Screw Pragmatism!

Let us begin this post with a word of apology to my mother, who hates it when my language gets too salty. Sorry, Ma.

And let us continue with the stipulation that there is nothing particularly wrong with this column by Newsweek‘s religion editor Lisa Miller.

Yes, yes, the sub-head (“The radical left versus the president”) is a crock, but Miller probably didn’t write that. The column itself — a consideration of the flack Pres. Obama is catching from the likes of Cornel West and Michael Lerner — is even-handed and thoughtful. Miller even manages a mild challenge of Obama in the conclusion, prodding him to take more risks in the service of his agenda.

Still, the fact is that Miller writes for a corporate media outlet, which means that she has to consider both sides of every issue:

[Lerner’s] colleague, the Washington, D.C. — based pastor Graylan Hagler, is organizing rallies in support of health care “as a basic human right.” “When anyone talks about reason, they talk about ratcheting down,” he says. “We’re not called to be expedient. We’re called to be unreasonable.”

Pragmatists will say such naive posturing gets you nowhere. Better to work with the president to improve health care and employment for some than allow reforms to be scuttled by infighting. And that’s right, of course.

As Miller goes on to say, principled dissent is written into the national DNA, and impatient prophets have always called Americans to live up to their own ideals.

Miller’s too polite to give pragmatic politics the succinct, brutal kiss-off they deserve. But I’m not.

We have allowed the pragmatists the run of the nation for decades now, and what has it gotten us? A frayed social safety net, crumbling infrastructure, massive inequalities in income, health, and opportunity, and a financial system that makes a den of fire-breathing pirate vipers an appealing alternative. Oh, and the finest (and most expensive) military ever known to man.

More properly, we have balanced the ideological insanity that is modern conservatism — don’t argue with me, when Ann freaking Coulter is the voice of reason in your movement, you know you’re in trouble – with a bunch of mush-mouthed hacks dedicated to compromise at all costs. The result is that the allowable spectrum of opinion now runs from the insane to the not-so insane, and the people who actually want something to be done for the poor get labeled the “far left,” as if they were going to bolshivize inner cities across the nation.

Naive posturing, my fanny. I’m with Rev. Hagler. Screw pragmatism, and screw expediency while we’re at it. Those aren’t Christian values. They have been tried and found wanting. The only way real reform is going to happen is the old-fashioned one, where the people act very unreasonably, very intemperately indeed, upsetting every apple cart they can get their hands on and insisting again and again that the way things are is not the way God wants them to be, and they need to change. Now, please.