David Brooks’ Inauguration Day column focuses on the ideological past that has so dominated government for the last 60 to 70 years. He hopes that what many expect will be a strong pragmatic framework in the Obama White House will return balance to the American political scene.
Part of that will be done with his governing style. Obama aims to realize the end-of-ideology politics that Daniel Bell and others glimpsed in the early 1960s. He sees himself as a pragmatist, an empiricist. Politics is not personal with him. He does not turn political disagreements into a status contest between one kind of person and another. He is convinced that most Americans practice their politics between the 40-yard lines.
My hope for Obama is that the type of pragmatism Brooks talks about will also guide him to policies and programs that reflect the complex nature of the “big” problems of the day. They should reflect our inability to understand them fully. They should facilitate learning and be capable of adaptation along the way. Including many voices in the governance process, as is Obama’s style, is the best way toward understanding and addressing complexity.