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The Progressives' CenturyPolitical Reform, Constitutional Government, and the Modern American State$
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Stephen Skowronek, Stephen M Engel, and Bruce Ackerman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300204841

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300204841.001.0001

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Barack Obama and the Traditions of Progressive Reform

Barack Obama and the Traditions of Progressive Reform

Chapter:
(p.431) 19 Barack Obama and the Traditions of Progressive Reform
Source:
The Progressives' Century
Author(s):

James T. Kloppenberg

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300204841.003.0020

This chapter discusses the Progressivism of President Barack Obama. Obama's progressivism is broadly based. First, he aspired to the ideals of the Social Gospel and invoked the idea of a shared national purpose, a common good that transcended the particular interests of the separate classes, ethnic groups, and regions that have shaped American political struggles. Second, he resurrected the Progressives' emphasis on political and economic reforms. Third, Obama inherited the Progressives' pragmatism, their uneasiness with dogma, their commitment to achieving moderate, incremental progress through trial and error, and their confidence in the application of the scientific method to politics. The obstacles to Obama's progressivism run deep as well. He has had to wrestle with four stubborn features of American culture that have hamstrung reformers since the nation's founding: persistent localism; distrust of the federal government; a deep ambivalence about engaging in world affairs; and a racism that appears nearly as entrenched in the twenty-first century as it was in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth.

Keywords:   Progressive Era, Progressives, Progressivism, Barack Obama, Social Gospel, national purpose, political reform, economic reform, pragmatism

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