September 11, 2012

Do Pragmatists Lean Democrat and Idealists Lean Republican?

Last week, I ran a quick social experiment on Facebook and Twitter to test a theory - whether or not a correlation existed between those who self-identify as either "pragmatist" or "idealist", and whether or not these might be more helpful philosophical identifiers when it comes to our political debate.

This theory stemmed from anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann's research and subsequent book, "When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God".

While Luhrmann is quite delicate regarding the intent of her research, I will more crudely summarize it as, "How is it possible that smart, rational people can believe in an invisible God?"

The topic lends itself to interesting political curiosities, and yet, Luhrmann intentionally avoids them. Yet, she makes one particular comment I found incredibly insightful.
"Secular liberals want to create the social conditions that allow everyday people, behaving the way ordinary people behave, to have fewer bad outcomes. When evangelicals vote, they think more immediately about what kind of person they are trying to become - what humans could and should be, rather than who they are."
And this is a different debate than we're currently having. Between what's possible and what's realistic?
Between how we SHOULD live? vs. how we should govern based on how we DO live?

For example, a conservative's malice toward the Social Security system may not only be perceived fiscal unsustainability, but that it incentivizes unpreparedness. That (ideally) we would be better off if people all planned ahead. The liberal replies, "But people don't, and if you take away social security, you'll have 50 million new homeless people tomorrow." The conservative counters with, "But they should plan ahead!" The liberal replies, "But they don't!"

This theory might also explain a common critique of inconsistency with a conservative's claim in a desire for small government, while simultaneously desiring deep government intervention on social issues. While this is assuredly hypocritical if small government is truly their desired end game, a belief in both fiscal and social conservatism could be considered intellectually consistent with their personal philosophy of "idealism" - what they desire man to become.

So, did my social experiment and your results match my theory?

No. This theory - that self-identified pragmatists would lean democrat, and self-identified idealists would lean republican, only barely edged out the opposite, 9 to 8.

Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Idealist (R)
Idealist (R)
Idealist (R)
Idealist (R)

Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Pragmatist (R)
Pragmatist (R)
Pragmatist (R)

However, I wonder if this variance stems from a definitional problem - what we all thought "idealism" meant Let me know what you think now - if this more comprehensive explanation changes your vote.

Because all too often, we leave political discussions wondering how the other person can be that stupid? But what if we're trying to create totally different looking end games?