The Democratic primary candidates have been dueling with arguments about who is the better type of Progressive ("progressive" now being considered a positive version of "liberal"). Equally important in this campaign apparently is Who is more likely to be able to get things done, in other words to put Progressive ideals into practice?
Pragmatism, we can conclude, is valued in this campaign. And also valued are ideals, in this case the liberal ideals of "equality of opportunity," "justice for all," "quality health care - and education - for everyone" and so on.
Senator Sanders has taken the stance as the more passionate about these ideals in and for themselves, while Secretary Clinton has taken the stance as the more pragmatic about putting such ideals into action.
So, in general, Which is better? the pragmatic idealist (Sanders)? or the idealistic pragmatist (Clinton)?
Frankly, so entirely absent from today's America are liberal values - as the Super-Rich rule, and equality and "liberty and justice for all" are withdrawn further and further toward the sidelines - that any combination at all of Progressivism and Pragmatism seems most welcome, whichever side of the equation is the more emphasized.
On the other hand, what do we need to recall as we consider how to approach the elections this year? And what in particular do we have to have to watch out for?
If idealism is good, what is bad?
The opposite of idealism is cynicism. A cynic has no public values, seeking instead only his or her personal advantage. That's bad isn't it?... but if the politician's own advantage lies only (or even just "mostly") in accomplishing the right ideals, then he or she - though cynical - will do the right thing. Maybe not so bad.
And what is the opposite of Pragmatism? What most often and most certainly prevents a public official from putting ideals into practice?
The most effective stopper is Dogmatism.
Even the most wholehearted and passionate idealist who insists on "all or nothing," or who does not respect and seek to understand those who do not share her or his ideals, or who will not "give an inch, even to go a mile" will fail to bring our lofty ideals - our right values - into reality. That is indeed bad.
So, watch out for the Dogmatist.
Idealists, unfortunately, all too often are indeed Dogmatists.
Even if one's ideals are right and good, one is not a good public figure if "almost good" isn't good enough, or "a little step in the right direction" or "half a loaf" is not better than nothing. Dogmatists - even if we agree with them - are not good enough to be good leaders... even if we share their values.
Watch out for both the idealistic dogmatist and the dogmatic idealist.
Which, then, is worse: the pragmatic cynic, or the dogmatic idealist?
Even the proposed leader with good values who is dogmatic, who lacks sufficient imagination to put himself or herself in the place of those with different goals or ideals, even the dogmatic idealist with good values is bad because under that person's leadership we might witness a lot of good fights, but we are unlikely to improve our country.
And even proposed leaders out only for personal gain - in prestige, glory, glamour, or even power - can be good, if they perceive that the way most open to them to achieve their goals is to put our ideals into practice, then that individual may be just fine.
To vote against such a person might be indulging yourself, not just in idealism (yay!) but in dogmatism (boo! double boo!).
Do you see? "Can you dig it?"