The author wishes to thank discussants at Brigham Young University, Washington and Lee University, and the Chapman University School of Law, as well as the reviewers and editors of Social Science Quarterly, for useful comments on earlier versions of this article.
The Constitutional Philosophy of Barack Obama: Democratic Pragmatism and Religious Commitment†
Article first published online: 9 OCT 2012
© 2012 by the Southwestern Social Science Association
Social Science Quarterly
Volume 93, Issue 5, pages 1251–1271, December 2012
How to Cite
Smith, R. M. (2012), The Constitutional Philosophy of Barack Obama: Democratic Pragmatism and Religious Commitment. Social Science Quarterly, 93: 1251–1271. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2012.00908.x
- Issue published online: 5 NOV 2012
- Article first published online: 9 OCT 2012
This article examines whether Barack Obama has a Constitutional philosophy and, if so, what those ideas are.
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.
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.
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.”