Originally posted elsewhere on 10/28/2010
I know, I know. I thought he was a socialist, too. But we’ve got it all wrong. Harvard Historian, James T. Kloppenberg, has done extensive research on Obama’s political philosophy, and in his new book Kloppenberg reveals the truth. Obama is a… wait for it… pragmatist.
In the battle of ideas, this book is clearly meant to go head to head with two other recently published books:
- The Roots of Obama’s Rage which portrays Obama as an anti-colonialist, and
- Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism
From the perspective of “the folks” (as O’Reilly likes to call us), it is distressing to think that our Commander-in-Chief might be a socialist and/or an anticolonialist. So bring in the spin-doctor. I’m just speculating here, but I’m guessing that Kloppenberg would have much preferred to paint Obama as a “progressive.” However Glenn Beck has poisoned that well, so “pragmatist” was the best he could do.
Unfortunately calling Obama a “pragmatist” is not without risk. The far left had pinned their hopes on Obama’s ideological purity, and he has failed them miserably. Recall last August when Robert Gibbs lambasted the “professional left”… saying “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.” I actually agree with Gibbs on this one. Obama has made great strides in advancing the left’s agenda in the face of ardent public opposition, so pragmatically speaking he’s done as much as he could do on these issues. It’s just that Obama’s “pragmatic” approach to governing has disappointed the left horribly. That’s why we’re seeing a huge enthusiasm gap as we approach the midterm elections.
Realizing that Obama’s base isn’t enamored by the president’s pragmatism, Kloppenberg tried to do a bit of damage control there as well. In a recent public address, he went to great lengths to explain that the president was adhering to a lofty sort of philosophical pragmatism, not a crass, vulgar sort of pragmatism. In fact, he said that Obama was a philospher king… okay, he really didn’t say that. But apparently he did say that Obama was a philosopher president.
As to Obama’s concerns with equality and his desire to “spread the wealth around”, in the same address Kloppenberg claims that such sentiments spring, not from socialism, but from Puritan preachers. Yes, he really said that.
Let’s contrast this view point with another scholarly take on Puritanism:
…by focusing religious salvation upon individual faith and God’s predestining power Puritanism did allow Puritans engaged in economic activity to act relatively unconstrained by the inhibitions of a traditional “moral economy.” If this is so, Puritanism does correlate significantly with the prerequisites for the development of a modern economy…
Oh, and by the way note the Puritans emphasized individual faith. In contrast Obama has famously said:
My individual salvation is not gonna come about without a collective salvation for the country…
Obama relies on a teleprompter more than any other president in modern history. Could it be that whenever Obama is off-script, the mask slips? Then you get to hear how he longs for “redistributive change” and “economic justice”? Or he expresses regret that the civil rights movement became so court-focused since the Supreme Court under Justice Warren didn’t “break free from the essential constraints that the founding fathers placed in the constitution”? (full audio of Obama addressing these issues is available over at Michelle Malkin’s site).
I don’t know about you, but I’m still inclined to think that Obama’s philosophical and intellectual roots are somewhat to the left of pragmatism.