But sometimes, it’s been said, the greatest courage is displayed in standing before a crowd and affirming that two plus two equals four — now the main Republican challenge. Political morality is determined not simply, or even mostly, by intentions, but rather by results. There is a virtue in achieving what is achievable — in actually making things better than they are.
Effective leadership requires large, visionary goals — Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms or Ronald Reagan’s post-Soviet world. But it connects vision to strategy. It stretches the boundaries of reality without denying the existence of those boundaries. It both opens vistas and draws maps. The political world is moved by optimistic pragmatists, not by despairing utopians. The best leaders give romance to realism.
Historically, conservatives have diagnosed serious dangers in utopianism. A disregard for realism and prudence raises expectations that are predictably dashed, encouraging political disillusionment or worse. People may lose faith in public engagement or even in the legitimacy of political institutions themselves. If Obamacare is really the worst thing since chattel slavery, then it would be justifiable to view our nation and its institutions in a different light. And maybe to flee from them.