Bush and Cheney to resist — an argument that I still think stands.)  Markos made his thoughts know clearly in one OPOL diary that he derided as “impeachment porn,” leading to an out-and-out revolt by the site’s most popular diarists of the day.  (The term became a catchphrase for many months thereafter.)

At this time, I was writing diaries psychoanalyzing pro-impeachment advocates, comparing the Purist position on impeachment to a religion, arguing the legal basis of impeachment with Vyan, appropriating Melville for the cause of pragmatism, and finally taking dead aim at what I called “impeachment underwear gnomes.”  My point is: with the exception of DHinMI and a few others like him, I’m about as pragmatic as they come on this site.  The links above offer my bona fides.

I’m also a strong Obama supporter (since the Nevada Caucus results came in and I bade farewell to Edwards), volunteered for him extensively, and am optimistic about his administration.  So why am I so irritated by the attacks on those who challenge Obama’s appointments — none of which, by the way, I think are completely out of line, though I’d surely like to see some results from them quickly — that finally boiled over earlier today?

Simple: it’s because they are not Pragmatic.

http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=quanto-costa-viagra-generico-50-mg-in-farmacia-a-Roma 2. Pragmatism today

People often confuse Pragmatism with Moderation.  They are not the same thing.  There is probably a correlation between them, but they are quite different.  Pragmatism deals with means; Moderation can deal with means, but more frequently is used to refer to desired ends.  A moderate doesn’t want a set of policies that is too radical — or even too leftist, or too much at variance with the Washington Consensus.  A moderate would have opposed impeachment based on the argument that Bush didn’t deserve it.  A pragmatist might oppose it because, even if he did deserve it, it would be corrosive to the political system — or because it was simply unlikely to lead to a useful result.  What the pragmatist thinks is “a useful result” — that is a matter of ideology.  The pragmatist may desire as radically left-wing an end as the Purist; the difference is in how much the desire to reach that end, versus the probability of being able to reach that end, governs one’s preferences.

Another example may help clarify things: a moderate might want a health care system that covers children, has mandates, uses current insurance companies, etc.  A purist — and the one I link to here is as good and smart a one as they come here on the netroots — may want universal health care with no mandates.  A pragmatist asks: how are we going to get there?  Does it makes sense to get the camel’s nose under the tent, accept mandates for now, and then ride the eventual dissatisfaction with that system’s shortcomings to the sort of system we want, once the option of no government health care is off of the table?  The pragmatist may have the same ends in mind as the purist; the difference is over means.

Purists often reply to pragmatists by saying that there’s no telling how likely the outcomes of various struggles will be, so one might as well ignore that aspect of things and simply agitate for what one wants.  This is a useful debate to have; sometimes the purists are right.

Because pragmatists are often willing to go slow, pragmatism is sometimes viewed by its critics as paralyzing.  This is based on the assumption that it is always better (or at least more effective) to go slow.   click This is a false assumption.  As Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” shows us, if we didn’t already know, sometimes one achieves one’s best results by going very quickly.  (Indeed, this was the strategy of the Reagan Revolution as well, where Richard Viguerie argued that the new Administration should proceed on every front at once so that the liberals who would defend the then-current system would have their resources spread too thin, and would to leave some political fights entirely unfought, leading the conservative routs.)

In such situations, the pragmatist sounds a lot like the wildest-eyed radical.  “Now!”, the pragmatist cries, “noooooooowwwwww!!!  Gain as much ground as we can while the time is ripe!”  Pragmatism is the interest in doing what works, and sometimes what works can be very dramatic.

This is why pragmatists like me see diaries like those today, which derided those who would challenge some of Obama’s appointments as “purists” who were not “pragmatic,” or which at least characterize the disagreement that way, and our eyes bulge out.

I’ll give Meteor Blades the first swipe at this:

We can wish for change and work … (140+ / 0-)

…for it simultaneously. We can be pragmatic and idealistic simultaneously. And one can be optimistic and critical without giving way to cynicism. Smart leftists aren’t cynics because cynics don’t believe anything can or will change, so why bother. If we on the left were cynics, we sure as hell wouldn’t be activists. What would be the point?

I’d go even further.  Those who think that we should not challenge Obama on issues — including appointments — where we disagree with him naturesis caused by lasix are not Pragmatists at all.  They are not performing the calculus that pragmatists must perform, in which they ask “how do we get what we want?”

Instead, these people are a new kind of netroots Purist: “Faith in Obama Purists.”  Their theme song follows Bob Marley’s lyrics: “don’t worry ’bout a thing; every little thing’s goinna be all right.”

A Pragmatist knows that some chestnuts about politics are correct.  “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” for example.  “Power yields nothing without a demand” — where power is not simply Obama, but the political, social, and economic system in which he operates.

A Pragmatist knows that the cheapest brand viagra from online drugstore this is not the time to do nothing.  This is the time to source site press one’s advantage.  The people who do this for a living, the lobbyists, politicians, business interests, and so forth, they are not standing still.  They are pressing every opportunity to lobby and to shape public opinion to make it harder for Obama not to pick the sort of nominees they would like.  They know that one way to get the policy you want is to get the right people into position to make and implement it.

If they know this, why shouldn’t we?  How is that “pragmatic”?

So let’s hear no further that the current debate is about Purists who want so much from Obama and Pragmatists who will take what they can get.  The so-called Pragmatists who would make no demands of Obama and offer no criticisms as a point of principle aren’t trying to take what they can get — unless they are Moderates who don’t want much, in which case let them wear that label.

Here’s my pragmatic position: Obama is in much the same position as FDR was when he told progressives who pressured him “You’ve convinced me that you’re right.  Now go out there and make me do what you want!”

We all want Obama to be a great President.  Our role, now, is to http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=comprare-viagra-generico-25-mg-pagamento-online-a-Bologna make him be one — not with paralysis, but with passion.

38 comments

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  1. If you disagree with the content of the diary, blame — well, I guess that would be me.

    I’ll try to stop by later to say howdy.

  2. It seems to me that it comes down, as FDR and you say, to whether we can make BO do progressive things.  So all the complaining and yelling OMG in crowded theaters blogs is fine if, and this is a really big if, if it leads to something more concrete than just typing the same old stuff and making the same old complaints and observations.

    My guess is that we’re probably pretty good as writers, but that when it comes down to forcing BO to adopt a progressive agenda, we’re still a little weak.  Prove me wrong if you can, but there’s more to this than sitting in the press box and doing the color commentary.  

  3. The pragmatist may desire as radically left-wing an end as the Purist; the difference is in how much the desire to reach that end, versus the probability of being able to reach that end, governs one’s preferences.

    the difference is in how much the desire to reach that end, versus the

    probability

    possibility (or hopelessness)

    of being able to reach that end, governs one’s

    preferences

    actions.

    I really agree with you, but there does come a point when all faith and almost all hope is lost.

  4. …back here again.  I was very happy about your FISA thoughts and essay a few months back.  And this is thought provoking. I like that.  

  5. for following up.

  6. and very helpful to me. I think I’ll claim the label of progressive pragmatist!! I appreciate the idea that pragmatism indicates method rather than goal. It helps me understand how/why I’ve reacted the way I have to many things.

    I often find my pragmatic side weighing not only the method, but the possibility of success. As an example, once Congress passed the temporary FISA that allowed illegal wiretapping, I realized there would never be impeachment. No matter what the Dems had done before, after that vote, they were complicit. So I knew they would never do it. And while I support impeachment totally, decided it was time to use my energies elsewhere.  

  7. You can look it up under my name here at Docudharma.  Perhaps it would help you understand some of the objections to what you would call “pragmatism.”  Let’s start with this one:


    Another example may help clarify things: a moderate might want a health care system that covers children, has mandates, uses current insurance companies, etc.  A purist — and the one I link to here is as good and smart a one as they come here on the netroots — may want universal health care with no mandates.  A pragmatist asks: how are we going to get there?  Does it makes sense to get the camel’s nose under the tent, accept mandates for now, and then ride the eventual dissatisfaction with that system’s shortcomings to the sort of system we want, once the option of no government health care is off of the table?  The pragmatist may have the same ends in mind as the purist; the difference is over means.

    There is something to be said for the idea that if you want to get something, you first have to demand it.  This, precisely, is the point of most of my diaries, here and on DKos: if we are to get anything good out of political life, we must first be willing to multiply the demands we make of it.  Suggesting that all the system really needs is a little tune-up when disaster is plainly in sight is not “pragmatism.”

    Moreover, the suggestion that we need to “get the camel’s nose under the tent” before anything will be done appears to me to be entirely unnecessary.  Maybe we will “get the camel’s nose under the tent,” and then Congress will declare it a failure and push the camel’s nose back out.  The idea of a SINGLE-PAYER system, which is clearer in its intention than the “universal health care with no mandates” that you have written down here, is that we GET RID OF health insurance companies and health insurance altogether.  The compromise program, Romney-care as they call it in Massachusetts or health care with mandates, merely enriches and empowers the health insurance industry.  Making them more powerful is not a pragmatic “baby step” on the road to eliminating their role altogether.

    • Edger on December 1, 2008 at 3:47 am

    What is usually self congratulatorily called pragmatism… is excuse.

    • kj on December 1, 2008 at 4:05 am

    i am asking myself; and slumming around the tubes looking for other’s questions, is– what are the biggest pieces to this broken series of messes do i want to see fixed, and, more importantly how do they inter-relate, bounce, enhance or maybe strangle one another?

    Getting out of Iraq?  Green technology?  Economy?  Universal healthcare?  Civil rights?  Re-regulations?  What?  What first?  at what cost?  at the expense of what else?

    i can’t see inside Barak Obama’s mind.  i have no clue what puzzle he’s putting together and/or why he’s keeping some pieces i would have jettison.   http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=free-cialis-professional-20-mg but, the fact that he’s moving fast is telling me he’s got a picture in mind.

    so i’m waiting and watching. for me, that’s a pragmatic decision.  

    one example: keeping the neocons tied to Iraq works for me, for now, for one simple reason… Gates won’t be working for GWB or Cheney.  he will be working for Obama.  and i really do want to know what the hell Scrowcroft thoughts are.  i can’t think of anyone who might have followed the events more closely or with more of a critical eye than him.

    bottom line for me is to watch this all with a sharp eye and see what falls by the wayside in January/February.  then move. and that’s not paralysis, agreed.

    i might go so far as to say… i have a bit of trust in Obama’s means.  i didn’t campaign for him, but he exceeded my expectations.  his means seem to come from the margins, some of the marginalized and from the grassroots.  that’s big for me.  that earns him a ‘wait and see.’

    • kj on December 1, 2008 at 4:19 am

    for some of us, politics is personal.  it’s not that i don’t agree with the premise of this essay, if i understand the premise that is… now follow link is a good time, and it is quite pragmatic for groups that are already organized to http://marycastillo.com/?search=serotonin-schizophrenia-and-antipsychotic-drug-action-of-lasix move. that’s part of what i’m slumming around the tubes looking to find.  who’s doing what. who is hitting the ground floor running as fast as Obama is, and why. who could use some help. and once i see enough of the interplay, what issue is falling behind, i’ll know which choir to join.

    and it might be something as unsexy as the world-wide refugee deluge.  and it might just be donating whatever i can to Iraq Moratorium, as i’ve been doing.

  8. history via dkos you use for your definition of purist and pragmatist, or as they said in the day purist vs enemy of the possible, I have to say that my purism has been stretched to it’s elastic end. Fine I supported Obama, I joined the pragmatic goal. I worked for him both grass and net roots, but there is a line where pragmatism, coalitions, unity, or what ever you call it meets a line. The line is the Law, the constitution.

    There is the law which reaches beyond our current situation the one that defines us as humans the one we cannot barter away for pragmatism because it does not work. The laws we have collectively as humans evolved for eons. It does not work pragmatically because pragmatism is not an end but a means. Purism is a false flag, what does it mean? Is a purist someone who wants the unreachable or someone whose goal is to make our politics actually and pragmatically reflect the principles and law they were founded on? Or if not into this view how about the actual will of the populace? the pragmatic voice of the mob that says enough is enough and throw the bums out? I vote for that. I did not vote and work for a new configuration of the elite the same fucks that blew our world apart. Thats pragmatic.          

    • Edger on December 1, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Progressive:

    Wingnut:

    Pragmatist”

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