FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Ideology of No Ideology

by NORMAN SOLOMON

On Friday, columnist David Brooks informed readers that Barack Obama’s picks “are not ideological.” The incoming president’s key economic advisers “are moderate and thoughtful Democrats,” while Hillary Clinton’s foreign-policy views “are hardheaded and pragmatic.”

On Saturday, the New York Times front page reported that the president-elect’s choices for secretaries of State and Treasury “suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.”

On Monday, hours before Obama’s formal announcement of his economic team, USA Today explained that he is forming a Cabinet with “records that display more pragmatism than ideology.”

The ideology of no ideology is nifty. No matter how tilted in favor of powerful interests, it can be a deft way to keep touting policy agendas as common-sense pragmatism — virtuous enough to draw opposition only from ideologues.

Meanwhile, the end of ideology among policymakers is about as imminent as the end of history.

But — in sync with the ideology of no ideology — deference to corporate power isn’t ideological. And belief in the U.S. government’s prerogative to use military force anywhere in the world is a matter of credibility, not ideology.

Ideological assumptions gain power as they seem to disappear into the prevailing political scenery. So, for instance, reliably non-ideological ideological journalists sit at the studio table every Friday night on the PBS “Washington Week” program, which is currently funded by similarly non-ideological outfits including Boeing, the National Mining Association and Constellation Energy (“the nation’s largest supplier of competitive electricity to large commercial and industrial customers,” with revenues of $21 billion last year).

Along the way, the ideology of no ideology can corral even normally incisive commentators. So, over the weekend, as news broke about the nominations of Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers to top economic posts, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote an article praising “the members of Obama’s new economic team.” Reich declared: “All are pragmatists. Some media have dubbed them ‘centrists’ or ‘center-right,’ but in truth they’re remarkably free of ideological preconception. … They are not visionaries but we don’t need visionaries when the economic perils are clear and immediate. We need competence. Obama could not appoint a more competent group.”

Competence can be very good. But “free of ideological preconception”? I want to meet these guys. If they really don’t have any ideological preconceptions, they belong in the book of Guinness World Records.

As for competence, it seems that claims of non-ideology often go hand-in-hand with overblown claims of economic mastery. “Geithner and Summers are credited with expertise in crisis management,” economist Mark Weisbrot pointed out on Monday, “but we better hope they don’t manage the current crisis like they did in East Asia, Russia, Argentina or any of the other countries that Treasury was involved in during the 1990s with their help. They helped bring on the East Asian crisis in 1997 by pressuring the governments in the region to de-regulate international financial flows, which was the main cause of the crisis. Then they insisted that all bailout money go through the IMF, and delayed aid until most of the damage was done. Then they attached damaging conditions” to the aid.

After all is said and done, the ideology of no ideology is just like any other ideology that’s apt to be much better at promoting itself than living up to its pretenses. No amount of flowery rhetoric or claims of transcendent non-ideology should deter tough scrutiny. And Judge Judy’s injunction should apply to the ideology of no ideology as much as to any ideology that owns up to being one: “Don’t pee on me and tell me it’s raining.”

NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of “War Made Easy.

 

 

 

 

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

Weekend Edition
May 06, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Charles R. Larson
Being Gay in China, Circa 1987
David Yearsley
Skepticism, Irony, and Doubt: Williams on Bach
May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail