Monday, May 9, 2005

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What Was Clintonism?

At TNR online, former Kerry speechwriter Andrei Cherny has a smart piece on Clintonism. How many times have we heard the simple-minded cliche that Clinton just split the difference between liberals and moderates? Or the bizarre statement that the Democrats in 2000 or 2004 had to choose between a populist message and a DLC-style centrist one? Even Clinton himself(!) recently seemed to characterize his presidency, in Cherny's words, as "the political equivalent of a menu in an old-fashioned Chinese restaurant: one issue from a conservative Column A and another from a more liberal Column B."

Cherny realizes that the analysis of political ideas is complex.

Even a cursory examination of some of the actions that Clinton's Democratic critics point to as proving his accommodation to conservative ideology--such as signing a balanced budget, pushing for welfare reform, and declaring an end to the "era of big government"--show something more than a search for the center. ... Three notions--America's increasing global interdependence, the importance of the bonds of community, and the need to rethink government for a post-bureaucratic age--formed the basis for Clinton's approach to government.

I've got a slightly different take on Clintonism's component parts, but either way there's a lot more to it than "triangulation." (TNR Subscription required to read all of Cherny's piece.)

posted by on 05.09.05 at 10:35 AM


"...conservative ideology--such as signing a balanced budget..."

Was it the Nixon or Eisenhower administration that produced the last republican balanced budget? When are we going to give up the myth of a balanced budget being any part of a "conservative ideology." I mean, seriously, the two most self-professed conservative administrations, Reagan's and Bush II's, have spent like drunken sailors.

Clinton and Gore's reinventing govt plan actually succeeded in eliminating over 200,000 govt positions, tho' a great deal of it was thru attrition - lots of people from the Johnson yrs retiring. But, they managed to eliminate the positions. With Mr Conservative Bush II, there is some elimination of govt positions, but they are merely being outsourced to the private sector, often to firms with republican political connections, and the taxpayer is still footing the bill. Unfortunately, these private firms don't appear too grateful for the work. Halliburton and many other private contractors, like the numerous private security firms, in Iraq have taken the US taxpayers to the cleaners. But, due to the political connections there is very little govt oversight.

The orignal point of privatization was to create competition, wasn't it? Yet, we are in a position now where no one can compete with Haliburton and Bechtel in certain areas related to supporting combat troops.

It's beyond me as to why so many "fiscal conservatives" in the repub party are willing to close their eyes to the current fiscal disasters in the name of party unity.

posted by: clmartin on 05.09.05 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

"the political equivalent of a menu in an old-fashioned Chinese restaurant: one issue from a conservative Column A and another from a more liberal Column B."

Sounds a lot like Bush as well (foreign policy hawk + Medicare increase + SS reform + steel tariffs + faith-based initiatives + relaxing immigration rules, etc.). Seems to me like an obvious side-effect of our plurality electoral system, where presidential candidates have to first appeal to their bases in the primaries and then to the electorate as a whole in the election.

And again, this would be solved by removing primaries and going with a voting system that handles more than two candidates gracefully, like Approval voting, the Condorcet method, or IRV. Or even a two-round runoff system.

posted by: fling93 on 05.09.05 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

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