Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…

I’ve always described myself, politically, as a “militant moderate, with contrarian and libertarian leanings.” I tend to be suspicious (at best ) of idealogues, as they tend to be a bit extreme for my tastes. I have a strong pragmatist tendency, where I tend to look at a situation and find myself not choosing between Right and Wrong, but trying to find the Least Worst option.

Back during the 2000 presidential primary, I had to choose between which party to vote for. Bush had the Republican nomination pretty much sewn up, so I decided to vote Democratic. I had a generally posiitive opinion of Gore from his 1992 run, but he’d thrown away all my good will with his complicity and cheerful endorsement of the worst of the Clinton years — I felt he’d sold out his own principles while with the despicable Clinton administration. So I voted for Bill Bradley, who struck me as a sensible, honest type. And when the real election came around, I held my nose and voted for Bush over Gore.

In 2004, it was a much easier choice for me. I’d favored McCain over Bush in 2000 because Bush struck me as a political dilettante, with no real idea about what to do after being elected. 9/11 had changed that, given him a purpose and a record to run on, and I was comfortable voting for him again. Kerry, on the other hand, struck me as all that I had feared Bush was in 2000, with his few convictions almost diametrically opposed to my own.

What I’m trying to get at here is that one of the main drawbacks, as I see them, of the idealogues, the extremists, is the “all or nothing” mentality. They consider the notion of “the perfect is the enemy of the good” a heresy. They’d rather pass on the half a loaf and starve while fighting for the whole loaf.

I’m seeing this a lot more along the left than the right, but that very well could be my own tunnel vision. A while ago Kos announced that the Democratic Leadership Council had committed what he considered “heresy” (he meant striking the middle ground, but given his record and theirs “winning elections” could also qualify as unforgivable offenses) and vowed to destroy them. Luckily for those poor doomed souls, a couple of hurricanes came along and persuaded Kos to magnanimously stay his awesome wrath.

And just a week ago, I praised a George Will column where he outlined three simple rules that, if followed, will help a great deal of people avoid or escape poverty. I added a fourth I’d heard elsewhere, and other readers added their own.

Now, Will clearly stated that these weren’t guaranteed to work in all cases. I agreed with that, and went further — I specifically said I’d followed them, and was still poor. But they were a damned good starting point, and would serve most people well.

That wasn’t good enough for everyone, it seems. The certifiably-loony but occasionally entertaining (in a train wreck sense) Don Myers had to add his own list of further “guidelines” to the mix. “Don’t get born a minority member in a poor part of a corrupt nation” seems to be the gist of it.

Don misses my point entirely. (Which is entirely par for the course.) I wasn’t looking to “blame” poor people for being poor. I was simply pointing out a few relatively simple things people can do that, in a lot of cases, will help them. No, Don, they won’t work for everyone. I thought I spelled that out clearly enough, but apparently not. But they will help a lot of people, and even those they don’t work for, will help keep them from getting in deeper. Speaking again for myself, they’ve kept me from sinking even further into debt.

But according to Don, expecting people to do anything that might help themselves is far too much until we completely revamp and reform the political, economic, and social structure of the nation to be more in line with what he considers “fair.” And until that happens, those people in tough straits should just tough it out and not bother to improve their lot even in the slightest.

This is a textbook example. In Don’s quest for the Perfect, he’s attacking the Good. He would rather poor people have someone or something to blame than tools that might help them help themselves.

The difference between Don and George Will is simple, yet profound. Don cares about The Poor. George Will cares about poor people. One sees a class and a cause, the other sees individuals suffering. Don wants to help everyone all at once, and won’t accept anything that doesn’t help the whole lot. George sees a way to help some immediately.

Between the two, I’ll side with George.

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