E. J. Dionne tells why Obama's pragmatism leads right to his progressivism.
Right now, being empirical is in the progressive interest. Note that data show that the parts of the stimulus package most congenial to liberals (increases in unemployment insurance and food stamps; fiscal aid to the states; government spending on public projects) are also the parts with the most economic bang. In other words, progressives don't need ideology to make their case.
In this respect, at least, Obama is rather like Franklin D. Roosevelt, who dismissed the conservative economic doctrines of the 1920s. "We must lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature," Roosevelt said, directly countering the central premises of orthodox economics. "They are made by human beings." Thus did Roosevelt make pragmatism and experimentation enemies of conservative ideology. Obama, wearing a smile as he stands on a mountain of data, is doing the same.