Obama and Deliberative democracy/philosophical pragmatism

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    Oct 29, 2010 4:07 PM GMT
    Sometimes a pragmatist has to take out the gloves if people won't talk...
    This article compares Obama's position to that of Madison (not so strange as it seems. Remember how Madison was opposed to the 1st Bank? He himself asked for the 2nd Bank when the reality of the 1812 war hit him).

    So people need to stop heckling him for being not audacious enough.

    http://harvardmagazine.com/2010/11/a-nation-arguing-with-its-conscience

    Obama is drawn toward the ideas of anti-foundationalism, historicism, and philosophical pragmatism. As an anti-foundationalist, he questions the existence of universal truths. As a historicist, he doubts that any ideas transcend the particularity of time and culture. Finally, as a philosophical pragmatist he insists that all propositions, positions, and policies must be subjected to continuing critical scrutiny. Whereas many activists on both the left and the right proclaim their incommensurable principles with the fervor of true believers, Obama sees things differently. He believes that anti-foundationalism, historicism, and philosophical pragmatism are consistent with the principles of civic republicanism and deliberative democracy on which America was built and for which it should stand.
    ...
    He can, and he does, turn to philosophical pragmatism and to American history. What we need, he suggests, is a “shift in metaphors,” a willingness to see “our democracy not as a house to be built, but as a conversation to be had.” Madison did not give us a “fixed blueprint.” Instead he provided a framework that cannot resolve all our differences but offers only “a way by which we argue about our future.” The institutional machinery of the Constitution was intended, Obama argues, not to solve our problems once and for all but “to force us into a conversation.”
    ...
    As president, Obama has demonstrated already the depth—and the perils—of his commitment to philosophical pragmatism and deliberative democracy, particularly in his handling of the protracted debate over healthcare. His flexibility and his willingness to compromise infuriated some of his supporters on the left, and the refusal of his intransigent Republican opponents caused many observers to mock the president’s repeated appeals to negotiation, bipartisanship, and creative compromise. As savvy pundits left and right pointed out repeatedly, it takes two to compromise, and efforts to negotiate are futile when the other side shows no interest.
    ...
    When paroxysms of anger, even threats of violence, followed the passage of healthcare reform, many Americans expressed surprise. But given the intensity of public disagreement on the issue, that response might have been expected. It also suggested the reasons for, and perhaps even confirmed the wisdom of, Obama’s strategy: wait patiently until the deliberative process had run its course and the House and Senate had hammered out their misshapen, unlovely bills. In his State of the Union Address, he pointedly chided Republicans for failing to offer their own ideas and invited their proposals. He later convened a much ballyhooed day-long summit to give Republicans a chance to explain their objections and present alternatives. When those overtures were greeted with even more strident refusals, it became apparent that Obama’s sustained efforts to encourage, and to engage in, deliberation as a way to identify a common good had been categorically rejected. At that point he threw himself into the battle.
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    Oct 29, 2010 4:29 PM GMT
    It was not always so polarized--representatives and senators used to talk in Congress and vote with their conscience instead of their pocketbooks and their parties.

    http://healthpolicyandreform.nejm.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/20101006_aaro_t1_p1011213.jpg

    http://healthpolicyandreform.nejm.org/?p=12756Perhaps the more likely — and in some ways more troubling — possibility is that the effort to repeal the bill will not succeed, but the tactic of crippling implementation will. The nation would then be left with zombie legislation, a program that lives on but works badly, consisting of poorly funded and understaffed state health exchanges that cannot bring needed improvements to the individual and small-group insurance markets, clumsily administered subsidies that lead to needless resentment and confusion, and mandates that are capriciously enforced.

    Such an outcome would trouble ACA opponents: their goal is repeal. It would trouble ACA supporters: they want the law to work. But it should terrify everyone. The strategy of consciously undermining a law that has been enacted by Congress and signed by the president might conceivably be politically fruitful in the short term, but as a style of government it is a recipe for a dysfunctional and failed republic.