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Objectives

This article examines whether Barack Obama has a Constitutional philosophy and, if so, what those ideas are.

Methods

The article notes contrasting scholarly views on whether Obama's career exhibits consistent ideas and on the content of his ideas. It uses interpretive exposition of Obama's major writings, speeches, and presidential initiatives, based on all of Obama's writings and speeches through 2010, to identify Obama's ideas.

Results

Obama generally expresses and acts on views that accord with modern democratic pragmatist philosophic beliefs in deliberative democracy. It has not been fully recognized that Obama interprets the meaning of the U.S. Constitution as embodying these beliefs; that he blends this Constitutional view with egalitarian commitments that he identifies with black church social justice values; and that he sees the American Constitutional system's central goal as building greater public unity without effacing diversity.

Conclusions

Obama belongs to the modern democratic pragmatist tradition elaborated by American thinkers and political leaders since the Progressive era, but his distinctive Constitutional version of this outlook stresses deliberative democratic processes, black church social justice values, and the contention that the goal of the American Constitutional system is “e pluribus unum,” “out of many, one.”