Barack Obama, my new president, has ushered in a new era of American history, on many levels. But we are quickly moving to the question of how President Obama’s leadership and governance will operate, what will it look like in practice. Everyone is looking for clues, and Dan Balz has an excellent article on deciphering those hints of the future, based on Tom Mann’s insights at the Brookings Institution.

His voting record and the platform upon which he ran certainly suggest that his beliefs put him left of center. But Obama allies point to his pledge to govern inclusively as a counter to those who say his real purpose is to drive through the liberals’ agenda.

“He is genuinely a progressive, but he’s not an ideologue,” argued Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution. “He’s a broadly pragmatic person who, when confronted with new situations, is prepared to take a new approach or new strategy.”

I cannot imagine a more constructive approach to all the conflicts that will face us, and there are so many. Two words: pragmatic and progressive. These are the two words to watch for as defining our future. The conflicts facing humanity, the name of this blog, just got a big boost from a man who understands the importance of moral vision of what is right, combined seamlessly with the moral and pragmatic practice of conflict management, inclusivity, and the healthy process of compromise to approximate and inch toward high moral goals. Balz continues:

One of his senior advisers, speaking before the election on the condition that he not be identified, said Obama is determined to live up to that pledge to reach out to independents, Republicans and critics in an effort to demonstrate his commitment to trying to unify the country and change the tone of political discourse in Washington.

But Barack is right, he will never be able to do it without all of us, because if we as Americans go back to our selfish mode, and support all of our lobbyists to run to Washington with all of our selfish needs we will never give the new policy makers the ability to work for the common good in a pragmatic way. On the other hand, if we argue for our needs, and mandate our lobbyists to argue our needs with reason, with compromise and a spirit of the common good, not only the national common good but the global common good, then we may just be able to get this country back on track. We may just be able to provide a model for other countries and peoples struggling to construct a pragmatic way to be both strong, prosperous, but also decent.

© Marc Gopin