05/01/2013 12:47 pm ET Updated Jul 01, 2013

Obama's Failure: A Presidency Without Ideology


There are two ideologies in American politics and they can be stated succinctly:

Conservative ideology: The business of America is business.

Liberal ideology: The business of America is social justice.

In America, sometimes the two ideologies are compatible. More often the two ideologies are in conflict.

An important corollary is that politics without ideology reduces to careerism. Self-aggrandizement. Why go into politics if there is no ideology behind one's politics? The only sensible reason is to serve one's personal interests. A counter question: Isn't it possible to merely be pragmatic and have no underlying ideology? And the response is another question: Pragmatic to what end? If you have no ideology where are you going with your pragmatic political career except to the bank to make deposits?

The failure of Obama is that he has no apparent ideology driving his presidency. There's much evidence to support this, especially the Guantanamo fiasco. Imagine the social injustice of arresting an American citizen because they seem suspicious, putting them in jail and holding them in jail for ten years without trial because of a fear that if you release them they may actually be criminals. Imagine it! It makes no difference whether they be foreigners or U.S. citizens. The consequence is the same -- a denial of social justice, a denial of a high order. Only a president without a liberal ideology telling him/her that the business of America is social justice would allow this to happen.

Obama's presidency is not a conservative presidency; it's not a liberal presidency; it's a nothing presidency. At most a caretaker presidency, the country treading water until the next presidency with an ideology behind it.

In general, ideology should never be allowed to trump reason and science. But politics without ideology is empty politics that goes nowhere, a politics without end, a politics with no purpose except the self-aggrandizement of politicians.

Various quarters are now attempting to excuse Obama's presidency as a consequence of a compromising personality. But the failure of Obama's presidency is more likely to be a failure to understand the nature of ideology in politics. Obama seems to believe he can "reason" with conservative ideology by pointing out to them what's best for country. He apparently fails to understand that conservatives (and liberals) have already decided what's best for the country and simple rhetoric will not change their minds.

Obama is no political philosopher and the idea that he can teach other politicians, especially older politicians, what's best for the country is a ridiculous and naïve idea.

Meanwhile we tread water. We wait for the next strong president and hope he/she will have an ideology that will make this a better country. There's truism that offers some hope: Business without social justice is rotten business, and social justice without business is likely to make everyone miserable. Conservative/liberal compromise is important, but it's doubtful that it can be achieved by a presidency without ideology.

A presidency without ideology is a dead presidency of no use to anyone except the person who sits in the Oval Office -- it's a self-aggrandizing ego trip.