Echoing the New Democrats of the Clinton era, some liberal critics are begging Democrats to change course.
Maybe Bill Clinton got a few things right after all.
For years, Democrats have rarely cited Clinton and the centrist New Democrat movement he led through the ’90s except to renounce his “third way” approach to welfare, crime, and other issues as a violation of the party’s principles. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and even Bill Clinton himself have distanced themselves from key components of his record as president.
But now a loose constellation of internal party critics is reprising the Clintonites’ core arguments to make the case that progressives are steering Democrats toward unsustainable and unelectable positions, particularly on cultural and social questions.
Just like the centrists who clustered around Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council that he led decades ago, today’s dissenters argue that Democrats risk a sustained exodus from power unless they can recapture more of the culturally conservative voters without a college education who are drifting away from the party. (That group, these dissenters argue, now includes not only white Americans but also working-class Hispanics and even some Black Americans.) And just as then, these arguments face fierce pushback from other Democrats who believe that the centrists would sacrifice the party’s commitment to racial equity in a futile attempt to regain right-leaning voters irretrievably lost to conservative Republican messages.