The Myth of the Non-Ideological Presidency

I’m traveling to DC this weekend, so further Nietzsche blogging will probably be on hold for a day or so—but in the mean time, here’s my Salon column for this week.

“It’s true that Obama often spoke in transformational terms about the practice of politics,” Scheiber writes. “But if you listened to the way he and his campaign discussed policy, it was always clear that they preferred a relatively pragmatic, non-ideological approach to some sweeping progressive vision.”

The offending word here is “non-ideological.” This isn’t the first time someone has used that term to characterize either Obama or his team: Scheiber did it himself in 2008’s “The Audacity of Data,” and others have pointed to the president’s supposed lack of ideology as both one of his greatest strengths and one of his fatal weaknesses.

But to describe anyone as non-ideological is nonsense. Data is non-ideological. Inanimate objects are non-ideological. People, however, are ideological creatures.

Bonus trivia from the piece: Obama is a Nietzsche fan! And a Sartre fan. If I were a paranoid social conservative, I’d be way more freaked out by that than all these “secret Muslim” rumors.

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