In an early post here, I said that one of the things that had made me a pragmatist was holding office in various organizations. As I said back then, ” It’s great to have this wonderful idea of how things “should be done.” It’s often another thing entirely when you try to actually do it! ” One of the “obstacles” that someone trying to work changes in an organization finds out is that rarely do you get to do it by decree. Which is a point that many on the extremes of the right and the left don’t realize – or want to accept. To them, the idea is “we won, so we get to do what we want.” The reality is that no, they don’t, and when they try, they find out that it gets bounced back at them by the courts or another part of the government. It turns out that there are rules.
As I said, I’ve held offices in various organizations, including being President of some. What all of them had was an organizing document – it might have been called a constitution, or it was called the articles of incorporation. Those defined what the organization was for, how it was organized, and what it could do. It stated what each officer could do, and what their responsibilities were. Underneath that was a set of “by-laws,” and “procedural requirements” – most frequently Roberts Rules – which governed how you got things done – or didn’t – in the organization.
What I learned from those experiences was that if I knew the rules and procedures, I could get a lot done. If I didn’t pay attention to them, or thought I could just declare something to be in force, I’d get slapped down in a hurry by someone who did know the rules. That isn’t to say that I liked it all the time, it was just the reality I had to work with. I learned to check to see if what I wanted “fit” within the organizational rules, to count votes long before bringing something onto the floor for a vote, and if I didn’t have them, I didn’t bring it to the floor until I did. I also learned how to block things I didn’t want want to pass. If there was a procedural objection, a way to table it, I used it if necessary.
That’s true of government as well. The country has a Constitution, along with laws, courts, and the legislature has its own procedures. Which is why I often shake my head when I read various people on the extremes of the political spectrum “pontificating” on what should be done, or what they would do if they were in charge. It’s impressive, except that they ignore – or blithely wave aside as irrelevant – all those things like constitutional limits, existing laws, procedural rules, and court decisions. If they’ve been elected to office, and some have, their “ideas” meet opposition, are blocked, or are overturned by the courts. It happens because they didn’t realize that there are rules, or thought that the rules didn’t apply to them.
That’s why I don’t have much patience with them. It’s one thing to advocate for an agenda, or changes in government. It’s another thing entirely when the first things you say in that advocacy show that you don’t have a clue about implementing it, or whether it’s even possible. Every day, I see some far-right person advocate something to “restore the Constitution” or “defend the Constitution,” and in the next sentence propose something that’s blatantly against the Constitution. For example, a Republican state legislator wants to purge the military of Muslims. Apparently, he never read the First and the Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. That’s just one – and the most recent – of a series of examples from the Right. The extreme Left isn’t much better. One can hardly go a day without reading a diatribe about how President Obama “failed” in their opinion. It only works if you ignore that it was the House of Representatives which blocked it, or the Senate failed to move on legislation, that their proposed course of action had no political support (beyond theirs), or that it doesn’t pass muster with current law.
Each side’s extremist demonstrate that they don’t recognize that there are rules. Which is why they so often end up failing miserably, or worse, causing people to spend a lot of time trying to fix their mess. If you want to get something done, you have to know the rules. If you don’t know or play by them, you’re not going to get anywhere. If you don’t acknowledge that they exist, all you accomplish is making yourself look stupid. That is what the extremes have done quite well.