Democratic Party

The Clinton Comeback

Democratic centrism returns from the dead.



When Bill Clinton was first elected president in 1992, he was widely viewed as an avatar of the New Democrats, a relatively moderate coalition that had grown in response to the perception that the party had tilted too far toward the left. New Democrats thought of Clinton's victory as their biggest success, or at least they did until he took office, according to Joel Kotkin's February 1995 reason article, "The Center Folds."

Two years in, Clinton's presidency represented a "fundamental betrayal of the New Democrat agenda by the very president whose ascendancy was thought to put the movement's ideas on the political fast track," Kotkin wrote. Clinton ran "as a New Democrat but [governed] as an old one," putting the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC)-the movement's central organization -in "an untenable position" thanks to its members' "personal associations and past associations with the president." Left-wing Democrats who abandoned the DLC agenda, wrote Kotkin, would "only serve to destroy the party as a serious national force."

Almost 20 years later, the left wing of the party is considerably stronger. But the party's march toward progressivism didn't destroy it. Instead, it led to a series of sweeping national victories, culminating with the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 and again in 2012.

But the good times for liberalism may be on the verge of ending. Going into the 2014 midterm election, there was no question that Republicans would gain seats in Congress-the only question was whether the GOP would regain control of the Senate. Meanwhile, Obama's overall poll ratings have been trending downward since late 2012, with Gallup reporting a record low in September, when just 38 percent of the public said it approved of the job he was doing. Surveys show low public support for the president's specific handling of health care, the economy, and foreign policy as well.

Democrats in tight races tried to avoid association with their party's leader. In the run-up to the election, Obama's policies were so widely disliked that it was seen as a gaffe when he said that his "policies are on the ballot" this fall.

And who did the party turn to for support? None other than Bill Clinton, who campaigned for Democratic candidates and begged voters not to cast protest votes against the president.

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  1. I imagine Clinton will be seen as the party’s de facto leader until there’s another Democrat president and maybe even beyond. People generally remember his term positively now that time has passed, and he doesn’t show apparent contempt for those in his own party like some presidents I could name.

    1. Of course ,his best years were built on a Repub take over of congress,very little got done[ a good thing] and the internet bubble and the beginning of the housing bubble.It seems the economy now has done much better with a ‘do nothing congress’ the last several years. Bush was worse ,not just because of his wars,but,due to the fact so much crap was passed through congress and the end of the housing bubble,created by both parties

      1. Unpaid for spending bills are strictly a GOP thing since 1975. Bill Clinton signed the biggest deficit reduction program in history without a single GOP vote – the Omnibus of 1993.

          1. I could explain it,but, your not smart enough to understand..

            1. You can’t explain shit. I cited a successful law that cut spending and increased the top end tax rate that led to a budget surplus.

              1. It didn’t happen

                1. In the mind of a Democrat hack, Bill Clinton was responsible for balancing the budget, heroically cutting spending over the objections of the Gingrich Congress.

                  And yet, somehow, at the same time, the wild-eyed Gingrich Congress recklessly shut down the government–rather than give in to Clinton’s spending.

                  If you look at Margaret Singer’s* Six Pre-Conditions for Thought Reform (which is an explanation of how brainwashing works), one of the important elements is pushing contradictory beliefs:

                  “The more complicated and filled with contradictions the new system is and the more difficult it is to learn, the more effective the conversion process will be.”


                  Q: Why does somebody like Palin’s Buttplug come here and spout this silly shit day after day, year after year?

                  A: Easy, it’s for the same reason Moonies used to spend their lives hassling strangers in the parking lot at the airport for spare change.

                  If the Progressives hadn’t gotten to Shrike first, he might just as easily be working a table for the Scientologists at a college campus somewhere–claiming he can cure people’s psychological problems with a tuning fork.

                  *Margaret Singer is not Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger!

                  1. +2 Isaac Singer

                  2. Q: Why does somebody like Palin’s Buttplug come here and spout this silly shit day after day, year after year?

                    Because Weigel is a JournoList; flacking for Obama and the liberal democrats under the guise of reporting news is his job.

                  3. And very soon they’ll be doing the same mental gymnastics over Obama. Didn’t you hear, government spending declined proportionately under Obama these last few years! Obama is actually really fiscally responsible, and those evil right wing bastards are spreading lies about him.

                    Never mind that the decline in spending that occurred can be readily attributed to the 2011 Budget Control Act which we owe mainly to the then new Republican congress and the associated ‘sequester’ that left so many libs flipping their shit. Wouldn’t put it past them to have the idiocy to complain about the sequester and praise “Obama’s” cutting of spending in the very same sentence.

                    1. The Budget Control Act was bipartisan.

            2. “you’re” not smart enough

        1. There was no surplus (in the true sense of the word) during Clinton’s presidency.

          Clinton didn’t do much to address the rising entitlement spending, and additionally signed off on future spending, so whatever deficit reduction he may have achieved in the short run is a moot point.

          Clinton supported NAFTA and a major deregulation of banks happened under his watch. He cut capital gains tax and reduced tarriff, and the ecnomy took off in his second term! Oh no, Clinton must have been a terrible right winger.

          1. I support all those Clinton positions.

            1. How’s your blue dress?

    2. “and he doesn’t show apparent contempt for those in his own party like some presidents I could name.”

      While I couldn’t stand the man while he was in office, this was a strength of George W. Bush in his post-presidency tenure as well. The presidents who have been well-regarded have tended to be the ones who didn’t trash their successors. That’s part of why people, except for the far left loonies. still think Jimmy Carter was a fool as President…because he’s done nothing but whine about and attempt to undermine every President who followed him in a transparent attempt to make himself look better.

      I would bet Obama will be very much the same kind of ex-President. Insecure, vain, and far too wrapped up in himself to just keep his mouth shut about every stupid problem he has with anyone who follows.

      1. Dickless Cheney is the gold standard in whining vain execs who meddle later. Just like the sadistic piece if shit he is.

        1. Normally I hate you and disagree with your very existence, but I will admit to occasionally wondering if Dick Cheney is actually Satan himself.

          1. The greatest trick Dick Cheney ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

        2. Dickless Cheney? Are you suggesting a woman can’t be vice president? Sexist pig.

        3. No, I think Jimmy “one-term/solve the Israeli/Plestinian conflict” Carter wins the award for most whiny, meddlesome ex exec.

  2. Yeah, but no matter how awesome the 1990s economy was, Clinton has been accused of sexual assault once or twice. That means I have to consider him guilty, otherwise I’m a “rape apologist” or “rape denialist.”

    1. Mint Berry Crunch walks into school. Plops a small satchel on the desk in front of the teacher. “I don’t feel safe with these in my house.” Teacher opens and finds MNB’s severed testicles.

      MNB, you’re not in denial. Repeat after me.

    2. Once or twice?

  3. Many liberal-leaning outlets even declare that Bill Clinton is completely rehabilitated. I think this is mostly true inside the Beltway bubble. Clinton shows up during election season every two to four years and mostly just finds a way to shine the media spotlight on himself and preen. I think a lot of people see it that way. Plus now he’s going around claiming his foundation has lifted 33 million people out of poverty or something — Jeffrey Sachs type bogus statistics. I think his support is a lot softer than Beltway media types seem to think.

    1. 33 million? How much did that cost,lol. And by what definition of poverty? Raise them to U.S.standard of ‘the poor’ did he?If all you have is a tent in a camp and now you have a hut and some rice and a goat I guess that’s better. If he spent his time trying to make the governments of poor countries less corrupt and improving property rights I’d be all for it. Aid never works that way though.

      1. Who cares? It is a charity. I don’t bitch about all the money wasted on religion.

        1. You sir [ or madame ] are a ass

        2. But you probably complain bout how much private business choose to pay their executives, even though it’s their money to fritter away however they please.

          1. I’m a capitalist corporate loving company man, asshole.

            1. Then why are you lauding Clinton’s tax hikes and complaining about the GOP oppositions attempts to stop them?

              Oh, I think I misunderstand you: you’re a self-described buttplug, so perhaps you like assholes and calling me one is a compliment, in which case, thank you.

              1. Pay your fucking debt! That is responsibility. I hate handouts but the fucking voters on both sided love them.

                1. Great stuff coming from the guy who worships the dude who is at $7.4 trillion in total debt and counting.

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  5. One morning I’d like to wake up to all the Clintons and Bushes just not being mentioned at all ever again.

    1. Not gonna happen. They were Presidents, in your lifetime. Deal.

      I do sympathize; I despise Clinton for an assortment of reasons that you will doubtless remember. Bush, not so much, but there are plenty of reasonable people who disagree with me. But they were Presidents, and we are going to be reading/seeing them in the news for the rest of our lives.

      At least the media is slowly getting over its Kennedy fetish. Maybe a couple of generations from now they will be willing to admit that electing a Kennedy, any Kennedy, is mot the be-all of existence.

      1. You don’t hate Bush for the Patriot Act?

        I kinda feel like you’re not really a libertarian.

      2. But the biggest reason any ex-president gets the spotlight is that they grab it. I’d love to wake up and find that the Clintons and Bushes (and Carter) have eternally forsworn the spotlight and retired to grandparenthood.

        1. According to legend, George Washington couldn’t wait to leave the office and politics behind. These days they never quit.

      3. I’m just tired of the dynasties. Kennedy, Clinton, Bush, whoever. Given the temptation to corrupt that’s presented by power, allowing individual politicians to stay in office for long periods is bad enough without letting it become familial thing where each royal member gets their turn to hop on Lady Liberty raping the shit out of her.

        1. This has even happened to the Gandhis in India. That’s why they now have this nationalist Modi, because the formerly incumbent Congress party basically became the Gandhi-Nehru family’s private party, and an exceedingly corrupt one at that.

          No family is impervious to moral decay it seems.

    2. “One morning I’d like to wake up to all the Clintons and Bushes just not being mentioned at all ever again”


      I would easily give it that award, even if it wasn’t so obvious, if it wasn’t so whiny, and even if it wasn’t posted on a website which is openly critical of government. If your point is that you don’t like mentions of political figures, then go to a website about knitting or waterskiing or anything that isn’t political. If your point is that you don’t like government then WHOA HO what an amazing revelation. Join the fucking club.

      Thank you of finally putting a definitive answer to the question ‘Who is John Galt?’ Answer: a fucking idiot.

  6. I remember watching a show ranking the Presidents back in the late 1990s and Clinton was described as being ‘average’. Although I still don’t know what the criteria is to be a ‘great’ President. Was he ‘average’ because he was kept in check? How much did Gingrich impact his Presidency?

    Voters generally always look back fondly on past leaders often forgetting scandals, ineptitude, abuse of power etc.

    In the case of Clinton specifically, his administration had two things that could have contributed to the ‘average’ tag: One, a good economy where he didn’t have to take controversial decisions and, two, a divided government that kept him in check. From my memory, the most controversial thing he undertook (outside of Devil in a Blue Dress) was Kosovo.

    1. You’re an idiot. Clinton signed the largest deficit reduction program in US history and the GOP fought it with a vengeance. It led to a budget surplus later.

      1. Never happened.

      2. Remember Palin, ‘L’ isn’t for love.

      3. Clinton signed the largest deficit reduction program in US history

        That’s a rather sneaky way of saying he tried to get massive tax hikes.


        1. If turd didn’t have duplicity and mendacity, turd would have nothing to post.

        2. There were some tax hikes and spending cuts too. It is called “fiscal responsibility”.

          The moochers that vote in SS and Medicare hikes don’t want to pay for them.

          1. I thought you retards didn’t like spending cuts? Kind of like how you didn’t like deficit spending back in 2001-2009 (anyone else remember Stiglitz and Krugman complaining about that?), before you started liking it again?

          2. spending cuts too.

            Nope. You’re lying.


    2. Funny, I don’t remember people looking back fondly at L. Johnson, Nixon, Ford, or Carter.

      1. Touche.

  7. Centrist, “pragmatic” clinton democrats are far scarier than far left warrenn-nader democrats. The centrist left gave us the war on drugs, the militarization of the police, and federal programs to subsidize suburban sprawl that resulted in the housing bubble. Lieberman, bloomberg, bayh, and the rest enthusiastically support Israel, the patriot act, and torture. The far left mcgovern-warrenn wing is far better than the centrist democrats. Kotkin is also a statist idiot who loves the new deal and suburbia, which was engineered by zoning laws and subsidies.

    1. Yes. Those center-leftists Reagan and GHW Bush.

  8. My room mate continuously tries to convince me that Clinton balanced the national budget before he left office, and paid off the national debt.

    I have no idea where she gets this information. She’s normally pretty well informed, but she has a seriously blind spot for Clinton specifically and democrats in general.

    I use her as a sounding board for democrat reactions to libertarian ideas. It doesn’t go well.

    1. Clinton balanced the national budget

      In a…sense? I mean, any business with a pay-as-you-go retirement plan could balance its budget the same way. Collect retirement contributions, disburse the amount needed to pay current obligations, then “invest” the rest in non-exchangeable bonds from yourself and roll the cash you “make” from selling bonds to yourself into your business’s general revenue.

      1. It doesn’t count ‘cuz we owe it to ourselves!

      2. Balanced is at least one Hillary’s Clitdong to each shit covered Palin’s Buttplug.

    2. I’d ask your roommate, in all serious, if she is retarded. She does not understand the difference between the deficit and the national debt. She probably also doesn’t understand the difference between speed and acceleration.

    3. One curious thing I notice is that a lot of Democrats will actually react favorably to Libertarian ideas if you don’t mention that word in connection with it (probably because they’ve been told by our dear leaders that the Koch brothers want to ban abortion so that they can put the resulting unwanted children to work in their monacle factories).

      I’m the only one in my family who isn’t a dedicated progressive. Sometimes, I mention that I read “an article somewhere” about some cronyist protectionist bullshit law that is clearly designed to protect one business from competition. I also mention police militarization, the bad effects of prosecuting prostitutes and their customers, etc. Generally just a lot of things I read on Reason.

      They usually agree with me.

      1. Until you mention SWAT raids by the EPA over perceived wetland violations, then I’m guessing police-militarization has some grey areas.

        1. Bjut you don’t have to mention that the raids were by EPA. Just talk about the raid, not the reason.

      2. … or enforcement of a nanny statist policy of selling loose cigarettes, then watching the aftermath of such policy. Watching the cognitive dissonace would be too much to bear.

      3. This is true. It pays to sneak up on people. If you’re already known to the person as a radical (or even moderate) libertarian, their response might be (as Daddy’s was to me), “You’re just saying that because you’re a libertarian.” But if they don’t know your proclivities, you can be more persuasive.

      4. I find you can get a person to assent to almost anything if you use the ‘right’ terminology. Take, for example, an idea or policy that is anathema to a progressive, rephrase using progressive argot, and they’ll suddenly like it.

        It’s disheartening really.

      5. Liberals and libertarians agree on a lot of things and it’s not a secret to anyone. Liberals are usually better on those too because they arrive at their positions via careful thought rather than applying a prefab dogma.

        1. hahhahahhahhahh

        2. Liberals use careful thought of a set of pre-determined choices giving the illusion of reaching a rational decision based on one’s own cognitive abilities.

        3. Tony|12.28.14 @ 8:17PM|#
          …”Liberals are usually better on those too because they arrive at their positions via careful thought rather than applying a prefab dogma.”

          Yeah, promoting socialism is so “thoughtful”, right?
          Go lick proggie ass,

        4. a prefab dogma.

          Go fuck yourself, rent-boy. I arrived at my libertarian world-view through considerable experience of dealing with the kind of assholes that you think should rule us.


          1. You’re not intelligent enough to arrive at any worldview thoughtfully. But don’t be too hard on yourself; it’s the same for everyone else in your cohort.

  9. This passes for analysis?

  10. This passes for analysis?

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  15. I worry that if the leader of the free world is going to philander, he should have better standards as to the quality of women he dallies with. This is why I hold Clinton’s judgment suspect.

  16. Let’s hope Democrats realize that such a strategy did not do them any favors in 2014. Obama, of course, may or may not have been people’s idea of a liberal unicorn in 2008, but he’s governed as if the centrist “art of the possible” cabal has been whispering in his ears since the beginning.

    Election results, more or less, no longer reflect the political mood of the people. The system is too rigged. Poll the people honestly on economic issues and Elizabeth Warren becomes a centrist. People go farther left the better the issues are explained to them. And nobody here has to disagree just to be disagreeable; you’re used to being unpopular–it’s why you hate democracy.

    Democrats acting like corporate houseboys and refusing to be unapologetically populist is one of the more head-smacking realities of politics for me. But I presume I’m being too idealistic; maybe there can only be an Elizabeth Warren if she’s safely enthroned in Massachusetts. But the fact that other Democrats don’t even want to try to take control of the overall narrative rather than accept Republican premises, assuming they aren’t all idiots, can only be a result of money’s role in politics.

    1. The better explanation – the more money we steal the better off you will be, as long as we only steal from the rich. You know – the 80%.

    2. Tony|12.28.14 @ 8:14PM|#
      …”Obama, […] governed as if the centrist “art of the possible”…

      Yeah, that the reason he jammed that pathetic piece of shit known as O-care through, right?
      Go lick proggy ass.

      1. The most centrist healthcare reform imaginable?

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  18. “But the good times for liberalism may be on the verge of ending.}

    Oh, leftism will never go away. It may wane a bit from time to time, but as government is their religion, they have a fervor and passion that normal, moral happy people do not possess.

    One dedicated leftist always defeats a dozen anti-leftists.

  19. Absurd. Clinton was not a centrist until 1994 when he got his clocked cleaned in the mid terms and he saw reelection in 1996 slipping away. Since leaving office he has abandoned any pretense of being a centrist.

    And why is MR Clinton being used to construct this ‘comeback’ and not MRS Clinton who has been far to the left all of her life?

    What’s being pushed here? That the country won’t continue to lurch further and further to the left if Hillary wins in 2016? Absurd.

    1. Clinton was definitely liberal but he was less liberal than most Democrats at the time. Recall that the previous two Dem nominees were Mike Dukakis and Walter Mondale, and his main opponents in the Dem primaries were Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown. All of whom were absolute flaming liberals.

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  22. Most Clinton “successes” (welfare reform, NAFTA, financial and telecom deregulation) were lifted from the GOP. I think that goes a long way toward explaining the Republican hatred of the man.

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