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New Democrats or Old?
June 27, 2001 1:10 PM   Subscribe

New Democrats or Old? On one hand you have the New Democrats (Clinton, Gore), who's agendas are more centrist (some would say right leaning) but have had victories (Clinton being elected twice). On the other hand, the more liberal wings seem to say that it's better to stand on principle and convince the populace to come over to your side.
posted by owillis (37 comments total)

 
Of course, you then have conservatives who paint someone like Clinton as a "liberal". So a lot of it is perception too.
posted by owillis at 1:11 PM on June 27, 2001


With the possible exception of his support of NAFTA, I would love someone to cite one thing that Clinton ever did that was 'centrist'. Raising taxes and attempting to place a vast service industry under strict control of the federal govt. are not centrist ideas by any stretch. The only thing that made 'New Democrats' new was that they talked centrist, but then didn't follow up on it. Still waiting for Clinton's Middle Class Tax Cut...oh sorry, we had to elect a Republican to get that.
posted by ljromanoff at 1:30 PM on June 27, 2001


Not following through on gays in the military, not totally killing the idea of a missle defense shield, not pushing to up environmental standards on gas mileage and the like. Those are all relatively centrist actions/inactions, ljr.
posted by daveadams at 1:36 PM on June 27, 2001


Dear ljromanoff: how much you getting back from Bush? And how much are the heavy hitters getting? and in passing: how come it was under Vlinton that at long last we got the budget out of huge debt so you can get your few bucks back...and then deplete the money that might be used for healing the problems of our country?
Forget the labels. What counts is who votes for what and who is helped or hurt by what gets passed.
posted by Postroad at 1:39 PM on June 27, 2001


With the possible exception of his support for welfare reform, etc.
posted by raysmj at 1:45 PM on June 27, 2001


Re-elect Vlinton!
posted by Karl at 2:02 PM on June 27, 2001


Vlinton sounds too much like an alien, like that Simpsons episode.
posted by gyc at 2:09 PM on June 27, 2001


Klaatu barada vlinton.
posted by barkingmoose at 2:24 PM on June 27, 2001


Not following through on gays in the military, not totally killing the idea of a missle defense shield, not pushing to up environmental standards on gas mileage and the like.

That's rich. He's a centrist due to his failings? I failed to stop the Allies from winning WWII. I must be one of history's heros.

how much you getting back from Bush? And how much are the heavy hitters getting?

As they pay in more I imagine they are getting more than I am. What's your point?

and in passing: how come it was under Vlinton that at long last we got the budget out of huge debt so you can get your few bucks back

A Republican House of Representatives, that's how.

With the possible exception of his support for welfare reform, etc.

That he vetoed three times. Clinton only supported any kind of reform because the Republicans forced his hand - had he had a Democrat House it never would have happened.

Vlinton sounds too much like an alien, like that Simpsons episode.

Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!
posted by ljromanoff at 2:26 PM on June 27, 2001


Um, no, welfare reform was something Clinton wanted from the start, that he preached about a lot in the '92 campaign. And there were steps being made in the direction of reform already, for quite some time. (It wasn't an original idea in the first place.) That he went right when the GOP took over in '94 is no lie, but that only meant a more conservative version of welfare reform. In fact, an ultra-conservative version, rather than a centrist one. He tried to make up for it by pushing for an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, but it was still way right.

There's another in there that Clinton is responsible for (didn't get a lot of attention nationally, but . . . ) -- the empowerment zone, based on Jack Kemp's tax-break-happy, British-derived enterprise zone plan, which was based on an idea of Labourite Peter Hall, oddly enough. In any case, he definitely made it a centrist program (more community development-oriented). Whether it was a very good program in the first place is another story, but he (and his advisors/people) did make it more centrist.
posted by raysmj at 2:40 PM on June 27, 2001


The extremes define the center ground so they are, and always will be, the most important element in any political party. The person who can sit comfortable someplace between the two will often have the most success within it. If elected president, the centrist will never really fully satisfy anyone. Well, except for certain favourite junior members of his staff (in some cases). This approach has been known to cause untold problems in the past so aids now make a special effort to advise on replacing such habits with lovegloves and regular trips to the zoo. Well, except for republican presidents, of course, because the animals are liable to get restless.
posted by Kino at 3:02 PM on June 27, 2001


Do you guys think that anyone who campaigned at either extreme (or just a little off-center) would be elected president from now on though? Bush ran in the middle, though he governs right and Clinton basically invented the "middle of the ideology" campaign, winning two elections. Would someone like Reagan or Carter stand a chance now?

My thought is no.
posted by owillis at 3:14 PM on June 27, 2001


Would someone like Reagan or Carter stand a chance now?

Now being today? Probably not. But in politics, looking ahead more than a few months is about as accurate as looking ahead to the end of time. In early 1991, Bush had a 91% approval rating and was considered invincible. In the 1994 midterm elections, the GOP was essentially elected unanimously and the whole of the Democratic Party was declared dead. Think about what would have happened if Clinton would have had to run for reelection in November 1998.

The only true guarantee is that the national mood will be different in late 2002 than it is now. And different again in November 2004. And on and on.
posted by aaron at 3:29 PM on June 27, 2001



owillis, remember the context: some Republicans think McCain and Jeffords are "liberal". Heck, some of them think Dubya's a teensy bit soft.

lance, nobody's disputing that Clinton is more liberal than your average Republican. But remember Newt complaining that Clinton was only winning because "he's stealing our issues"? That's the centrist triangulation policy that, for better or worse, Dubya executed in obverse during the campaign (less so, now that he's in office -- of course, the same was said of Bill).

It's all perspective, anyway. It certainly wasn't the Republican Congress who supported the tax increases that brought us the surplus: hell, they let the whole damn government shut down rather than compromise at first. Clinton finessed that one by backpedaling on support for cherished liberal programs, which angered the Democratic Left (the true left, not the GOP-point-of-view lefties like Gore) and among other things led to Nader's candidacy which, arguably, helped sink Gore's shot at the White House. Try reading a liberal polemic like The Nation sometime: you'll be surprised at how similar the vitriol directed at Clinton could be. They were angry because time and again the Clinton White House screwed them over, but there was noplace to go. They felt the culture of investigation spawned by the Gingrich years compelled them to unwavering public support. Well, there were still plenty who couldn't stomach that. It is to these people, represented by unreconstructed lefties (vaguely socialist) to the intellectual middle (Bradley supporters), that Bill Clinton is clearly defined as a centrist politician.

Remember that Clinton was one of the earliest members of the Democratic Leadership Council, people who were considered "Reagan Democrats" back in the 80s. He was a governor, then, but his cohorts in Congress often gave the GOP agenda its winning votes even though the Democratic party had wide numerical majorities. The Democratic candidates, in that era, were party regulars like Mondale and Dukakis, northern liberals who had slim appeal in the South and West. Their losses gave the DLC the steam it needed to vault to the forefront, but even so, in 1992, Clinton's run was expected to be a big loser to traditional liberal Mario Cuomo. (I've always suspected that Clinton didn't really expect to win, deep down -- that it was a trial run, which perhaps would air his woman problem and inoculate him for a run in '96 or later. But Cuomo chose not to run.)

In any case, referring back to the article in specific. My feeling was that pragmatism was necessary for the party a decade ago. The taxpayers had come to believe that the liberal social programs -- welfare, housing, you name it -- were too expensive to pay for, and for better or worse had a strong mental association of Democrats with economic downturns, the "malaise" of the Carter years. The New Democrats came along and proved that you could redefine the debate, that Democrats could manage social programs responsibly, that economic improvement could be associated with a Democratic regime. That won them enormous support in the business world, and helped win several elections. I think there is a tendency to go too far, though, and it's clear that the DLC boys just aren't to be trusted to maintain the core issues of the Democratic party when push comes to shove. Whether the party can be taken back from them, by newer Dems combining the social commitment of the one with the electoral pragmatism of the other, remains to be seen.
posted by dhartung at 4:06 PM on June 27, 2001


That's rich. He's a centrist due to his failings? I failed to stop the Allies from winning WWII. I must be one of history's heros.

No, you see, the difference is that Clinton actually had the power to allow gays in the military, to kill the missle defense shield, and to push for more restrictive environmental regulations. The fact that he didn't makes him more centrist.

The fact that you didn't stop the Allies from winning means nothing because you had absolutely no influence or power over those events.
posted by daveadams at 4:17 PM on June 27, 2001


Um, Carter wasn't considered super-liberal in 1976. Even in 1980, Ted Kennedy ran against him, for two reasons: One, he thought Carter too conservative and two, Ted Kennedy thought Carter didn't have class, being from Georgia and all. And Carter did start the ball rolling in re to deregulation, (along with, irony of ironies, Ted Kennedy), cleaning up the corrupt Nixon-era General Revenue Sharing disaster (local govts. got a set share of federal dollars, for doing absolutely nothing and with zero requirements). He also ran on his record of consolidating agencies in Georgia and his battle against government waste there. He instituted a rather severe budget program called "Zero-Based Budgeting," in which government agencies are asked to design their budgets as if they are starting all over again. It didn't quite work out, but it's still consdered influential. Reagan simply went much further in a direction similar to the one Jimmy Carter went, only much further out in re to deficits than Carter.

So why's Jimmy considered to have been a leftie by some? One, the energy thing, coming in a green sweater and asking everyone to conserve (hear it's working for California right now). Also guv'ment was coming out with more things like adult-proof caps. Which weren't his fault, exactly, but Reagan was a reaction to such, which are ironically still with us. Otherwise, the Iran thing, maybe the Moscow Olympics boycott got him in trouble. If you want to place the latter two in left or right boxes, feel free, but I won't do so. He's taken many liberal stances as ex-prez, but only in regard to human rights, housing and the environment, issues he was pretty liberal about to begin with.
posted by raysmj at 4:37 PM on June 27, 2001


(Dave, you forgot to insert a tm in all the exitement).
posted by Kino at 4:40 PM on June 27, 2001


welfare reform was something Clinton wanted from the start, that he preached about a lot in the '92 campaign

And did nothing about for 4 years, including two when he had a sympathetic House. Again, all talk, no action.

It certainly wasn't the Republican Congress who supported the tax increases that brought us the surplus

Tax increases did not bring us a surplus, more responsible govt. budgeting did, which Clinton also fought.

lance, nobody's disputing that Clinton is more liberal than your average Republican. But remember Newt complaining that Clinton was only winning because "he's stealing our issues"?

Stealing our issues in the sense that he was talking about them, not that he was actually implementing them.

No, you see, the difference is that Clinton actually had the power to allow gays in the military, to kill the missle defense shield.

Sorry, that doesn't fly. Attempting to change a policy and failing is not governing from the middle - it's merely being an ineffective, failed leader.
posted by ljromanoff at 4:49 PM on June 27, 2001


Attempting to change a policy and failing is not governing from the middle - it's merely being an ineffective, failed leader.

Bollocks. It's the way your country's cute little "checks and balances" thing works. Especially when people vote -- more often than not -- in a way that forces compromise between the executive and the legislature.

Anyway, most of Clinton's flagship domestic policies were crushed by precisely the same corporate interests that underwrote the GWB campaign. Given that kind of support, Bush had better deliver rewards to his donors PDQ, or he'll be considered a failure -- and by precisely those who can buy an election, unlike the ones denied decent healthcare or welfare provision.

Anyway, if the politics of principle haven't been killed off, electorally speaking, by the 24/7 soundbite circus, they're certainly in suspended animation. Why else do we have Tony Blair and George W Bush in office?
posted by holgate at 5:02 PM on June 27, 2001


[does a doubletake and buzzes off seeing the word 'bollicks' in a MeFi post..]
posted by Kino at 5:21 PM on June 27, 2001


Bollocks. It's the way your country's cute little "checks and balances" thing works

Still doesn't explain why he didn't push the issues mentioned above when his own party had controll of both houses of Congress. He knew that some of these issues were going to be unpopular and he used the Republican Congress to push through some stuff he wanted while villanising them at every opportunity.
posted by gyc at 5:44 PM on June 27, 2001


People always talk about the ’94 “Republican Revolution,” but always fail to give any analysis.

“President Clinton was embarking on a political trajectory that four years later culminated in the most convincing impersonation of a Republican ever attempted by a Democrat in Washington. In the aftermath of his difficulties with Monica Lewinsky and his impeachment, it may be hard to recall just how far to the right, how far toward the embrace of moneyed power, Clinton took ... during his first term in office. From August 13, the day Kantor completed negotiations on the NAFTA side agreements, to November 17, 1993, the day of the House vote NAFTA, Clinton behaved in many ways like the leader of the opposition Republican Party.”
The Selling of “Free Trade”

Getting NAFTA passed pissed off the consituency that elected Clinton: labor, midwestern and industrial Democrats, the African-American Congress members, women. A year later, after Clinton’s colossal health care reform failure, Democrat voting blocs stayed away from the polls. There was no sense in voting to support a Republican in Democrat clothing.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 6:14 PM on June 27, 2001


He couldn't push through health care either, gyc, which was the most liberal thing he ever came up with. But he managed to push through NAFTA with the same Congress. Go figure. Far too much blame is given to divided government, and so much promise wrongly expected of its opposite. Jimmy Carter didn't get along well with Congress. Virtually the same Congress passed a whole ton of what Ronald Reagan wanted. Welfare reform didn't make it. Guess why? The Democratic Congress wanted reform, but not of the type Reagan did. Meantime, to say that he did nothing during 1993-94, however, is purely partisan and, worse, untrue. A history can be found here.
posted by raysmj at 6:16 PM on June 27, 2001


["Yes dear, you wait all day for one and then three come at once" said the old lady in the corner, "its quite remarkable"..]
posted by Kino at 6:17 PM on June 27, 2001


So if a "right leaning" "centrist" "New Democrat" consists of lying under oath, taking advantage of interns, selling pardons, open contempt for the US Constitution and individual rights to life except after due process, AND is pushing an environmentalistic ideal on the general public along with Federally subsidized welfare, health care, etc, what is the left-leaning democrat advocating?
posted by greyscale at 6:59 PM on June 27, 2001


Greyscale, if you really want to open the "selling pardons" and "open contempt of the US Constitution and individual rights to life" can of worms, we can certainly start injecting into this thread the wonders of Armand Hammer and the Iran- Contra pardon, not to mention twelve years of Reagan and Bush and their adventures in thwarting the rising tides of democracy around the world stage, notably Latin America. And hell, if you want to talk about federally subsidized welfare, why don't we start with corporate welfare and protectionist tariffs, and the using of military might to enforce US corporate control into other nations?

PR mechanisms developed since the post World War I era have a lot of Americans believing the flower rhetoric spewed by those occupying the corridors of power about silly, quaint notions like democracy or freedom. Hardly- that's just what's sold to you while the policies of these folks are decidely undemocratic, at home and abroad. That 1994 "Republican Revolution" was hardly a popular revolt; a vast majority of Americans want social spending increased among many other more liberal notions, and when informed overwhelmingly disagreed with the tenets of the Contract with America. But of course, dismantling Social Security was not called 'dismantling Social Security' back in 1994; it was packaged as "a solution that preserves and protects" (perhaps it also unites, not divides?). It's a time- tested way to make people unwittingly support something you could never convince them to support if you were honest about it. This is why we needed to keep sending military aid, funding, and support to Latin American nations when the citizens got wacky notions of actually instituting democratic control in their nation. Can't have that...

I'm currently reading Chomsky's "Profit Over People", and it's got me all full of piss and vinegar. Used to be just vinegar...
posted by hincandenza at 7:36 PM on June 27, 2001



Chomsky's concept of "the manufacture of consent", which he reiterated in a wonderful extended interview on Radio 3 last week, has never been truer. The British election was fought by the Unpalatable, the Unthinkable, and the Unelectable; the presidential election by Not Good Enough and Worse. But these grudging choices are mediated and transmuted into "mandates" and "the will of the people", and any vocal opposition cast as "a travelling anarchists' circus."

And politicians wonder why the defining precept of the EZLN is: "we want justice, not power"?
posted by holgate at 8:03 PM on June 27, 2001


The British election was fought by the Unpalatable, the Unthinkable, and the Unelectable

I'm afraid to ask which one was supposed to be which.
posted by aaron at 8:53 PM on June 27, 2001



That 1994 "Republican Revolution" was hardly a popular revolt; a vast majority of Americans want social spending increased among many other more liberal notions, and when informed overwhelmingly disagreed with the tenets of the Contract with America.

Would you care to cite any evidence of this? And while you're at it, explain exactly how, if the Contract with America was so unpopular, it served to win contol of the House for the Republicans for the first time in 40 years?

But of course, dismantling Social Security was not called 'dismantling Social Security' back in 1994; it was packaged as "a solution that preserves and protects"

A good idea, regardless of the name.

This is why we needed to keep sending military aid, funding, and support to Latin American nations when the citizens got wacky notions of actually instituting democratic control in their nation. Can't have that...

Right. Those Sandinistas sure were a freedom and democracy loving bunch. I guess that's why they were thrown out of office as the earliest opportunity when an actual democratic election happened.
posted by ljromanoff at 5:59 AM on June 28, 2001


LJR, I don't think the values of the Sandinistas are relevant to the issue raised about the usurpation of our Constitution and the illegal acts commited during the Raygun years collectively known as Iran-Contra.

Keep the herrings in your tank and don't keep trying to divert attention from the issues raised by smearing someone else (trolling.)

Let's discuss points as they are raised by the ORIGINAL post and the asides can be raised as another thread.
Your tactics detract from the alleged validity of the positions you take on the issues under discussion. If your intent is only to "win" or to troll, then why bother posting at all?
Discussion requires the consent of all, unlike ranting, which we all can hear on Faux News and doesn't even require a brain capable of speech.
posted by nofundy at 7:50 AM on June 28, 2001




LJR, I don't think the values of the Sandinistas are relevant to the issue

You're the one who brought up the so-called 'democracy' movements in Latin America, not me.

Raygun

Still haven't answer my question - is there a point to the above? Do you think you're being clever?
posted by ljromanoff at 11:06 AM on June 28, 2001


(offtopic, sorry all others)
Raygun= Star Wars
Got the connection?
I recognized it the connection the very first time I saw it (thus not my creation in case you should be curious of that also.)
Being clever? No way dude. As you said in another thread, I just don't have the intellect to be clever. But thanks anyway.

Or, if preferred, as the peoples of California once referred to him while governor there: "He's a drug store truck driving man. He's the head of the Ku Klux Klan. When summer comes rolling around, you'll be lucky to get out of town."
This guy has a long dark and storied past. Have you seen the story and picture of him paying tribute to the SS at Bitburg? (against the advice of his trainers/handlers) That made him a permanent hero of many.
posted by nofundy at 1:27 PM on June 28, 2001


Raygun= Star Wars
Got the connection?


Yeah, it's obvious - just not very witty or clever. Not sure why you're bothering.

Have you seen the story and picture of him paying tribute to the SS at Bitburg?

I don't know if you're ignorant or deliberately ignoring what actually happened. Reagan sought to reconcile the United States with West Germany, and help legitamize the new democratic Germany (at the request of Chancellor Kohl - the trip was his idea) while not forgetting the atrocities of World War II and the Holocaust, which included trips to a cemetary (which did have Nazi soliders in it - visiting a Southern cemetary would not make one pro-slave) and a concentration camp.

Of course it was controversial due to the nature of Germany's past. But if one is to accept the German nation as it is today, one has to acknowledge that it is not the same nation it was a half century ago - which was the point of that trip. To make it out to be some sort of pro-Nazi thing is being willfully stupid.

And you never did answer my question re: Contract with America.
posted by ljromanoff at 1:53 PM on June 28, 2001


LRJ: Actually, it was I who brought up the C.w.A. non-popular support. I got my figures from Chomsky; a quick google search should get you some of his articles about this; click here for the exact writing I was thinking of. He based his information on Gallup polls (not archived at gallup.com that I could find) and election data that show the Reps had only 52% of the vote, hardly a landslide (considering that 40% of the electorate even voted, and non-voters tend to skew democratic); that less than 40% of the public had even heard of the Contract with America. But most tellingly, despite media spin of "people support the GOP agenda", the reality is that individual planks of the GOP platform, such as cutting social spending, people were and are overwhelmingly against. Hence the need of neoliberals to couch their terminology in doublespeak like "a solution that preserves and protects" or even "no child left behind" while plotting the decimation or privatization of programs that have overwhelming popular support.
posted by hincandenza at 4:30 PM on June 28, 2001


LRJ: Actually, it was I who brought up the C.w.A. non-popular support.

Sorry, my mistake.

I got my figures from Chomsky

Great. Once again Chomsky as a news source. He doesn't even cite where he's getting his numbers in the article to which you linked.

election data that show the Reps had only 52% of the vote, hardly a landslide

The fact that it wasn't a landslide is irrelevant. A change of power after 40 years is much more indicitive of the mood of the country than the actual percentage by which they took the House.

(considering that 40% of the electorate even voted, and non-voters tend to skew democratic)

I fail to see how it could be proven that non-voters skew Democrat as they aren't voting. You can't make any assumptions about voting habits of people who aren't even engaged in the voting process.

; that less than 40% of the public had even heard of the Contract with America.

Sorry, I don't buy that number at all. The "Contract with America" was the biggest discussion point during Election 94. There's no way that 60% of the public were unaware of it.

But most tellingly, despite media spin of "people support the GOP agenda"

How is it media spin to report that people support the GOP agenda in a year where the GOP made huge political gains?

plotting the decimation or privatization of programs that have overwhelming popular support.

I would love for you to point out one federal spending program that has 'overwhelming' popular support. I can think of none.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:55 PM on June 28, 2001


would not make one pro-slave)

This should read pro-slavery, in case anyone was confused.

The heat must be getting to me.
posted by ljromanoff at 9:06 PM on June 28, 2001


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