At the very same time they’re playing up a return of the Clinton legacy to the White House by coalescing around 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Democrats have rejected a key point of then-President Bill Clinton’s approach to politics and a more sound economy.
Writing at Roll Call, Nathan Gonzales notes that a bipartisan achievement — like balancing the budget, for example — is not something about which Obama-era Democrats are particularly concerned:
“Like every generation of Americans before us, we have been called upon to renew our Nation and to restore its promise. For too long, huge, persistent, and growing budget deficits threatened to choke the opportunity that should be every American’s birthright. For too long, it seemed as if America would not be ready for the new century, that we would be too divided, too wedded to old arrangements and ideas. It’s hard to believe now, but it wasn’t so very long ago that some people looked at our Nation and saw a setting Sun,” Clinton said in his signing speech.
Today’s Democrats are singing a slightly different tune.
Democrats, including the president, don’t believe the deficit is an immediate problem. And while Republicans are touting and advocating for a “balanced budget,” Democrats want a “balanced approach.” The new Democratic approach includes a mix of spending cuts and tax increases but has no intention of balancing the budget, at this point.
Of course, Democrats will point to a difference in the state of the economy from the mid-1990s to today, but that doesn’t completely explain the marked change in philosophy when it comes to a balanced budget.
The shift is not just limited to past support of a balanced budget either. President Obama, with support from Democrats, just last year gutted welfare reform, another bipartisan policy that came out of the Clinton-era. Both of these policies were the result of a Democratic President (Clinton) and a Republican Congress.
Though he was markedly more idealistic in his first two years in office, Clinton was able to adapt to the changing political landscape. He realized that it was politically beneficial to work with Republicans on major legislation. While Obama is good at giving a speech and representing his idealism, misguided though it may be, he lacks the political savvy that made Clinton so successful.
It is not surprising that members of a political party would adapt the views of their standard-bearer, as Democrats have done with Obama. It is suprising that they have been completely unwilling to adapt in a divided Congress or recognize that Obama cost them dearly at the ballot box in 2010 — and may do so again next year.