On integrity and pragmatism

Among the multitude of things that I’ve been thinking about the entire election cycle is the role of Integrity vs. Pragmatism in decision making.  This is something that I think about a lot in general but it has come up a lot lately.

When I was younger I used to feel that Integrity almost always trumps Pragmatism.  I have come to realize that the world isn’t like that and we are often put in a position where a more nuanced approach is necessary.

I view that Integrity is an ideal set of behaviors we strive for, that we are self consistent, that decisions are based on a core set of values that we adhere to.  There are times where this is possible and is always the desired outcome.  Holding onto your Integrity is one of the most important things in life.  It is easy to make decisions, it is often hard to make them with integrity because of the ramifications.

Pragmatism is where we take into account all of the impacts of possible decisions, especially where we are forced to make unpalatable choices.  If I’m making a decision that doesn’t match what i would view as the ideal choice, I should at least have a reason for doing so that is carefully considered.  This is different from rationalizing because there should be data and a rational thought process to bring you to a pragmatic solution.

Back to the election cycle.  I am not a partisan voter for the most part; I try to vote for the candidate that matches with my views or at least thats my goal.  We were presented with less than ideal choices at every step of the process.  On the Democratic side we had two career politicians, one that viewed that she was owed the nomination and the other a pretty far left choice that did better than most thought.  On the Republican side it was a set of lots of bad choices, all on the scale of pretty far Right and differing value sets that don’t match up with my values.

To be completely transparent, I wanted Bernie out of all of these choices.  I was willing to accept Hillary.  On the GOP side there were lots of candidates that I didn’t want Cruz and Trump being the ones that I disliked the most.  As with the rest of the population, I thought Trump was a joke.  I though Cruz was a religiously driven nut job that would want the Christian version of Sharia Law if he had his way.

When it came to the primaries my vote was not driven by who I wanted but rather by trying to deny the nomination to someone that was truly scary.  I voted for Kasich.  I think Kasich isn’t a great candidate but (a) he is from my home state (b) he could conceivably get the nomination and (c) he wasn’t Donald Trump.  Between the Democratic nominees I could live with either.

In the general election:

1. I didn’t like Hillary as a candidate.  Her history is questionable.  I felt that her nomination was manipulated because she was “owed” the nomination and she worked a long time for it.  That is not the reason to give the nomination to anyone.

2. I wanted to like the Libertarian candidate.  This was the year that they could have made a real showing.  Then instead put up a nut job with no real foreign policy experience and became a running joke.  I think if he’d made it into the debates it would have been much more interesting.

3. Donald Trump scared me.  I won’t go into all of the reasons for why because they are too numerous for this post.

This is where integrity comes into play.  The choice with integrity would have been for the Libertarian candidate because I didn’t feel Dem or GOP candidates were good for the country.  The Libertarian would have caused the least damage.  The problem was there was no way he was going to win and living in a swing state it would be almost as bad as not voting.  If the electoral college didn’t matter or were somehow proportional the math may have worked differently.  The problem is you need a critical mass of voters and Johnson wasn’t strong enough to pull in the necessary votes.

The Pragmatic choice was Hillary because she was way more qualified than Trump. She knows how to work in DC and while she isn’t ideal she wouldn’t take things completely off the rails.  Trump is a loose cannon and dangerous.  Too bad the pragmatic choice came up too little.

This is where I start to question Integrity in the rest of our elected officials and whether partisanship is going to take precedence to Integrity.  A number of GOP politicians have denounced Trump, have tried to make sure he didn’t get elected because they viewed him as dangerous, and were vocal in those opinions.  That took courage and showed some level of Integrity.  The question is whether they will continue to show that Integrity to protect the values we hold dear and do their duty to uphold the Constitution.

The electors, in some cases, are showing integrity by questioning what the electoral outcome was.  The purpose of the electoral college system was specifically designed to avoid the election of a demagogue or someone unfit for the office.  There is supposed to be a deliberation and avoid putting the wrong person in office.  This was a safeguard because this situation was foreseen as a possibility.

One of the Texas electors resigned because he said he couldn’t vote for Trump.  I applaud this position.  The problem I have is that he resigned ensuring that someone else did the vote.  This showed a lack of integrity because while he himself avoided it, the net result is as if he did vote for Trump.  The choice of Integrity would have been to go to Washington and voted his conscience.  Instead he took the easy way out so he didn’t need to make the hard choice.

It is a dream of mine that other electors will do their duty.  It is unlikely to happen because it is hard to do the right thing when everyone expects you to do something else.  You will take heat for doing the right thing.  People will say you are being selfish.  I disagree, you are showing that you know what is right and you are sacrificing your own comfort for the greater good.  If only…

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