I struggle with the use of the word pragmatic in everyday language. And in this post, I hope to get as much input as possible.

In a recent tweet, a guy asked Ann Coulter "what is you're alternative to Paul Ryan? You're usually more pragmatic about what is feasible including general elections..."

It seems that the use of pragmatic here is to be vocal or opinionated. But that isn't the definition of the word. It means to be reasonable with no concern to theories outside of the situation.

Strangely though, Coulter answers him.

What are some examples of the word pragmatic?

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    Coulter is more pragmatic than what? Another person? I think we need the tweets that led up to this and probably the answer as well. I notice the tweeter's grammar isn't very good (you're instead of 'your') Probably their knowledge of what words mean isn't very good either. – chasly - supports Monica Oct 25 '15 at 0:00
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    In general, any time "pragmatic" is used in the context of politics one can assume that the definition of the term will be stretched to the point of breaking. – Hot Licks Oct 25 '15 at 1:19

Pragmatic means reasonable and practical. Your tweet question was directed to Ann Coulter, a right-wing nut case, who wrote a column decrying Paul Ryan, the presumptive Speaker of the US House of Representatives, for pretending to care about poor people. Anyone familiar with Ryan's budget proposals knows that his concern is entirely pretense, so the questioner is asking that given the entirely theoretical nature of Ryan's objectionable stance, wouldn't it be better for Coulter to just look at the benefits of supporting someone who for all practical purposes it completely consonant with her views.

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    I don't doubt that she's an RWNC, but I am surprised that she so insightfully exposed another RWNC's hypocrisy. That seems somehow unpragmatic with regard to maintaining her standing among dittoheads. – Brian Hitchcock Oct 25 '15 at 8:28
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    Oh, never mind. I see that her ideas on fixing poverty are even farther over the top than Ryan's. And racist enough (end immigration, end Welfare) to satisfy the most rabid dittohead. – Brian Hitchcock Oct 25 '15 at 8:38
  • There are two brands of RWNCs -- those who want to govern badly and those who don't believe in governing. Paul Ryan is in the former camp (he voted to raise the debt ceiling in 2011), and Ann Coulter is in the latter. The group Coulter represents hates the Ryans of the political world more than they hate the opposition party. – deadrat Oct 25 '15 at 8:42
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    I can see how ending Welfare would be "not governing", but ending immigration would require some kind of governing. But we digress. As for "pragmatic", I think that in Coulter's case it means "self-serving". She has described herself as a "provocateur" so anytime she "provokes" someone she's doing her job. – Brian Hitchcock Oct 25 '15 at 9:46

There is no misuse (or alternative definition) of pragmatic in play here. Pragmatic means:

dealing with the problems that exist in a specific situation in a reasonable and logical way instead of depending on ideas and theories (m-w.com)

The context is that:

  • Ryan is a leading candidate and seems extremely likely to win
  • Coulter has spoken out strongly against him
  • Coulter has not proposed any alternative to Ryan (and specifically has not proposed anyone who has any apparent chance of victory)

The questioner is asking Coulter about point 3, pointing out that she is normally more reasonable and realistic about what is possible to accomplish in an election. That is, he is pointing out that Ryan's victory appears to be all but assured, and Coulter's opposition to Ryan is pointless because it is unrealistic, unreasonable, and/or impossible for her to prevent his victory.

It is not pragmatic for her to oppose him, because he's going to win no matter what she says or does; a pragmatic course of action would be for her to figure out how to accomplish some of her goals by working with (or around) him after he's elected.

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