Bill Clinton Revisited - What Liberals and Moderates Get Wrong
by v2aggie2, Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 12:42:46 PM EST
But is this really true? Certainly, Clinton would not be classified as a strict liberal, and most would call him a moderate. But this does not indicate a lack of philosophy. And I would argue that this philosophy embraced progressive objectives, even if the tactics may have differed from those embraced by Democrats previously.
In the case of Bill Clinton, his overall philosophy can be summed up by the following:
1. Embracing the future instead of the past
2. Recognizing that the world is constantly changing, and that the United States must continue to adapt
3. A policy of good governance
There are those on the left who view Clinton as a sellout. However, Clinton's overall view of governance did not change between his tenure as governor of Arkansas and his presidency.
Based on the failures of Democrats since the end of the Clinton presidency, some liberals have decried the "moderate" era ushered in by Clinton, and that has continued after the end of his presidency.
So let's take a closer look at the Clinton presidency.
The first major initiative of the Clinton presidency was health care. As we all know, the effort failed, and the election of a Republican Congress would ensure that this effort would not reappear for the remainder of his presidency. Still, Clinton was able to implement small health care initiatives throughout his presidency. Obviously, this is not a substitute for real health care reform. But Clinton did consider it a priority, though his results were not nearly as successful as we would have liked. Healthcare is a liberal idea, and Clinton tackled it head on from the outset.
With regards to welfare reform, it is true that Clinton signed it into law, angering many liberals - including his own strategist James Carville, who publicly stated his disagreement. It should be noted, however, that Clinton vetoed two bills before signing one into law because they were draconian and did not meet his goals. It should also be noted that Clinton embraced welfare reform as governor of Arkansas. So it is hard to call him a sellout on this topic, as some have alleged.
In 1995, Clinton battled the Republicans, with the result being the government shutdown. Clinton fought to prevent deep spending costs in programs in many programs that progressives supported. Clinton won this battle. If Clinton was a sellout, he would not have fought this battle.
Clinton also emphasized education. As Governor of Arkansas, he helped improve the education system there. As President, he continued to emphasize education, promoting programs that would allow Americans to compete in an ever-changing world. This is line with his philosophy that the world is constantly changing and we must adapt.
The "changing world" concept applied to Clinton himself. After he took office, he realized that his proposed middle-class tax cut would not be sound economically. With this in mind, he emphasized balancing the budget while resisting deep spending cuts to critical domestic spending programs. He also raised taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Americans. The results speak for themselves: 22 million new jobs and a budget surplus. It also illustrated his commitment to good governance, as he adapted his policies to make sure that government was working effectively.
In addition, Clinton achieved a significant reduction in the poverty rate - from 15.1% to 11.7%. Clinton may not have been a "liberal" president, but this would be a positive result that progressives should be happy with, though of course, we should not be satisfied with 11.7% rate, either.
In general, the above examples show that Clinton was not a bland moderate who would sell out at any cost. He was vibrant President who knew "one-size fits all" and "simplistic" solutions were not a way to govern. He adhered to the general philosophy that I laid out above pretty well. And Clinton achieved more of his campaign initiatives from 1992 during his presidency than many other presidents.
In summary, those on the left who may be dissatisfied with Clinton may have legitimate issues regarding specific policies but they should not dislike him because of a lack of philosophy, because Clinton did have a philosophy. They should also remember that it is not the tactics that matter but the achievement of overall objectives. Clinton was about results, and he got them, particularly in areas that matter to progressives.
But if some on the left are wrong about Clinton not having a philosophy, many moderates have also gotten the Clinton era wrong. Since the end of the Clinton presidency, moderates have settled in many cases for Republican-lite pandering (see Joe Lieberman). They assumed that Clinton's success was because he was a moderate (if he is one). So they just looked for positions that were "popular." However, they had not developed a philosophy, and the results have been telling. Many argue that the Democratic Party does not know what it stands for. This is the result of moderates who are more interested in having the "right" positions but not having a governing philosophy. Clinton's success was the result of having an overall philosophy, not being a "moderate." As some of the above examples show, Clinton was not averse to liberal ideas, as evidenced by healthcare and his commitment to keeping domestic programs well-funded.
In summary, candidates that have an overall governing philosophy will succeed, whether it is liberal, moderate, or a combination of both that transcends either label. Those who are looking to be on the "right" side of the issues and pander will fail.
Bill Clinton understood this. As a result, he became the first 2-term Democratic President since FDR.
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