E. Dennis Brod, the philosopher and author of The Essence of Ethical Pragmatism (the common sense philosophy), has issued a challenge to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The recently published book, lauded as being non-partisan and impartial, explains the philosophy of ethical pragmatism (EP) and shows how we can all lead our lives smarter and better, whether simply doing a personal, individual chore or running a government like that of the United States. In terms of serving in federal government, whether in a low-level ministerial job, in the Congress, the judiciary or in any level of administration in the executive branch including the president, the simple tenets of this philosophy as set out in the book would seem to help in reaching all the goals we seek in our lives and, regarding candidates for the presidency, in reaching the goals that candidates often talk about but seldom seem to achieve. The challenge deals with one specific goal related to the philosophy.
The author’s views on how to get things done should not be considered a theoretical, utopian fantasy. This is a philosophy that deals with reality. EP is based on pragmatism and insists on doing only that which will work without regard to labels, prejudices, ideologies or dogmas. It requires accurately assessing facts and ignoring all corrupting emotions. It is completely non-partisan, impartial and objective. It requires the use of common sense.
Three major industry reviewers just recently said about the book:
“Brod’s exposition is undoubtedly clearer than those of his philosophical predecessors …This is an admirably bipartisan book and it radiates open-mindedness.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Brod’s book is clearly written and easily accessible to lay readers … those seeking a practical philosophy will find interesting ideas presented here.”
“Observing incompetence and hypocrisy in government and society, the author proposes that these current systems are faulty … There is much food for thought in this readable philosophical book” Rebecca Foster, Foreword/Clarion Reviews
This is what Brod’s challenge says about this one crucial topic in his challenge to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump:
I challenge Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to acknowledge and address the issue described in this article.
Not very long ago, our government managed to get us through some very difficult situations. In the last century, we fought two world wars, engaged in other armed conflicts around the globe, survived the greatest economic catastrophe in history and made great progress in the beginnings of overcoming racial oppression. Unfortunately, we may never be able to repeat whatever successes we achieved then because the political character of our nation has changed dramatically. As a result of this change, shown in the following paragraphs, the candidates for the presidency now must realize that they have to prepare for something entirely different in terms of intensity than that of their predecessors if they are elected. They have to know that they will be stepping into a figurative combat zone in attempting to lead our country. The great change between politics of today and that of yesteryear relates to attitudes and behavior of elected officials and others serving in, or working in relationship to, government. I am talking principally about the flagrant and destructive hostility between our only two real political parties.
There have always been differences between and among members of different political parties. Differences among humans is what defines us as a species and, in many way, contributes to the development of ideas, technologies and varied perspectives that result in myriad benefits to our race. But today we see something that is inimical to mere differences of opinion or broad philosophical approaches to government. Today we have hatred. And the hatred is not confined to elected officials and those serving in government. It is rampant among journalists and in all aspects of what we call the media. It is felt and expressed by the general public.
There are many issues being addressed by both candidates for the presidency. But in reporting, in general, the media tend to focus more on personalities than issues. The media appear to have the notion that the general public is incapable of appreciating the serious side of election campaigns and perhaps they are right. They seem to believe that the average voter prefers to hear about, see, and to a much lesser degree, read those things that are commonly regarded as sensational. Predictably, that is exactly what they provide. As a result, coverage of elections in our country has degenerated into a pandering frenzy.
Many commentators, not all in the United States, believe that, in general, the media are biased. In this particular election the overwhelming criticism indicates a bias in favor of Hillary Clinton, doubtless growing out of the notion that most of the media are on the left of the political spectrum, but also based on actual observations about the content of coverage. But this tends to mean much more than favoring one candidate over another. It also means favoring one political party over the other, ignoring the reality that nearly half of the American electorate will vote for each party’s nominees. Although newspaper and other media endorsements are a tradition in American elections, media efforts to ruin a candidate are something else, and this appears to be the situation orchestrated against Donald Trump, and of necessity, the Republican party. This is not limited simply to negative photos and slants on statements, speeches and policy positions, but an outright scheme to ruin the candidate by making him seem ridiculous at every opportunity.
As one of the recent reviews states, my book is “admirably bipartisan”. This is true, but the philosophy is more than “bipartisan”, it is totally non-partisan. It is completely objective and impartial. I can only speculate about the above reviewer’s thought processes, but this conclusion was presumably reached due to the express tenet of the philosophy which requires focus on the facts – objectively, impartially and unemotionally with a total disregard of labels. Focus on actual facts is no longer occurring in our political campaigns in general, and in the one being waged now, the loss of focus is a disaster.
In terms of the relationship between the respective supporters of our two political parties, the media are doing a great disservice to the electorate. Whatever the media think of the electorate – that they are stupid, ignorant, irresponsible, foolish and gullible – the electorate deserve the truth. This means the unvarnished truth, without spin, without slant, without secret agendas and without opinion unless such communication is openly declared to be an opinion. Reporting the truth means treating both political parties without bias. It means holding the candidates to the same standards, regardless of gender, personality, hair style, size, weight or any other characteristic that does not directly reflect on one’s ability to govern. Intelligence, integrity, compassion, executive prowess – these are relevant. Reporting or commenting on trifles, personalities and the sensational is not simply irrelevant, it is an abandonment of responsibility. But there is something more. Holding up any candidate to personal ridicule foments the type of enmity that augments emotional responses and contributes to the abandonment of focus on values and issues. It fuels the emotions rather than the intellect and it creates and atmosphere more conducive to conflict than cooperation.
In terms of coverage, whether in favor of one candidate or the other, any intelligent observer has to be dismayed at the amount of media exposure regarding, as examples, Hillary Clinton’s difficulty getting through a subway turnstile or Donald Trump’s hair. But this is what we have and it is difficult to change.
Speaking of change, Donald Trump wants to make America great again. This is a noble goal. Although this notion is a slogan of the Trump campaign, I am certain that Hillary Clinton, if she felt that America was no longer great, would be in favor of making America great again too. To make a point, let us assume that both candidates came to publically agree on wanting to make America great again. Does this relate to anything in the book about EP? Is this related to the challenge being made in this piece? Yes, because the simple, apparently unacknowledged fact is that no president alone has the power to make America or anything great again or even for the first time for that matter. In fact, all plans, projects and programs, whether foreign or domestic, whether social or military, cannot be implemented in our country without the participation, consent and funding by the Congress. And at this time in our history, our Congress consists of two parties at war with each other. The two candidates are challenged to acknowledge this.
In the book, the philosophy indicates how to get things done in a pragmatic way. In order to do that, certain requirements have to be respected, one of which is being totally objective when making observations so as to start working with the facts. And by facts, we mean the real facts, without spin, without preconceived notions and with complete impartiality. This is very difficult for the public to do when, among other negative things, they are bombarded nightly by the bilge from scripts written for late night talk show hosts bent on ridicule. No one in that situation wants to be serious about the future of our country because entertainment, no matter how destructive to our nation, is better for television ratings. EP requires being honest with others, but particularly with one’s self, no matter how painful it may be. Without the unabashed truth, any attempt to address a problem, confront an issue, design a plan or create anything new is like trying to build a skyscraper on quicksand (no intention to refer to a Donald Trump here). In terms of this particular concept, this is what the book itself, as well as the philosophy explained in the book, would propose: that the facts to be acknowledged by both candidates are the realities associated with relations between our two American political parties. This is the most pressing situation ruining our country because it diverts focus away from issues to partisan political (what the book defines as “competitive politics”) activities. These activities cause legislative gridlock, waste energy, effort and talent and cause the failure of our elected and appointed officials to meet their responsibilities to the American people.
So what is the totality of the challenge to these two candidates? What can these candidates can get from this book? First, they can sincerely begin to recognize and confront reality of what an elected president will face. They can get the point that unless each has a way of bringing the two political parties together, they will go nowhere in attempting to fulfill the loftiest goals they are promising to the American people. And second, the respective candidates and their teams can, and must, through the type of critical thinking described in the book, devise a sensible program for effecting a reconciliation between Democrats and Republicans. In so doing, they will be on their way to making our government function the way it was intended to function and the way it did for generations before. When I suggest a sensible program, I do not mean platitudes and generalities, I mean specifics and details. They could start with such things as making appointments in the new administration or in the judiciary. They could use their considerable collective abilities to devise other creative ways to bring all our officials to believe they are all on the same team. This does not require a sacrifice of one’s core beliefs. Quoting from Chapter Four of the book “[W]e should never compromise principles, but always be willing to compromise positions”.
In an overview of this specific challenge relative to the prevailing reality of the state of our two political parties, this writer believes that the candidate who presents the first credible plan for accomplishing this goal will have an easier path to the White House.