"Political pragmatism" is a term that has never been clearly defined and is often used in the media for very different political approaches. In the days of Roosevelt's "New Deal" it meant pursuing economic recovery and helping people overcome poverty by taking innovative and idiosyncratic approaches. The pragmatism here is best explained as discarding conventional wisdom and existing guidelines for policies that will get the job done. These days the media would have you believe that political pragmatism is working within the rules of the establishment and not taking the status quo head on. The reasoning behind this is that doing so would lead to a political stalemate or worse, disastrous policies that would lead to overspending and destroy viable corporate entities. This pragmatism has been pitched to American voters from the very beginning of the presidential primary process.
Last week in Wisconsin actor and social activist Tim Robbins gave the most brilliant and damning indictment of this brand of "political pragmatism." This speech has received little coverage and much of it, other than on progressive news blogs, has been negative. It is my view that Mr. Robbin's speech deserves to become the most important speech of the Democratic primaries as it is not only breathtakingly eloquent but destroys the political pragmatism argument for Hillary Clinton's candidacy like nothing else written or said in the course of this campaign.
I am inserting here the portion of the speech that contains the core of it's substance. These are words that deserve to be widely circulated and imbibed by the American people:
"Now I understand our friends' resistance to Bernie Sanders. They've been told repeatedly by the mainstream media that Bernie doesn't matter, that he's unelectable. Well, I'm here today to encourage our Democratic friends that want big change to happen yet don't believe that it is possible, our friends that believe that they are not worthy of dreaming big, our friends that have surrendered their ideals to political pragmatism, that somehow believe that change will happen by choosing a candidate entirely entrenched in the dysfunction of the past.
There are moments in history when political pragmatism can lead to disaster, where a politician's future ambitions compromise their constituents' safety and security. These are the moments that define the man or the woman. Will that individual risk their political future because of their beliefs? Will they risk being marginalized as radicals and extremists?
All of us that opposed the Iraq War were marginalized. We were called radicals. We were called extremists, terrorist supporters, for demanding evidence of weapons of mass destruction before we invaded. How radical was that? We were shouted down by the mainstream media. We were threatened and some were intimidated into silence or compliance. Not Bernie.
Bernie faced that same intimidation and remained steadfast, and those that did the politically expedient thing, that didn't ruffle feathers in an attempt to remain within the status quo, in attempt to retain their positions of power, these people were rewarded. In the media, they were promoted. In politics, they were re-elected. Some even received medals for getting it wrong. There were no apologies. There was no reckoning. There was no accountability. This was a defining moment for our country.
The good news is that there are millions of thinking, feeling people in this country, that despite the massive propaganda that buoys up this failure, still hold on to the truth. And that truth is the Iraq War is and was a bellwether. How you voted on this truly matters because it winded us up in such a morass. This was a time in our history where political pragmatism led to a massive disaster, a disaster to our economy, a disaster to our world standing, a disaster in the lives lost in this manufactured war. We cannot afford to go down that road again."
Within these words Mr. Robbins has encapsulated the inexcusable crimes of commission and omission committed against the people of the United States, especially those that express their patriotism not through hollow slogans but by trying to guide the country they love and cherish towards greater compassion and social justice.
If there was ever a time when Americans needed to stop listening to mainstream media views and examine the reality of the American body politic, it is now; the chance for a Bernie Sanders presidency may not arise again.