By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
Bill Clinton’s legacy has been tarnished by scandal, but low deficits and a good economy cause some to remember him fondly.
A Southern governor with a working class background, who also was a Rhodes Scholar, seemed like a perfect bet for the Democrats in 1992. Clinton was genuinely concerned with improving the lot of working-class Americans but he was in no way a populist.
His policies reflect a neoliberal framework that had been embraced by both sides.
The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), of which Clinton was a charter member, rooted out those who were more positive about big government and restrictions on business and they were forced out of leadership roles in the Democratic Party.
Democratic presidential candidates from 1976 on were, on the whole, increasingly neoliberal. For an in-depth discussion of this, read “Bill Clinton” by Michael Tomasky. For my purposes, neo-liberalism can be defined as a belief in sustained economic growth as the means to achieve human progress, a confidence in free markets as the most-efficient allocation of resources, an emphasis on minimal state intervention in economic and social affairs, and a commitment to the freedom of trade and capital.
In the light of this definition, it’s easy to understand Clinton’s embrace of programs like NAFTA and cuts to welfare. What is more nuanced, and would come back to haunt the Democrats in 2016, was Clinton’s full-on embrace of the ruling class, now referred to as one percenters.
Bill and Hilary Clinton were rich celebrities, with Ivy League credentials and money, though not from patrician backgrounds. Clinton paved the way for a group of Democrats who, whatever their background (usually, but not always upper middle class at least) who saw themselves as an intellectual, successful elite group who deserved the mantle of leadership because of their superiority.
Traditional politicians and the ruling class were not equipped to run the country, or so they thought. Barrack Obama, Joe Bidan. John Kerry, Hilary Clinton and scores of “policy wonks” are in this mold. If you want to hear some of them expound, just turn on Vox or a liberal podcast.
I recently noticed that all of the hosts of four popular liberal podcasts were run by people or panels of people from an upper middleclass background with Ivy League Degrees.
These folks are not New Deal Democrats or populists on any level. This narrow slice of humanity may or may not be “suited to rule” but they aren’t any more representative of the populace of the U.S. than the traditional ruling class.
They usually have a commitment to social justice, but administered by them, the elite. Their energies are usually focused on “the poor” or on minority populations such as LGBT people or racial minorities.
That may be all to the good for those groups and arguably for those who want to live in a just world, but it is not a program focused on the majority or on working people generally.
It’s small wonder a lot of people felt under-represented.
After Clinton’s two terms, the son of the former President, George W. Bush would put control back in the hands of the traditional ruling class for eight years.
Arguably, W. let others determine policy and people to his right continued their program of moving the Republican Party to the right. W. was fairly popular and won a second term. His very unpopular war in Iraq moved Democrats to an even more anti-intervention position.
Democrats would return to power, electing the first African American president in 2008. Obama and Trump are up next. Stay tuned.