It has not escaped my attention that many of my writings bring forth strong responses, often from people who lean a bit farther left. Let’s make one thing clear. I am not a Trump apologist, arch-conservative, or some right-wing radical. I am, very much like Trump, a pragmatist. And pragmatists often just do not have the time or patience for ideological indulgences, right or left. A pragmatist simply looks at a situation and examines what need to get done, regardless of how it may or may not tread upon ideological sentiments. Facts and results trump feelings (no pun intended) for the pragmatist.
Remember Trump in the early primary process? Republicans cried foul when he ran as a Republican, noting he was a “New York Democrat”. As it became clear he was making an impact, the Democrats blasted him on his character since they were a bit confused on exactly what his policy stances would be.
Now two years into his administration, Republicans laud his “conservative governance” while Democrats oppose his anti-progressive bent. But is Trump governing as a conservative? Not uniquely. He is governing as a pragmatist. If many of his policies happen to line up with the conservative camp, that is simply coincidence. He is looking for ideas that work, not ideological posturing.
Take the State of the Union address. Think of various reactions shaped by ideological stance when Trump stated: “America was founded on liberty and independence, not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” A left-leaning Democrat might have heard a slight to the progressive agenda of their party, a divisive dig, as many news outlets framed the comments. A conservative might have heard a warming confirmation of their belief in free market capitalism. But a pragmatist hears it differently. The pragmatist hears: “Naturally we should never be a Socialist country. It would not work. Most Socialist countries today are declining (i.e. Venezuela).
As an incurable entrepreneur and one who teaches business principles, he knows that experience is the primary tutor of pragmatism. In the business world, ideology does not get the job done. Practical, pragmatic and useful solutions get the job done. We have heard too little of that in our political dialog, from either side, for many years. The political theater needs to take a page from management theory, and Trump provides the impetus.
Take the recent proposal for Ocasio-Cortez’s new Green Deal bill. It is absolute ideological pie-in-the-sky nonsense. Any pragmatist can look at it from the outset and know it cannot succeed in any real-world environment governed by dollars and sense. But the ideologue applauds if it harmonizes with their world view. The pragmatist just shrugs and reconsiders what is actually feasible. Unfortunately, history has shown that it is pragmatism that brings progress and ideologies that often bring trouble.
The Endlosung (Final Solution), which led to the extermination of over ten million people during World War Two, was not a practical solution but an ideological one. The Cultural Revolution in China, which resulted in the deaths of over forty million Chinese at the hands of their own leadership, was not driven by immediate need, but an ideological quest to manipulate power. The endless brush fire wars America perpetrates across the globe are not driven primarily by real-time threats, but by an ideological position on our perceived role in geopolitical power. Pol Pot did not give a bunch of teenagers AK-47s, mortars and grenades in Cambodia because the country needed economic reform. He simply wanted an ideological revolution. And so it continues. Ideologies tend to divide, solutions helpful to all tend to unite.
If the ideologue can envision something practical and useful it is the pragmatist that usually makes it happen. For the pragmatist, accomplishment talks and nonsense walks. As Trump continually figures out the quagmire that is our current state of affairs, he seems to be offering a number of pragmatic solutions, regardless of which side of the ideological spectrum lays claim to victory. Further, the strength of the pragmatist is understanding clearly that we are all brothers and sisters in the larger analysis and when we actually solve problems (instead of creating them) we all grow a little closer.
America is rife with problems, from social issues to corruption to runaway corporatism to stifling debt. Ideology alone will not clean up the mess. It requires real-world, pragmatic solutions that work for everyone. And as long as President Trump can keep putting forth ideas that actually have a chance to succeed I will stand with him. The minute he goes off that reservation, I am out. Such is the essence of pragmatism.