The Visionary Minimalist
Cass Sunstein–who was a colleague of Sen. Barack Obama at the University of Chicago School of Law–offers an intriguing way of thinking about Obama’s distinctive approach to politics, which he describes as “visionary minimalism.” Here is a cite:
“Visionary minimalist” may sound like an oxymoron, but in fact–and this is the key point–Obama’s promise of change is credible in part because of his brand of minimalism. He is unifying, and therefore able to think ambitiously, because he insists that Americans are not different “types” who should see each other as adversaries engaged in some kind of culture war. Above all, Obama rejects identity politics. He participates in, and helps create, anti-identity politics. He does so by emphasizing that most people have diverse roles, loyalties, positions, and concerns, and that the familiar divisions are hopelessly inadequate ways of capturing people’s self-understandings, or their hopes for their nation. Insisting that ordinary Americans “don’t always understand the arguments between right and left, conservative and liberal,” Obama asks politicians “to catch up with them.” Many independents and Republicans have shown a keen interest in him precisely because he always sees, almost always respects, and not infrequently accepts their deepest commitments.
I finished Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope a couple of days ago. It provides additional detail about the kind of policies Obama would pursue as president and also some amusing stories about life as a U.S. senator. I don’t think it will win any Pulizters, but as books written by politicians go, I would rate it above average.