May 28, 2016

Christopher J. Scalia writes "Trump is a pragmatist, too. That’s the problem."

The son of Justice Scalia, who works at a PR firm in Washington, has this in The Washington Post:
“Whatever works” is the unofficial slogan of pragmatists. It also sounds a lot like Trump, who has promised to fix everything from health care to trade with China by making “great deals for this country.”...
Clinton invokes the term [pragmatism] to mean finding solutions based on her knowledge of, and her experience in, the political establishment. Trump, meanwhile, wants to tear down the establishment. In fact, because pragmatism implies impatience and frustration with the usual ways of doing business, it can involve breaking a system rather than working within it....

Obama, too, realizes that pragmatism doesn’t need to involve compromise. Perhaps the peak (or nadir) of the president’s pragmatism is his 2014 vow that he wouldn’t wait “for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need. I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” The separation of powers is dusty dogma — git r done!...
[T]he word’s generally positive connotations could very well lend Trump that always-coveted air of gravitas, gilding his unpredictable and inconsistent ideas with a semblance of respectability and intellectual seriousness.
ADDED: Reminds me of the way Justice Scalia used to take umbrage at Justice Breyer.

15 comments:

MayBee said...

Obama's people- or journalist John Harwood, I'm not sure which- came up with the idea of Obama's pragmatism to paper over the fact that he really didn't have any ideas on how to get things done.

At the time, Obama's schtick was to say things like, "On the one hand, we don't want parade of horribles to happen when we pull out of Iraq (remember, Obama was against the surge and in favor of just getting out of there). On the other hand, we need to get out of Iraq right away. And so, I will find a way to do it with my pragmatism"

or
"Some people say healthcare is not a right and we should let people die in the streets. Others say we must give free health care even to illegal immigrants. But I, with my pragmatism, will create the perfect solution"

This is pretty much what Hope and Change was all about.

traditionalguy said...

Somebody thinks he is already intellectually serious, and he doesn't want to share it with a common man like Trump.

MayBee said...

Now "pragmatism" is used by politicians as a kind of black box inside their beings where wonderful solutions will be produced.

traditionalguy said...

After the first shot is fired, the plans for the battle are no longer high principles to be kept. Pragmatism means using the winning counter moves needed and doing it faster than a smart opponent.

Then "intellectuals" can pretend to explain it as if they all along would have done it.

Daniel Richwine said...

Obama isn't a pragmatist, he's a socialist. Just because he wants to accomplish his ideals in any way possible doesn't mean he has none.

Trump isn't a pragmatist, Trump may not have any ideological center other than wanting the country to be his definition of great, which seems to be resonating. He too has little use for the niceties of accomplishing his goals.

Hagar said...

Young Mr. Scalia should not take his father's name in vain - and should lay off the weed.

jaydub said...

"System" is more descriptive than establishment. The "system" is whatever the current bureaucracy says it is, and the system changes all the time because the bureaucracy changes its mind all the time. Six months ago it would have been unthinkable for girls' locker rooms to be opened to any sex offender who merely claims to be a woman trapped in a man's body. Today, the bureaucracy will arrest your bigoted ass if you even try to prevent the same sex offender from getting instant access to your daughter whenever she uses a public locker room. No new laws were passed to allow this, no court interpreted an existing law to now require this. The bureaucracy merely decided to impose a capricious ruling on the republic and enforce it by withholding due funding unless the mandarins get their way. The bottom line is the system has a cancerous bureaucracy, and I'm hoping that Trump can be the oncologist that excises that tumor before the metastasis is complete. If that requires destroying the system, so be it.

AReasonableMan said...

Most of the really awful things that governments do, with the exception of personal corruption, derive from idealism and/or the abuse of idealism. Compared to idealism, pragmatism looks pretty good.

mockturtle said...

Compared to idealism, pragmatism looks pretty good.

Gotta agree with that!

Michael K said...

We have had 20 years of ideology. Actually more, since 1992. After 1994, ideology pretty much went into hiding but it has been there all along. Maybe Trump is the sign we are all so done with ideology.

Joe said...

What's the point of that opinion piece? It's meandering blather.

buwaya puti said...

Joe is right. This is blather without a point to make.

mikee said...

"Whatever works" requires a few more words.

"Whatever works" might have consequences, like Obamacare, which has insured a few million uninsured people but blown up into scandalous cost overruns, personal data breaches, unpayable deductibles, and self-destruction state after state.

"Whatever works" might be inefficient to the point of absurdity, like the DMV, which appears to be a public works project masquerading as a government licensing department, whose entire function could be done online or in an automated kiosk at your local Starbucks.

"Whatever works" has to have appended to it the words "properly," or "in accordance with the laws and, maybe, the norms of society," or "to stop the idiocy and return to sanity in our governance." Or we get something that is "whatever works" for enriching the Clinton Crime Family, or "whatever works" to keep the entrenched bureaucracy in place, serving badly or not at all the needs of the citizenry.

I am not going to do "whatever works" until I understand what that "whatever" will cause to happen. Then, yeah, let those impacted yowl and yammer, because a deserved and desired goal is being achieved with whatever works.

DavidD said...

You can thank the Left for the fact that the word "pragmatism" has " 'generally positive connotations' "; I don't find it positive at all.

From The Ominous Parallels, p. 53:

Thinkers for decades had been saturated with the Kantian view that facts “in themselves” are unknowable, and with the voluntarist view that action has primacy over thought. As a result, a growing chorus—helped along by Schopenhauer, Marx, and Nietzsche, among others—began to suggest that men should dispense with any concern for facts or reality. Ideas, it was increasingly claimed, all ideas, are merely subjective tools designed to serve human purposes; if, therefore, an idea leads in action to desirable consequences, i.e., to the sorts of consequences desired by its advocates, it should be accepted as true on that ground alone, without reference to the (unknowable) facts of reality.

This new approach reached its climax and found its enduring name in America, in the writings of William James. James called it: pragmatism.

Paul Snively said...

Political pragmatism strikes me as being very like pragmatism in my field, software development. It sounds good (who can be opposed to pragmatism)? But the reality is that if you don't have a set of principles that lend coherence to the enterprise, what you get is a dysfunctional, disordered disaster that, all too often, can only be said to "work" by putting on the most remarkable set of blinders, sometimes up to and including outright delusion ("Obamacare is Obama's signature accomplishment"), and ignoring any and all factors having to do with providing an excellent user experience, the ongoing maintenance of the system, the providing of new features in the future, etc.

When a colleague tells me they're being "pragmatic," I take steps to keep them away from my code. When a politician tells me they're being "pragmatic," I reach for my wallet.