Conservative, Pragmatist, Progressive
by Burton I. Kaufman
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Pub Date 15 Mar 2022 | Archive Date Not set
In this insightful biography, Burton I. Kaufman explores how the political career of Barack Obama was marked by conservative tendencies that frustrated his progressive supporters and gave the lie to socialist fearmongering on the right. Obama's was a landmark presidency that paradoxically, Kaufman shows, resulted in few, if any, radical shifts in policy.
Following his election, President Obama's supporters and detractors anticipated radical reform. As the first African American to serve as president, he reached the White House on a campaign promise of change. But Kaufman finds in Obama clear patterns of classical conservativism of an ideological sort and basic policy-making pragmatism. His commitment to usher in a multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural society was fundamentally connected to opening up, but not radically altering, the existing free enterprise system.
The Affordable Care Act, arguably President Obama's greatest policy achievement, was a distillation of his complex motivations for policy. More conservative than radical, the ACA fitted the expansion of health insurance into the existing system. Similarly, in foreign policy, Obama eschewed the use of force to affect regime change. Yet he kept boots on the ground in the Middle East and supported ballot-box revolts geared toward achieving in foreign countries the same principles of liberalism, free enterprise, and competition that existed in the United States.
In estimating the course and impact of Obama's full political life, Kaufman makes clear that both the desire for and fear of change in the American polity affected the popular perception but not the course of action of the forty-fourth US president.
"Burton Kaufman's telling of the tale of the Barack Obama presidency is precise, thoughtful, and interesting."-John Robert Greene, Cazenovia College, author of I Like Ike
"This is an accessible and spritely written biography. Burton Kaufman's insightful account of Barack Obama's early life, rise to power, and presidency is a great read. On these pages, Obama's complex personality—combining idealism, pragmatism, and ambition—is on full display."-Patrick J. Maney, Boston College, author of Bill Clinton
"A fresh look at the underpinnings of Barack Obama's presidency! Known as a progressive and a pragmatist, Burton I. Kaufman argues trenchantly that the 44th president was fundamentally conservative on matters of the economy, cultural change, and foreign affairs. This is a timely read for understanding Obama's consequential tenure."-Susan Page, USA TODAY, author of Madam Speaker
"A pathbreaking president, Barack Obama was, as Burton I. Kaufman persuasively shows, no radical. Since he left office as the forty-fourth US president, Obama's reluctant embrace of change stands as his most enduring legacy. Kaufman, a wise and temperate historian, captures his complexities in this insightful political portrait."-Jeffrey A. Engel, author of When the World Seemed New
"With fascinating insight and based on detailed research, Burton I. Kaufman offers a three-dimensional portrait of Barack Obama, the nation's forty-fourth president. Kaufman's account is required reading for all those fascinated by the elections of 2008 and 2012 and the political history Obama made."-Wilbur C. Rich, editor of Looking Back on President Barack Obama's Legacy
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