Obama and Clinton Appealing to Different Democratic Voters

The previous post dealt with those of us who do not entirely agree with the orthodoxy of either political party. This year Barack Obama is receiving the support of some voters who fit this description. Ronald Brownstein compares the views of Obama and Hillary Clinton, finding that Clinton’s views are more characteristic of the old New Deal coalition while ironically Obama appeals more to the new Democratic voters who Bill Clinton brought into the party:

Proposal by proposal, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are constructing policy agendas that present their party with mirror-image choices.

On domestic policy, Obama has shown much greater willingness than Clinton to challenge liberal orthodoxy and the powerful Democratic interest groups that defend it. On national security, though, Clinton has pushed against the party’s left-of-center consensus while Obama has embraced it. One candidate offers conformity at home and apostasy abroad; the other, the opposite.

Historical parallels are never exact, but with her tough-minded foreign policy, populist-tinged domestic agenda, and electoral coalition centered on blue-collar voters, Clinton looks like a 21st-century version of such classic New Deal Democrats as George Meany and Henry Jackson. By contrast, with his reformist domestic agenda, generally dovish foreign policy, and appeal to voters with college degrees, Obama recalls brainy neoliberals such as Gary Hart who emerged in opposition to the New Deal vision three decades ago…

Clinton hasn’t dodged all confrontations with Democratic interests. Her carefully constructed universal health care plan would require all individuals to buy insurance — an idea that most labor unions loathe. (Obama’s health plan has no such requirement.) She has also pledged to uphold fiscal discipline. But nothing in her domestic portfolio challenges Democratic sensibilities as much as her husband did by embracing welfare reform in 1992. Obama, even with his recent jab at “triangulation,” has been closer on domestic issues to the spirit of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, when he promised to unite the country by challenging “brain-dead” thinking in both parties…

Ironically, Clinton is speaking primarily to the Democratic coalition that existed before her husband’s presidency, while Obama is closer to the upscale new voters that Bill Clinton attracted to the party.

Obama has made many statements which at least raise the possibility that he sees beyond the “brain-dead” thinking. Unfortunately another aspect of his limited experience is lack of a track record on many national issues. Political campaigns tend to cause politicians to present more simplistic statements and adjust their views to those expected to play well that year. In 2003-4 I supported John Kerry primarily based upon what I saw in his public statements and record from prior to the race (and I still wonder if he would have had been more successful in the election if the real Kerry as opposed to the version created by the political experts had been out there campaigning). Obama has periodically promised to provide more details on his plans should he be elected. I continue to look forward to seeing this.

Be Sociable, Share!

No Comments

2 Trackbacks

Leave a comment