In President Barack Obama’s first 100 days, he has tried to make people believe that his campaign platform was authentic. During the election, Obama promised to bring about a change in Washington politics that would put government back on the side of the people on Main Street rather than Wall Street. Obama has made decisions to restore the health of the economy and the American citizenry’s faith that the American Dream is a realistic, tangible goal for the middle and working classes — not just an abstract idea. He has made strides to do this through a different type of non-partisan politicking.
Recently, political commentaries from Robert Reich, a former Secretary of Labor currently at the University of California at Berkeley, and David Gergen, current CNN senior political analyst, have described Obama’s diplomatic approach to problem solving as pragmatic. They labeled his practices as such because the ideology he is implementing is neither classically liberal nor conservative. Instead, Obama’s diplomatic practices have been bold and unrestricted while he continues to make informed decisions that are not constrained by party-lines.
In some ways, Obama is a conservative in the traditional sense. His stance on government spending and the rhetoric that he uses to justify this stance are strongly aligned with those of Edmund Burke, a political ideologist credited for his role in in the creation of classical conservatism. Like Burke, Obama values tradition and preservation instead of redefining what exists, a political ideology distinct from progressive liberalism. Unlike liberalism, which is known for progressing the way government works, Obama wants to restore the government and ideals that are already set in place by tradition. David Brooks, a journalist for The New York Times, quoted Obama saying, “It’s time to get back to basics,” while celebrating, “tradition, order and authority.”
While some of Obama’s political ideological beliefs have a conservative undertone, he still is very much a Democrat. Unlike modern-day conservatism, Obama encourages the distribution of wealth as part of an effort to make sure that all Americans receive a piece of the American Dream, not just the privileged 5 percent of Americans. One of the biggest examples of this is the stimulus plan recently passed in Congress, estimated at $787 billion.
Also unlike many conservatives, Obama is not an advocate for limited government. He believes it’s necessary to have an interventionalist government to minimize the socio-economic gap between the working and upper classes by taxing the wealthy and offering aid to the less advantaged. He argues that change must happen through government regulation, rather than through limited government. Obama argues that limited government was tried in the past and did not pass the efficiency test because it aided the few while restricting the social mobility of the many.
Government intervention, Obama argues, should come in the form of taxation. The economy’s sustainability is dependent upon the economic stability of the middle class, which finds itself under attack by a financial crisis caused by proliferate lending and marked by a crashing stock market. He believes that the health of the American economy needs to be restored through government taxation, not through charitable giving. The hotly contested economic stimulus plan that Obama proposed imposes taxes on a few to benefit the whole.
This mix of liberalism and conservatism is something that hasn’t been tried before. He has shunned the idea that people of the working and middle classes will pull themselves up by the bootstraps by hope and philanthropy alone. Instead, what the working and middle classes need is not a government handout, but a helping hand to make upward social mobility a real possibility and not merely an ideal.
Obama’s policies don’t fall within traditional party lines, and the bureaucrats of Washington should take note of Obama’s approach. Though parties have traditionally been very rigid in their operation, the efficiency of this system is something to question. Obama’s first 100 days have shown that though fundamental differences exist between political parties, there are noteworthy lessons from each party. Politicking in the 21st century is moving away from party-based decision making and toward diplomacy that is pragmatic.
Brittany Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.