Bill Clinton was the original New Democrat. On Tuesday, he was speaking to a party that had just adopted the most liberal platform in the party’s history. At times in this campaign, he has seemed caught between the then and the now, grappling with the forces that have been buffeting the party’s coalition and altering its priorities. But it is Hillary Clinton who has most had to adapt.The Iron Law of Emulation is at work. Just as the right built its network....
Nothing symbolizes the change in the party more than the issue of trade, although because of organized labor’s power within the Democratic coalition, the base of the party has long stood in opposition to most trade agreements.
In 1992, Bill Clinton challenged those conventions, advocating for a North American Free Trade Agreement in union halls in states such as Michigan and eventually steering the agreement through Congress.
Neither Hillary Clinton nor Sanders has done anything close to that, even though most presidents, including President Obama, have supported major trade treaties.
Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement was at the heart of Sanders’s critique of an economic system that he said has favored the richest Americans over everyone else. Hillary Clinton, who had championed the possible benefits of a TPP as secretary of state, opposed it as a candidate, recognizing that to do otherwise would have carried a sizable political risk.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, who lost to Bill Clinton in the 1992 Democratic primaries and whose views then on trade and other issues clashed with those of the former Arkansas governor, described the DLC during a Tuesday interview as “a remnant of another period.”
Reflecting on the centrist views of government’s role vs. the views of Democrats today, Brown said: “They [today’s Democrats] want more interventionist government to make things more fair. They want the instrumentality of government. There’s more belief that more can be done. No one’s going to say government is the problem, not the solution. They’re not going to say that.”
At The New York Times, Gideon Lewis-Kraus reports on The Roosevelt Institute:
The progressive organizations in [Felicia] Wong’s rotation take as a matter of course the idea that the Obama administration was a significant missed opportunity for transformation on that order. They do not entirely blame Obama. He had his legislative victories — most importantly in the Affordable Care Act — but one lesson they drew from his time in office was that liberals had long been overly fixated on legislative success. (Johnson had a Congress he could work with; Obama mostly did not, and the next president probably won’t, either.) The right has set the agenda for the past 35 years because they built their economic movement deductively (from the first principle of the unregulated market) and took their victories where they could find them. The left, by comparison, tended to moralize, and spoke in the language of justice instead of growth. When they did talk about economics, it took the form of individual issues — minimum wage, student debt, paid family and sick leave — rather than overarching pronouncements. This muddle worsened during the Bush era, when urgent noneconomic concerns forced the left to privilege short-term electoral tactics over long-term strategy.
Roosevelt was designed to be a place, independent of the party establishment, to unite all of these factions under the banner of long-term, coherent economic thinking. Had such a movement existed in 2008, it might have seized on the financial crisis as an opportunity for structural economic reform. Obama’s recovery model, to the group’s lasting dismay, remained in thrall to old superstitions about growth. The goal of the bailout was to fix the existing financial system and get credit flowing back into the economy while keeping an eye on deficit spending. But today, though high-level macroeconomic numbers like monthly job growth or the headline unemployment rate have improved, almost half of the new jobs created in the first five years of the recovery were poverty-level. Repaired with a kludge, the system went right back to doing exactly what it did before: allowing the extraordinary concentration of power in the hands of the few to dominate the prospects of the many.