February 27, 2006

GLORY DAZE (via Pepys):

What is the Third Way ? (The Bevin Society)

Andy McSmith explains: “A simpleton might have answered that Tony Blair ought to know what the Third Way means because it is his slogan, but that would be to misunderstand the nature of the Blair project.

The Prime Minister is consciously following in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher who fought her way to power armed with a determination to win and only a vague idea of what she stood for. Once in office she enlisted intellectual help and hit upon privatisation as the policy which symbolised all she stood for, and invented Thatcherism”. This account of Thatcherism bears little resemblance to its historical existence only twenty years ago.

Thatcher ousted Ted Heath on the basis of a very definite political project, and her supporters spent four years explaining that she intended to call a halt to egalitarian development, to restore inequality as a stimulus to competitiiveness, to break the power of the trade unions, and as far as possible to restore the struggle for survival of each against all which was the motor power of capitalism and which had made England great in the nineteenth century. She preached the virtues of raw capitalism for years before the 1979 election.

All her think-tanks did after the election was devise capitalist things to do. Martin Jacques and Marxism Today took little account of Thatcher’s capitalist crusade in 1975-79, beyond responding to it with traditional slogans. It was assumed that all that differentiated her from Heath was personality. Marxism Today, Tribune, the Labour Left, the Trotskyist groups and the Communist Party, had all opposed the Bullock reform which would have made social democracy functional by weaving it into the structure of the economy. For all their ‘political science’ they showed no analytical capacity about real events. A profound socio-economic crisis gave rise to a Royal Commission proposal for a social-democratic structural reform.

They opposed that reform because it was not “socialism”, and threw themselves into a purposeless militancy in the late seventies. Those were the conditions which enabled Thatcher to win power and set about implementing her policies. After she had been in power for a couple of years it suddenly dawned on Martin Jacques and others that something had changed in Britain, that Thatcher was not Heath or Macmillan, and that the Labour movement was actually being destroyed. And how did they respond to this discovery? They became Thatcherites.

Waking the DemocratsAl From, 2/27/06, Real Clear Politics)
To understand the impetus behind the DLC and the New Democrats, it is important to understand the plight of the Democratic Party in the 1980s.

Democrats had run out of ideas -- and liberalism was in great need of resuscitation. Liberals confused expanding government with expanding opportunity. They forgot what John Kennedy had taught -- that opportunity and responsibility must go hand in hand. They worried more about police power than public safety at home and more about American power than America's enemies in the world.

In the minds of too many Americans, government, once an engine of opportunity, had become an obstacle to opportunity. And, still reeling from the aftermath of the party's split over Vietnam, Democrats in the 1980s stood for weakness abroad and for equal outcomes, entitlements for favored constituencies, and big government at home.

The American people said, "No, thanks." Democrats lost at least 40 states in each of the three presidential elections during the decade. In 1984, the party hit bedrock -- losing 49 states for the second time in four national elections. Many experts said the Republicans had a lock on the presidency. Politically and intellectually, the Democratic Party was in a state of near-collapse.

Writing in The New Republic after the 1984 vote, analyst Bill Schneider described the Democrats' plight: "Beginning in the mid-1960s, two streams of voters began leaving the Democratic Party -- white Southerners and Catholic 'ethnic' voters in the North. The first stage of this realignment occurred in 1968 and 1972, when race and foreign policy were the major issues of contention. ... The second stage, 1980-84, has been much more devastating because the party has lost its credibility on economic issues."

The harsh consequences of both stages of realignment were evident again in 1988, when Democrats lost a presidential election that they thought they would win.

"Democrats must come face to face with reality," wrote William A. Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck in their landmark 1989 study The Politics of Evasion: Democrats and the Presidency. "Too many Americans have come to see the party as inattentive to their economic interests, indifferent if not hostile to their moral sentiments and ineffective in defense of their national security."

The Democrats' dilemma after 1988, according to Schneider, was that there was no alternative between "those who want to reaffirm the party's old-time religion and those who want to turn to the right." But by moving to the left, Democrats would make things worse for themselves, he said, and, because they were a liberal party, it was unlikely they would nominate a candidate unacceptable to liberals.

What the Democrats needed, Schneider wrote, was a "tough liberal" in the mold of Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson -- tough guys who "couldn't be pushed around by the Russians or the special interests in Washington."

Into that breach stepped Clinton and the New Democrats.

By the end of the 1980s, it was evident that conservatism, like liberalism, was bankrupt of ideas, creating what Clinton and the New Democrats saw as a false choice between two tired, old approaches that no longer worked.

Forging a Third Way was the challenge facing Democrats when Clinton assumed the DLC chairmanship in New Orleans in March 1990. His first act as DLC chairman was to issue The New Orleans Declaration, a seminal document that laid out the core New Democrat beliefs and served as the philosophical foundation for the Third Way approach and the Clinton presidency.

Here are those core beliefs:

We believe the promise of America is equal opportunity, not equal outcomes; that the Democratic Party's fundamental mission is to expand opportunity, not government; and in the politics of inclusion.

We believe that America must remain energetically engaged in the worldwide struggle for individual liberty, human rights, and prosperity, not retreat from the world, and that the United States must maintain a strong and capable defense that reflects dramatic changes in the world, but recognizes that the collapse of communism does not mean the end of danger.

We believe that economic growth is the prerequisite to expanding opportunity for everyone; that the right way to rebuild America's economic security is to invest in the skills and ingenuity of our people and to expand trade, not restrict it; that all claims on government are not equal; that our leaders must reject demands that are less worthy, and hold to clear governing priorities; and, that a progressive tax system is the only fair way to pay for government.

We believe in preventing crime and punishing criminals, not in explaining away their behavior; that the purpose of social welfare is to bring the poor into the nation's economic mainstream, not to maintain them in dependence; in the protection of civil rights and the broad movement of minorities into America's economic and cultural mainstream, not racial, gender or ethnic separatism; and that government should respect individual liberty and stay out of our private lives and personal decisions.

We believe in the moral and cultural values that most Americans share: liberty of conscience, individual responsibility, tolerance of difference, the imperative of work, the need for faith, and the importance of family.

Finally, we believe that American citizenship entails responsibility as well as rights, and we mean to ask our citizens to give something back to their communities and their country.

During the next 14 months -- with time out to get re-elected as governor of Arkansas in 1990 and for a legislative session in early 1991 -- Clinton traveled across the country meeting with elected, party, business, labor, and civic leaders, as well as ordinary citizens, to discuss those beliefs and innovative ideas for furthering them. During that period, Clinton shaped much of the agenda on which he was to run in 1992 -- the first New Democrat agenda.

He called that agenda "The New Choice" and presented it for ratification to the DLC's Convention in Cleveland in May 1991. That Cleveland meeting turned out to be a pivotal event for the New Democrat movement. The New Choice resolutions broke new ground, advocating ideas like national service, an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, welfare reform, charter schools, community policing, expanding trade, and reinventing government.

Typical of the Brits to be more forthright, even with themselves, in acknowledginmg that the Third Way is a shift to the Right (as it is a shift Left for conservatives, at least in terms of accepting the inevitability of a government mandated safety net), but what's really funny here is to look at who supports the New Choice and who opposes it. Democrats have spent the last six years fighting against free trade, school choice, entitlement reform, and privatization/out-sourcing in government.

The oddest bit comes later:

Because his ideas worked, Clinton not only redefined progressivism in this country, but served as the model for the resurgence of center-left political parties, from Europe and Latin America to Asia and Africa. That is his true legacy.

The resurgence that matters is of center-Right parties -- in Britain, America, Australia, Japan, Germany, Poland, Canada, etc. -- the parties of the Left in places like Latin America are returning to the same tired socialism/statism that our own Democrats are stuck defending. When Al From, the putative leader of the New Democrats these days, has so little clue, it seems safe to say that the party's time in the Wilderness is in no danger of ending anytime soon.

The Strange Death That No One Cares About (Orrin C. Judd, 1/27/05, Tech Central Station)

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 27, 2006 9:09 PM

From's problem is what the left expected from Clinton was what he did when he was first elected, which was to pander to the social agenda issues the left cares most about while raising taxes and giving the missus the go-ahead to try and nationalize health care. When that agenda bombed out after two years, the left then expected Clinton to stay the course, because (in Peter Jennings' words) America was merely throwing a temper tantrum in the 1994 elections and would come to their senses by 1996.

The fact that Clinton didn't want to follow Jimmy Carter into one-term ignomy was something grudgingly understood by the left when they held their noses and stuck with Bill over welfare reform. The problem was they kept waiting for a return to the 1993 Bill, which never happened; now they want, but don't trust, Hillary to follow the same liberal path and stay away from triangulation if she is elected in 2008. If the left was sure the missus was simply conning the public they wouldn't have any problem listening to From, not becuse they've seen the light, but because they knew they'd get their way once she got into office.

Posted by: John` at February 27, 2006 11:11 PM

If it hadn't been for Ross Perot, there wouldn't have been a president Clinton.

Posted by: AllenS at February 28, 2006 7:10 AM

AllenS. AMEN!

Posted by: erp at February 28, 2006 9:12 AM