The Wasteland Of Lost Opportunities

October 1st, 2020 | RR

People who strictly adhere to their principles end up alone and destitute in a barren wasteland of lost opportunities. Their principles never take them where they want to go. As many of us have learned over time, principles only have value in a world where everyone has the same ones. With age and experience comes wisdom. To achieve anything resembling an ideal world, we often have to throw our principles aside on the battlefield. We can't pick up a sword that drops at our feet while tightly clutching our principles. Sometimes, we have to let them go—not forever, but just to win the battle.

Stephen Harper clutched his principles too tightly when he refused to appoint senators before the 2015 election. His decision left us with a stacked senate in 2020, filled with ideological liberals. Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump were faced with similar scenarios before an election, when they were given opportunities to fill newly vacant Supreme Court seats. Both men did what needed to be done, ignoring arguments and self-righteous criticisms about democratic “principles”. When it comes to important battles with long term consequences, there is no room for principles. If anyone looks to reshape their country in a particular way, their principles are better served by action when action is needed.

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When opponents attack us for briefly abandoning our principles, we need only remember the times they abandoned theirs. Chances are, they did it more than once when it was necessary or convenient. Take for instance, Barack Obama, who called on Republicans and Trump to hold off on appointing a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the name of democratic principles, the appointment should wait until after Americans have voted, Obama implored. In reality, preaching the very same principles he ignored in 2016, Barack Obama was pushing the Democrats' agenda.

In 2016, Republicans preached the same things when Obama appointed Merrick Garland. Using their majority in the Senate, Republicans were able to enforce their own principles by kaiboshing Obama's nomination all together. Too bad, so sad. Had Democrats worked harder at democracy, maybe they could have taken the Senate. Republicans and America are currently in the middle of an existential war, they'd be damned if they're going to let their principles from 2016 make life easier for their enemies in 2020. They would be stupid to take Obama's advice.

Complaining about principles and using them to attack opponents is nothing more than political posturing. When most politicians talk about principles, they're only doing it to score virtue points. Few politicians in the history of politics have given a flying fuck about principles. The ones who did were always outnumbered, or they got voted out because they clutched their principles too tightly and failed to do what needed to be done in the moment.

The electorate cares even less about principles than any ordinary politician. That's why genuinely principled politicians rarely survive.

This doesn't mean we should all forget our principles. It means we need to be more flexible when circumstances require it. This isn't an endorsement of sleazy, Machiavellian tactics either. There is a lot of that in politics, but it's not the same as flouting your own principles to get a job done. It never ends well for anyone who makes flat out deception, hypocrisy and double standards the only rule. But, that seems to be what politics is all about today. Until it's not, we need to adapt.

Flouting your own principles for a greater goal is not the same as having principles based in amoral sleaze and communist ideals like “the ends always justify the means”. The ends only sometimes justify the means. When we're fighting enemies like the ones we're fighting in 2020, we can't rely on our stringent principles to win the war. None of our enemies care about our principles. Their absolute lack of principles is what gives them an advantage.

Our enemies win because they'll do anything at any time. We can beat them by doing what needs to be done some of the time. It isn't about becoming just like our enemies, it's about the long game and making sure our principles live longer than we do.

We live in a time when truth doesn't matter. When something as simple as proroguing parliament in the middle of a scandal can save Justin Trudeau's poll numbers, we know we are not in a good place. We are dealing with an electorate that is complacent, unprincipled and willing to accept corruption. How we got here is beyond any of us, but we need to work with what we've been dealt. Until Canadians are shown that there is a better way, this is where we will be stuck.

Ironically, one day, we may have a principled prime minister that will be put in office through unprincipled means. Over time, this person can teach Canadians that principles do, in fact, matter. Real change will start to happen when we become willing to do what needs to be done to win. Stephen Harper chose to clutch his principles at the wrong time. He expected that Canadians would notice his principled choice, but instead they shrugged. Had he done what needed to be done, we would have a stronger, more balanced senate to hold Justin Trudeau accountable. This is just one example of one man's principles causing more harm than good in an unprincipled country.

We need to build a principled country before we can expect our principles to matter.

Whether appointing a judge to the Supreme Court during an election is unprincipled or not, it puts the United States and its legal system on a particular course. It doesn't matter if Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump were president, they would both know the risks involved with letting a potential new president with an opposing ideology set the course for the country. No person looking to build a country with certain principles would forgo the opportunity to elect a new judge to the most important court in the country. Democratic principles, or no democratic principles—filling the vacancy helps build a more ideal country for either side that can do it.

"Our enemies win because they'll do anything at any time."

Those who preach about “what is right” and the principles of democracy are doing so because it suits their agenda. They're doing it because it is convenient. Those threatening to burn down America, because Trump and Republicans want to confirm a new justice, are hypocrites. If they were in the same position, they would be doing the same thing. On the other hand, Republicans would be crying foul if Hillary Clinton was president right now. It doesn't matter what side is doing the complaining, it only matters which way the wind is blowing. If Republicans were to live by the principles they preached in 2016, they would risk having the vacancy filled with another ideological, anti-conservative liberal.

Dying on a hill of principles won't win the war.

Politicians are mostly a bunch of sleazy hypocrites by trade. Some will lie with a smile while eloquently reading a prepared speech from a teleprompter, others will lie without trying to hide it at all. To flush out these parasites, we need to drop our principles to win the more important battles in a bigger war. Only by winning the long game can we ensure the survival of our principles at all. If we lose the long game, we'll die alone in that wasteland of lost opportunities, tightly clutching those principles that did us no good.

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