Obama, Bill Clinton and the Need to Move Rightward

In corporate media, some political arguments are treated as indisputable fact. One of the most important: Democrats win by moving to the right. In the New York Times (5/3/12), Peter Baker offers the latest example:

Mr. Obama, who campaigned on Sunday with Mr. Clinton, seems to be following his Democratic predecessor’s playbook. After a generation of Democrats alienating voters with liberal domestic positions, Mr. Clinton moved the party toward the center on issues like trade, welfare and deficit spending.

First off: Democrats had been alienating voters for a generation with their liberal policies? I am not sure what this is supposed to mean, but it’s part of the Clinton Lesson so popular with mainstream reporters.

Clinton went to the “center” to win. With what? “Trade” would seem to mean NAFTA, which was never all that popular with most Americans (but it’s still “centrist” because, well, it just is).

In any event, it’s hard to figure how Clinton’s moves to the right were key to his electoral success.  The press loved his “Sister Souljah” moment, but it’s hard to imagine voters much cared. And the 1994 election losses for the Democrats might suggest that voters, if anything, weren’t at all happy with Clinton’s rightward shift. The media drew a different lesson: Clinton the right-leaning New Democrat had veered too far to the left.

And in 2010, when Democrats suffered similar losses, the media again chalked it up to a Democratic president who hadn’t learned the lesson and governed too far to the left.

But the Clinton presidency remains the corporate media’s model for all other Democrats.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.