Clintonism Does Not Live

One of the best things about the match up this year is that (assuming John McCain doesn’t totally shock the world by picking Jeb Bush as his running mate) there will not be a Bush or Clinton on the ballot for the first time since 1976. We came very close to this not happening with Hillary Clinton looking like a strong front runner for the nomination before the race began. Hillary Clinton appeared to start out with all the advantages, but it turned out her campaign was not as unbeatable as many first believed. One of many reasons for this was relying upon the advice of Mark Penn.

Penn shows once again that he is out of touch in an article at The Politico entitled Clintonism Lives. Penn claims that Clintonism “remains the most cohesive and successful Democratic governing philosophy the country has had since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s election 1932 and the advent of the New Deal.” One problem with Clintonism is that it it hardly qualifies as a cohesive governing philosophy. Clintonism under Bill Clinton was more a tactical strategy than a governing philosophy based upon compromising principle whenever necessary for political advantage. One example of this could be seen in 2004 when Bill Clinton advised John Kerry to support anti-gay marriage amendments in the states where they were on the ballot because he might have picked up more votes. Most Democrats would agree with Kerry in rejecting this advice.

Under Hillary Clinton, Clintonism became even more a philosophy of big-government Nanny Statism accompanied by disturbing ties to the religious right and a propensity to use neoconservative scare tactics about terrorism for political gain. Hillary Clinton managed to merge the worst characteristics of present Republicans and past Democrats. As a consequence, despite going into the race with every advantage, Clinton was upset by a newcomer to national politics who capitalized on a desire for change from the recent leadership of both parties.

Penn does give some examples where Bill Clinton’s views do survive. Bill certainly was right in some areas, and his ideas were far preferable to those of George Bush. By framing Clintonism as the opposite of the views of George Bush, Penn was bound to make Clinton look good by comparison. This does not mean that the country wanted a return to the full Clinton package. Besides, a politician who based his policies largely upon the polls was bound to have some popular ideas. Being right at times, however, is far different from having a comprehensive governing philosophy. Maybe the belief that the country saw Clintonism as a desirable goal is one of the reasons Hillary Clinton’s campaign was overly optimistic about their chances for success and failed to recognize how formidable an opponent such as Obama could be.

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