A New York Times profile (1/8/11) of author/economist Robert Reich was headlined “Obama the Centrist Irks a Liberal Lion.” It’s hard not to see where reporter Michael Powell comes down in the debate over Democrats moving to the right:
Mr. Reich sees a parallel with his former boss, Mr. Clinton, and draws no comfort from the comparison. Confronted with a muscular Republican majority in the House in 1994, Mr. Clinton mastered triangulation, which is to say he sailed into a sea neither Republican nor Democratic. It was a strategic masterstroke, but he threw overboard some liberal founding stones.
It’s hard to know whatis meant by a term like “strategic masterstroke.” Obviously Bill Clinton was re-elected; whether voters were responding to Clinton’s supposed drift to the right is much more debatable. (Theeconomy improved from 1994 to 1996, which is likely to have been more important.) In any event, Clinton-style centrism did the Democratic Party no favors. As FAIR founder Jeff Cohen wrote (L.A. Times, 4/9/00):
While Clintonism may be good for Bill and Hillary and Al–all of whom seem willing to say or do anything to win the next election–it’s worth asking whether Clintonism is good for the Democratic Party.
Let’s do the numbers. When Clinton entered the White House, his party dominated the U.S. Senate, 57-43; the U.S. House, 258-176; the country’s governorships, 30-18, and a large majority of state legislatures. Today, Republicans control the Senate, 55-45; the House, 222-211; governorships, 30-18, and almost half of state legislatures.
The Democrats under Clintonism resemble a house of cards, with the Clintons and Gore inhabiting the White House atop a party structure crumbling because of an ever-shifting foundation.