March 17, 2012

Mormonism & American Politics

I watched this forum on C-SPAN the other night. Haglund's memories of Romney as her stake president summed it up for me. Theologically and politically, his one true religion is pragmatism. In a weird way, it's reassuring to know Romney probably doesn't "believe" in any ideology, besides "what works." All in all, it's an interesting and remarkably fair discussion.

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# posted by Anonymous Dan
3/19/2012 8:20 PM   
That was an interesting discussion. I question, however, the view that Romney's pragmatism is a positive attribute.

Pragmatism, according to Meriam Webster, has two different meanings. The first is the willingness to compromise principle in order to achieve a larger goal. The second is to apply practical experience to guide actions and validate truth.

Romney supporters who use this word seem to want to use the latter definition when in fact the first one is more appropriate.

In other words, when Romney signed the MassCare legislation he was not pragmatic in the pursuit of a policy that would lead to the best social outcome. The real world experience and implementation of the legislation counters those claims. Rather, Romney was pragmatic in passing legislation that accomplished a political goal - near universal health insurance for state residents.

This political goal did not lower health care costs. It did not improve health care access. The goal had no practical benefit. But it had a political benefit (at the time) and Romney was pragmatic in realizing it.

I have a hard time seeing how the willingness to compromise principle, that of individual liberty, in order for a politician to applaud himself is worthy of praise.

Recently as a candidate Romney has espoused several economic policies concerning tariffs and a trade war with China that run counter to established free-market theory. Again, it does not seem he is being pragmatic in the sense of embracing concepts proven by practical application. Rather, his pragmatism seems to be motivated more by the desire to win votes.

Yet as long as supporters see the label of pragmatist as a positive I can understand why the pragmatic Romney would use it.