Remember in art class when you first learned that blue and orange don’t go together? Then the teacher showed you the wheel of colors and you learned how to balance all the different colors in your art.
Political ideas are like colors. They exist on a complicated spectrum. But at the end of the day, our lawmakers need to compromise and balance these ideas; or else work will never be done. Hence, we need to be pragmatic. To be pragmatic is the quality of “solving problems in a sensible way that suits the conditions that really exist now, rather than obeying fixed theories, ideas, or rules.” In terms of politics, this means to espouse ideas and candidates that can be readily supported and put into action rather than solely and stubbornly advocating for niche beliefs.
In his editorial, Edward Xu argues that pragmatism gives us, “no leverage… no reaction… and our successes will always be mild.” But let us evaluate the effectiveness of opposing pragmatism, as all that matters in the end is getting the stances and ideas implemented into law. As the old maxim goes, you must “put your money where your mouth is.”
In America, if one party espoused radical views in an election, that party would be soundly defeated with little to show for the effort. Wouldn’t it then make sense to instead espouse a party and candidate with more moderate views and a willingness to compromise? Work gets done, and some of your views are made into law. If no side can form an effective majority, no work gets done, and one side could hold the government at ransom. It has happened before. The Polish Sejm would only pass a law if it was unanimously supported, making one uncompromising legislator detrimental to the nation.
America was founded upon compromise. The Great Compromise of 1787 formed the U.S. Congress. The Bill of Rights arose from a compromise between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. As well, the recent political and social unrest have been a particularly strong reminder of the consequences if we do not work together.
On March 10th, 2021, both political parties worked together to reach a COVID-19 relief bill. Red, white, and blue, blending perfectly to color a unified America. But on January 6th, 2021, radicals stormed the capitol building. Yellow, orange, purple, and blue thrown onto one canvas, radicalism paints an ugly picture of America.
Pragmatism is the root of compromise. Compromise lets us build bridges between ourselves and our adversaries. This creates stable working environments and blossoming personal relationships. What is not to appreciate about pragmatism?
Rather, if we espouse its brother, if we support radicalism, we will find ourselves being torn apart by our passions. We will have shredded this Union that so many have died to protect. All because of an idea that might not even work.
Let us slow down and broach the gap. President Washington in his farewell address warned against the creation of political parties because he knew that we were at risk of fragmentation. The colors of America get bolder and bolder by the day as new perspectives enter all the time. Our leaders are the painters. Their job is to blend all of our colors into a cohesive work of art.
But at the same time, it is not solely the responsibility of our leaders to maintain harmony and productivity. A large measure of responsibility lies with us, the citizens. We are responsible for keeping the peace in our daily interactions. We are responsible for being effective at work and repaying our dues to America. And, perhaps most importantly, we have a responsibility to vote for leaders of character and quality. One that will united the colors of America into one beautiful painting. Not one that would delineate the portrait into sections.
America must not fear pragmatism. We must not fear compromise. If we do hold fear of these two great ideals, then we are consigned to ruin. If we do not fear them, and we embrace them, the American people are destined for greatness.
This is a revision of a previous article I wrote, titled “In Defense of Pragmatism.”