Ideology And The Election

A reader writes:

Like you, I've supported Obama mainly for his potential to change perceptions of this country, both internally and externally, and to slow or halt the trend toward an authoritarian national-security state.
 
I'm ideologically closer to Obama than you are; but I don't think ideology counts for much in this election, because the economic, social and security challenges we will face in the near future must be addressed pragmatically, not ideologically. Ideology, from buchaneer economics to neocon foreign policy, got us into the messes we're in.
 
The next president and congress won't have much leeway on policy, largely because they won't have much discretionary money to spend. The only tax increases in prospect are expirations of Bush-era tax cuts, mainly on high incomes, and possibly raising the income ceiling for Social Security taxes. Defense spending won't decrease substantially because the military must be rebuilt and re-supplied. Homeland security gaps (ports, railroads, other critical infrastructure) will be expensive to address.
 
So a probably traumatic restructuring of the economy, in response to costlier energy, tighter credit, higher-priced imports due to a weaker dollar, stagnant wages and higher unemployment, will have to occur without the kinds of government intervention we've seen in the past.
 
A president coping with this situation will have to successfully promote shared sacrifice, to convince people they aren't enduring disproportionate hardship, and to reward behaviors that will lead to a healthy reorientation of the economy and to common-sense social reforms.
 
This is inspirational, bully-pulpit work, requiring an unblinkered view of the real life lived by real people. I think primary voters sensed this, and chose Obama and McCain as the least ideological, most pragmatically inclined candidates.
 
Each will spend the coming months trying to portray the other as an out-of-touch ideologue. The voter's challenge will be to cut through that chaff and decide who has the better grasp of reality, and the better leadership qualities to reconcile us to the truly hard choices we face.