A new wind is blowing through America, change is in the air and I'm not talking about Barack Obama. This change is deeper than that, more fundamental. Our president is a product of that change, not its cause. Americans are marginalizing the margins.
The fastest growing party in America is no party. For a century and a half we've had Democrats and Republicans, but the populous is rapidly becoming neither. The fastest growing party in America is the Independents.
Independents are misunderstood and derided by both sides because they represent a threat to both sides.
"Independents believe in nothing, they are unable to commit to anything, they are adrift in a salad bar of choices, picking whatever looks good at the moment."- Those are the dismissive accusations, and they are wrong.
Wrong but plausible because, while there is a philosophy beneath the impulse towards independence, it hasn't been articulated clearly yet.
Many strains of thought have come together to create this new philosophy, but the dominant one is pragmatic idealism--Pragdealism. I am a Pragdealist, and I offer that term as my contribution to a political/cultural conversation that needs new terms as much as it needs fresh blood and new ideas.
A Pragdealist believes that an alternative to the conservative/liberal dichotomy is desperately needed, right now, for the most practical, idealistic reason.
There is a fatal flaw in our left-right continuum, a kind of torque, built into both movements, that is constantly trying to tear them apart and rip them from reality. Conservatives and Liberals are both under pressure from their extremes; the hard left and the hard right are the magnetic poles of both camps. When your beliefs are ideological, almost religious, the true believers always have the high ground. Those keepers of the flame are the truly righteous; one opposes them at one's own peril.
Colin Powell is currently undergoing the same excommunication that Joe Lieberman suffered last year. Each tossed out, declared anathema, shunned, because he held one fatal position not blessed by the keepers of the flame, otherwise known as the base. And never mind that Colin Powell is ninety percent conservative and Joe Lieberman ninety percent liberal.
Each committed a mortal sin. One that illustrates just how diseased and dysfunctional their respective "camps"- have become: He thought for himself.
The greatest impulse towards Pragdealism isn't an inability to take sides in the donkey-elephant wars--but a feeling that the dichotomy is exhausted, no longer useful in identifying real-world conflicts, problems, and least of all, solutions. It's not even promotive of conversation. Democrats and Republicans are like the Dodgers and the Giants. One is a fan of one or the other, you want one to win and the other to lose, all the time, every time, no "reasons"- necessary. Loyalty is the highest virtue and blind loyalty its purest expression.
Otherwise how could Sarah Palin be considered a credible leader, or Dennis Kucinich be taken seriously? Either one would be a disaster for the nation, but either one would get most of their party's votes, if nominated.
Why do hate groups breed on both sides, why the rigid, stupid, outdated ideas that never seem to die? Why does it take political catastrophe for either side to make some obvious, common sense changes? Because the poles don't pull that way. The poles pull away from the polls, hard, until the rubber band breaks and your party spends a generation in the wilderness.
Pragdealists aren't somewhere in the zombie middle between Liberals and Conservatives, though we agree with some positions of both. But both come with so much encrusted history, so many battle scars, grudges and grievances, so damned much baggage that we take a page from the most hated American institution of all, the airline industry, and say, leave that valise at the curb, Champ. We're not paying the fifty bucks.
A Pragdealist believes, first of all, that whatever he believes must work, or he won't believe in it. A Pragdealist is pragmatic, but that doesn't mean not idealistic. We just believe that our ideals must function in the real world.
But pragmatism in the service of nothing is useless, rudderless, ultimately nihilistic. Marx, Jesus, Adam Smith and I all pretty much agree--the greatest good for the greatest number--that's the ideal. But the pragmatist knows how you try to attain that unattainable goal is everything. It's the difference between Thomas Paine and Pol Pot.