July 31, 2008


What Kansas Knows (Peter Ferrara, 7/30/2008, American Spectator)

Few outside the Democrat party understand what has just happened in the historic primary season that recently ended. But in those primaries, the party made a fundamental decision that marks a dramatic turning point in American politics.

Bill Clinton swept up the Democrats in 1992 based on the new politics of the Democrat Leadership Council (DLC), which he headed. The DLC sought to remake the Democrats based on recognition of what had then just happened in the real world of American politics. Reagan's Republicans had won three straight national elections, thrashing unreconstructed liberals like Mondale and Dukakis in landslides.

The DLC sought to accommodate what they saw as the valid components of the Reagan Revolution. The historic battle between capitalism and socialism was over, and capitalism had won. The Democrats had to modify their policies and their rhetoric to recognize that. Most importantly, they had to accommodate the essential vision that led to the political success of the Reagan Revolution -- the American people overwhelmingly favored the policies of economic growth over the policies of taxation and redistribution ("It's the economy, stupid").

This meant that Democrats had to build on, not reject, the essentials of free markets, and the realities of globalization. Democrats didn't have to swallow the whole libertarian agenda to succeed in this new environment. But they had to project an agenda that plausibly would advance economic growth, not ignore it and all of its possibilities and implications, or even actively undermine it. This became Bill Clinton's awkwardly expressed "Grow the Economy" theme, which was meant to imply that it was still the government that would be producing the economic growth through its wise policies, not the decentralized free market by itself.

This meant, in turn, that the Democrats were not going back to income tax rates of 70% and even 90% as in the heyday of the Left. They could still raise tax rates somewhat on "the rich," especially if they promised at the same time to cut taxes for the middle class, a central theme of Clinton's 1992 campaign that was completely forgotten after the election. But it was also time to recognize and embrace the realities of free trade, and the desirability and overwhelming popularity of welfare reform based on work requirements. It was also time to recognize and extend the successes of deregulation.

The Democrats went along with it because having lost 3 straight national elections, and 5 of the last 6, they were hungry for power. President Clinton stumbled out of the gate because he didn't initially lead with this vision that won him the election, but rather with Hillary's old 1930s warhorse vision of socialized medicine. That produced the historic Gingrich Revolution of 1994. The insight that made Clinton's presidency a success is that he then went along with the policies of the Gingrich congressional majorities, attacking and trimming only what could be projected as its excesses. The result was robust economic growth, and even a booming budget surplus, vindicating Clinton's DLC vision. Thus Clinton became the only Democrat since Roosevelt to serve two consecutive terms, with only one more Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, having accomplished that since Andrew Jackson.

BUT THE DEMOCRAT IDEOLOGUES, what Howard Dean later described as the Democrat wing of the Democrat party, hated and despised what they saw as Clinton's sellout.

Just happened?

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 31, 2008 6:36 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus