The contradictions of pragmatism

From New York Magazine Why the GOP Is Ideologically Lost

Nevertheless, the ideological incoherence of the contemporary GOP is unusually severe. The Reaganites could not practice what they preached; post-Trump Republicans can’t settle on a catechism to hypocritically recite.
The party has a set of unwavering transactional commitments (to reactionary billionaires, provincial capitalists, and the Christian right). And some of its factions harbor intelligible agendas. But these contingents are no longer united by any overriding account of how public policy must change. Today’s GOP insists that corporate titans are “job creators” entitled to low taxes, but also “woke” traitors deserving of state persecution. It calls for an end to American nation-building in the Middle East, but also for Joe Biden to push for regime change in Iran. It derides welfare programs as invitations to dependency, but also evinces some interest in expanding refundable tax credits for working-class families. It wants to reassert American economic sovereignty by reshoring supply chains and protecting domestic manufacturing, but also to give multinational firms veto power over U.S. tax policy.

One can argue that this is a more of a feature than a bug, and not unique to conservatism but also observed in the center/neoliberal-left. For example, some liberals will argue that the US government should do everything in its power to ensure equality of opportunity by eliminating all possible barriers to employment, education, housing, etc. , including even forcing businesses and landlords to have to make accommodations for every imaginable disability, but at the same time want lower taxes and or don’t want to in any way have pay extra for this big, expansive government that will enforce all these rules.

The four decades since Reagan’s election have been very good for country-club Republicans, who’ve seen their share of national income and wealth grow precipitously. Yet over the same period, America’s moral traditionalists have witnessed a collapse in their cultural influence. They were promised an end to Roe and a restoration of “family values”; instead, they got same-sex marriage, plummeting birth rates, emptying pews, Drag Queen Story Hour — and, to add insult to injury, “woke” corporations that spit in the face of the very movement that gifted them rock-bottom tax rates.

Conservatism is and was never about conserving. It is about finding a middle ground between corporate interests vs. individual interests vs. government interests. Conservatism seeks compromise between such competing interests, but in a way that generally favors business interests. Liberalism skews more in favor of favoring government interests. Yet American conservatism, in practice, is wholly different from liberalism in so far as police, defense, student loan debt forgiveness, taxes, guns, or abortion are concerned, which is quite a few issues. To say that republicans and democrats are similar (so-called ‘republicrats’) is unsupported by voting patterns of the aforementioned issues, which go strait down party lines with minimal to no overlap; zero House Republicans, for example, voted for the George Floyd Reform in Policing bill.

Yet on cultural issues such as same-sex marriage, STEM cell research, immigration, or drug legalization, there is considerably more overlap and compromise. Many American conservatives support more immigration but also more reform, similar to liberals but only differing on how much immigration or how high the barriers to naturalization should be. So voting Republican means you are indirectly supporting the left, but to a slightly lesser degree, on those cultural issues, but opposing the left on everything else; likewise, voting Democratic means opposing the right on those issues, with the same overlap on the cultural issues.

I think there is an inverse relation between consistency, pragmatism, and extremism. The far-left and far-right are very consistent ideologically but impractical. The middle is practical but inconsistent/contradictory (so you get woke capitalism, billionaires paying no taxes but pushing for social justice, and stuff like that).