Pragmatism is a Virtue

"In the painful aftermath, I realized that I had crossed the line from advocate to policy maker. I hadn’t altered my beliefs, but I respectfully disagreed with the convictions and passion of the Edelmans and others who objected to the legislation. As advocates, they were not bound to compromise, and unlike Bill, they didn’t have to negotiate with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole or worry about maintaining a political balance in Congress. I remembered all too well the defeat of our health care reform effort, which may have happened in part because of a lack of give-and-take. Principles and values in politics should not be compromised, but strategies and tactics must be flexible enough to make progress possible, especially under the difficult political conditions we faced.” — Hillary Clinton

I’ve been reading Hillary Clinton’s “Living History,” and this passage jumped out at me as an integral point that so many seem not to grasp.

Pragmatism is a virtue when it comes to participation in government and politics. Idealogical purity will only ever be your downfall.

Elizabeth Warren recently posted a long, sound, and detailed statement explaining why she will not be voting to confirm Betsy Devos as Education Secretary. I am glad she posted it, as it reiterated so many of the reasons I believe Devos is a terrible choice, but in the comment thread, and in most discussions I’ve seen, there are endless notes slamming her vote for Ben Carson.

Full Disclosure: I am not a hardcore Warren fan. I do not agree with any confirmation of Ben Carson and I don’t think he’s a qualified choice for the position he’s been nominated for. That being said, I understand that this is a war and you have to pick your battles.

The Democrats cannot obstruct for the sake of obstruction — they will not gain any wins or be taken seriously by their opponents via that strategy. They’re going to need the cooperation of at least some of those opponents in order to actually block any of these people after the initial hearings are over.

This same issue applies to so many things I’ve seen both during the election and in the fallout afterwards.

The people who tore down Cory Booker because he didn’t support the Canadian Pharmaceutical bill, but were fine with Bernie Sanders having been lax on gun control. Or who supported Bernie Sanders through and through to the point of deification, but vilified him for having endorsed Hillary Clinton and ultimately went and voted for Jill Stein (or didn’t vote at all). The people who loved Jill Stein’s positive activism, despite her rampant spreading of incorrect conspiracy theories, but who dismissed (or derided) Hillary Clinton’s own positive activism because they disagreed with a handful of her political strategies or actions.

There will never be a perfect politician or a perfect candidate. They will all be flawed in some way that you don’t like. And please note: This does not equate to a “lesser of two evils” argument.

Consider an anti-Clinton talking point that was flying around prior to the election (this is just a single example of one issue):

“Yes, Hillary is pro-choice, but takes money from countries that treat women poorly, so I won’t vote for her.”

(Putting aside that donations from countries in question were made to The Clinton Foundation and not to Hillary Clinton herself, as political campaigns cannot accept donations from foreign governments.)

a) Yes, Hillary is pro-choice, in favor of legislation that is protective of women’s rights to access healthcare and to exercise autonomy over their own bodies. In fact, Hillary supports repealing the Hyde Amendment, which limits federal funding for abortion, so that lower income women have safer access to abortion, as needed. Clinton supports Planned Parenthood, access to birth control, access to sexual education in school, and access for all women to safe healthcare. She has, in fact, been an advocate for women’s issues for more than 30 years.

b) Likelihood of Hillary having signed an executive order permanently banning federal funding for abortion, so extensive that it’s to the detriment of women all over the globe who may now suffer and die due to the lack of access they will have to the medical care they need? Zero percent chance.

Take a step back from that main talking point and look at what direction we could have been headed in and where we are now.

I am not suggesting all voters should have suddenly embraced any and everything Hillary Clinton had ever done the moment she became the Democratic nominee. What I am saying, is that pragmatism should have won out over idealism.

There were so many of these “yeah, but” situations when it came to people who were determined to “vote their conscience” in this election, and absolutely no careful examination of the bigger picture behind any of them.

As I am typing this, there are still people angrily hitting Cory Booker’s Facebook and blaming him for Bernie Sanders having lost the Democratic Primary. This is a pointless and completely illogical argument to still be having at this time.

The fundamental lack of interest in exploring the actual truth of these situations is astounding when we’re faced with the knowledge of what happened in the general election, what has happened in the past eight days (it’s ONLY BEEN 8 DAYS), and what will continue to happen for the next four years.

The attitude of all or nothing at all has got to go.

The lesson we must learn, and learn right now, is that getting so hung up on the minutia of perfection is a lose-lose battle for us all when our opponents are literally looking to give us nothing at all.