Bill Schneider on the Republican Party and pragmatism

“The Republicans aren’t a party, they’re a cult.”

Today at UCLA:

“The Republicans aren’t a party, they’re a cult.”

“The moderates aren’t a wing of the Republicans, they’re a feather.”

In each case, Schneider said he was quoting what people in Washington are saying to him. But he didn’t seem to disagree.

Schneider is certainly no drinker of Democratic Kool-Aid; his home base is the American Enterprise Institute. So the belief that the GOP is up the proverbial polluted estuary with no visible means of propulsion must be pretty widespread within the Beltway, and not just among those for whom it reflects wish fulfillment.

Schneider also had a good line about what “pragmatism” means in American politics:

“Americans are pragmatists. A pragmatist thinks that if something works, it’s right. An ideologue believes that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work, even when it’s working.”

The possibility that something might “work” in the short term and be morally wrong or disastrous in the long term or both wasn’t mentioned. Yes, there are ideologues who insist on fitting the world to their views rather than vice versa. But the belief that whatever works is right, no matter how well that belief “works” politically, is wrong.

Update Kevin Drum points out that the GOP lacks one of the defining characteristics of a cult: a strong focus on recruiting new members.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: