Rethinking America

How the Clintons Pivoted America

Bill Clinton’s repositioning of the Democratic Party two decades ago continues to leave it adrift.

Credit: Veni www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • Forget Asia. The biggest “pivot” in US politics in decades remains the Clintons’ repositioning of the Democrats.
  • If the Clintons were “progressives who get things done,” they would not still be running on unmet 1992 pledges.
  • The Republicans have co-opted Democrats into enacting the conservative agenda.

To understand the roots of the collapse of the Clinton machine’s support among voters, one must must simply understand one thing: The words “pivot” and/or “reset,” so often associated with foreign policy maneuvers by the Democratic Party (including the now infamous “reset with Russia” or the “pivot to Asia” were mere sideshows to the real pivot the Clintons executed.

The real “pivot”

The real “reset” or “pivot” that the Clinton family has brought about occurred at home, in the domain of American politics over the past quarter century.

The innovation brought on by Bill Clinton back in the early 1990s was that he no longer wanted to leave the Republican Party as the dominant recipient of all that pile of corporate money sloshing around American politics. Bill Clinton simply wanted to have a “fair” share of it for the Democrats.

In reality, the maneuver was a sellout and betrayal of the Democratic Party’s core values and core constituencies — a shift that returned as a boomerang in 2016.

Less progressive than Bush I

Clinton’s shift in the political alignment of the Democratic Party required him personally to do something unheard of until that time when he entered the Oval Office in 1992.

Even though he was presumably a left-of-center president, Clinton decided that he would govern by positioning himself to the right of his predecessor, the Republicans’ patrician president George Herbert Walker Bush.

During Bush Sr.’s lone term – which lasted from 1989 to 1993 – he instituted new environmental protections, as well as disability and maternity labor regulations, and he wound down the Cold War and promoted multilateralism in foreign military ventures.

By contrast, Clinton – the man who had ostensibly defeated Bush from the center-left – perplexingly chose to extend the conservative Reagan Revolution. He did so by conceding to many of Reagan’s staunchly conservative rhetorical claims and policy aims.

As a result, Democrats all of a sudden regaled minority voters and the white poor with attacks on the purported decadence of welfare recipients, as well as various conservative “reforms” of Social Security. Clinton effectively ended up doing the Republicans’ bidding.

Political loyalty via wealth creation

Bill Clinton was not one to worry. And most of the Democratic Party machinery – all those professional posters, campaign advisors, party apparatchiks, Capitol Hill staffers – were only too happy to go along with this pivot in party ideology.

Bill Clinton’s repositioning had fortuitous, rain-making effects for their personal balance sheets. In the 25 years since the Clintons have ruled the Democratic Party roost, many of their core associates have become rich — from being involved in the business(!) of politics.

Obama stayed in the same tradition

That repositioning of the Democratic Party continued under Barack Obama. The most shameful moment during his two-term tenure came when, in January 2013, Obama opted to make the top level of marginal income tax rates start at $450,000 in annual income instead of $250,000. Even his Republican challenger the previous year, Mitt Romney, had not pushed for a top margin income level that high.

But no matter how hard and smart the Democratic Party machinery focused with a great deal of self-satisfaction on its “ground game” at election time and deployed its social media skills in the 2016 race, it was in for a rude awakening: the American electorate may be distracted a lot of the time, but not all the time.

The November 2016 election results show working-class America finally waking up from its long sleep. Unfazed by the never-ending rhetoric from the Clinton machine, voters realized one stunning fact about the 2016 presidential election: no matter whether Clinton or Trump were to win, a Republican would serve in the White House.

Yes, Trump may be crass and unpolished, but that’s what the American people often feel like themselves. The Clintons seemed so … French, always having some twist up their sleeve.

And so it was that the American people made a deliberate choice: Let’s opt for the new thing.

Even middle class voters felt that they had been sold out by the Clintons.

Infrastructure still not fixed

If one wants to gauge the ineffectiveness of the Clinton machinery over the past quarter century, then nothing expresses the problem more than this fact: Back in 1992, Bill Clinton ran a campaign based on the three D’s – the deficits in the U.S. federal budget, trade and infrastructure.

The one issue among them that he actually dealt with first (and effectively) was a surprising choice for a Democrat – particularly after Reagan’s unprecedented and unfunded arms spending spree a decade earlier: Clinton tackled the budget deficit. One would have thought that his primary choice would have been the infrastructure deficit.

In his defense, Bill Clinton would argue that the Republicans, who took over Congress two years into his presidency, just didn’t let him invest more in infrastructure.

The irony now, 25 years later, is that Barack Obama pleaded his case the same way on why there is so little infrastructure investment — the Republicans just won’t let me.

Ineffective Clintons

This created serious doubts about the effectiveness of the Clinton/Obama machinery. Many voters in swing states feel they have had enough of all those mellifluous towers of words about actions that the Clintons say will be taken – and then, once in office, don’t materialize. Other than that the Republican establishment once again pretty much has its way, even if a Democrat occupies the White House.

One could call that a spellbinding testament to political impotence.

Smart Republicans

Republicans, for their part, appreciated the highly concessional Clinton/Obama political style. But they didn’t let on. They kept complaining bitterly about the Clintons’ and Obamas’ presumed intent on making the United States a socialist country.

Republicans knew all along that the argument is completely overblown. But they played their role to perfection, attacking the Democrats as “leftists,” while letting them implement many elements of what used to be classic Republican policy prescriptions.

The ultimate reality in the American body politic since the arrival of the Clintons on the national and eventual global political stage is simply this: Willingly or unwillingly, the Republicans have managed to co-opt the Democratic Party.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter, from Berlin, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

Responses to “How the Clintons Pivoted America”

Archived Comments.

  1. On November 18, 2016 at 12:56 am Vito Giotta responded with... #

    Wow what a handful of crap. We are tired and pissed off at all of this open border, globalist, one world order propaganda that wants to take our sovereignty and diluted it with uncivilized non westernized ideas and culture with people who will not integrate into OUR American values and then they become the Democrats voters with their hand out. Tired of the lefties giving away our manufacturing jobs overseas causing mass unemployment. Had it up over our heads over illegals crossing into our country and then demanding we give them welfare for taxpayers then giving us the finger. The POS in the White House has been a total failure. He has embarrassed my country by demeaning our policies of the past to included colonialism, capitalism and slavery. Barry was the one that reawakened the conservative movement because of his anti American talk and actions along with the drunken corrupt lying trader HRC, which only put more gas on Barry’s fire of lies. One of the Deplorables of One Nation under God

  2. On November 18, 2016 at 3:37 am 6Story5 responded with... #

    Excellent piece. In reply to Vito Giotto below, the Clintons have been particular champions of Davosman globalism.

  3. On November 19, 2016 at 7:09 am NZT-48 responded with... #

    We’re on to you people…. globalism has just died. You people are irrelevant now and considered nothing but quacks. good luck promoting your evil globalism power grab now, it’s over. We’re done with you.

  4. On November 20, 2016 at 11:29 pm Vito Giotta responded with... #

    Thanks for the additional information had to look it up.

  5. On November 24, 2016 at 11:22 pm Andrew Stergiou responded with... #

    Vito Giotta if that is your name:

    You and anyone who merely tosses out “lefty” has no idea what is “left” as you are a idiot leftie but left of what most Republicans are even more inclined to be brainless than Democrats as the right wing is based primarily on pure & simply capitalist money much like Marie Antoinette & Louis XIV married to power and wealth not ideology but the antithesis of ideology whereas the facts & perception of those facts are ideological where I very well agree on the shortcomings of what in the US is called left but no where else in the world. Tell you a secret I would arrest you and Barry and you could share a cell together so as to practice your “cultural Marxism” ha ha if you are not executed for you especially throw too brainless manners of conjectures about. As I agree the article was fairly good and your you are the trash here claiming you were spit on when no such thing happened. PS there is illegal immigration in every country and people crying as you do begging for food as in the US. So grow up,.

  6. On November 25, 2016 at 12:50 am Vito Giotta responded with... #

    Andrew Stergiou
    you’re the most funny nut job I have seen for a while who is so twisted into oneself who believes his way is the only way and anything no matter how sound would be vigorously chided by you. Thanks for the laugh. Andrew have a good day
    P.S. My name is correct