Mass hysteria rules the hearts of the American people, and now many are convinced that the nation’s future depends on their candidate winning at any cost. Others stubbornly believe that good moral character is a necessary prerequisite for any leader and that the absence of good moral character is disqualifying no matter the cost. Given these two opposing arguments, the entire election hinges upon which of these world views is true.
Are conscientious voters morally obligated to vote for a candidate they do not believe possesses the character necessary to lead? How much moral debt do we incur when we elect someone we know to be wholly unfit for the office of president? Are we, on the right, exempt from the same criticisms that we have leveled at the left for decades now? Do the same character flaws we found in Bill Clinton become less repugnant now that our candidate exhibits them? Do objective measures of character exist at all?
If voting is quintessentially political speech, then I hold that caveats of conscience are at the discretion of the voter. If the fate of the republic is indeed in peril, then every citizen who is concerned for the future of the republic has a moral obligation to vote for the candidate whom they believe is most capable to secure the future of the republic against all threats from without and within. For many of us, a morally ambiguous billionaire whose moral failings are both numerous and persistent is a nonstarter.
The issue, however, clearly remains far from settled, so we must decide what is worth fighting for against all odds: what is or what ought to be?
What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.
– Albert Einstein
This “is/ought” dichotomy is at the heart of the “culture of pragmatism” that has been eating away at our nation’s culture like a cancer for over a century, continuously pushing back the lines of objective idealistic virtue and allowing moral relativism to rush in to fill the philosophical void. If we are to have any hope of reigniting the revolutionary ideals upon which our nation was founded, then this ideology of pragmatism must be dealt with once and for all.
Part of the appeal of pragmatism is its superficially intellectual argument to necessity, which discards issues deemed too emotional or idealistic for practical consideration. For men and women who consider themselves to be intellectuals, guided by reason and common sense, this is very enticing. It is, after all, a sensible approach to problems facing society that require a dispassionate solution. It is also a distinctly and demonstrably unAmerican approach to civil society for one simple reason: tyranny is itself pragmatic.
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Facing the excesses of King George III’s rule, pragmatism undoubtedly favored avoiding the thousands of deaths that would result from a war against the world’s undisputed supreme military power, not to mention the threat of execution for treason and the predictable suffering of American colonists. Were our Founding Fathers guided by pragmatism, rather than fiery idealism, the revolution would have been stillborn, likely never to have come at all. Fortunately for us, the Founders pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to the ideals of Liberty, against all odds.
This is not to say that they were ever and always guided by idealism, because pragmatism guided more than a few of their choices. In the middle of the uncertain Revolutionary War, pragmatism, not idealism, made it easy to push contentious questions aside for the sake of unity among the colonies. The resulting Articles of Confederation, a no nonsense political document, succeeded in keeping the thirteen colonies together for the duration of the war. It also proved to be such an abject failure that most Americans aren’t even aware of its existence.
“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”
(Who will guard us from the guardians?)
While pragmatism successfully sidestepped obstacles to the Articles of Confederation, it soon became clear that the very compromises that made the Confederacy possible in the first place also doomed it to fail. Forced to drag each unanswered controversy into the open, from federal taxation to slavery, the Founding Fathers hammered out an improved, albeit still imperfect, Constitution of the United States of America. The remaining imperfections in the Constitution, born of yet more concessions to political pragmatism, only delayed the inevitable.
It was idealism, not pragmatism, on the issue of slavery and equality that birthed the Republican Party. The conflagration between what was ideal and what was pragmatic claimed the lives of over six hundred thousand Americans in the American Civil War. In the aftermath, pragmatism once again guided the reunification of the Republic, but it was idealism that again rose to fight the many terrible injustices suffered by black Americans for more than a century afterwards.
It has been pragmatism, not idealism, that has led the party of Lincoln away from its stances on moral equality and into expedient alliances of corporatists and nationalists. It was this poisonous pragmatism that has propelled a morally bankrupt, habitually dishonest, adolescent billionaire to the candidacy of the party of “Honest Abe“. It must be idealism, not pragmatism, that will tear down the Republican Party in order to save it from this disgrace.
To save our republic, we must keep our fiery idealism away from the watery pragmatism that has ever been the douser of Liberty. If the ideals of Justice and Liberty for all are certain and true, then we are morally obligated to fight tirelessly toward what ought to be and never simply accept what is. It is through idealism, and only idealism, that we can successfully reignite the fires of Liberty against all odds.
On these things, there can be no compromise.
Liberty is For The Win!