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The Tally Ho

Monday, January 17, 2005

Clintonism, Bush & Legacy

January is a good month for many reasons, one of which is my favorite Atlantic Monthly issue arrives in the mail. It is their annual “State of the Nation” issue. In this issue Chuck Todd has a piece in their Agenda section titled “Clintonism, R.I.P.: How Triangulation became Strangulation.” Mr. Todd writes

The difference is that Bush measurably strengthened the Republican Party along the way, whereas Clinton worried mainly about his own political fortunes, to the detriment of his party. Every election under Bush has resulted in Republican gains in Congress; in sharp contrast, Clinton assumed office with his party in control of the House, the Senate, and a majority of governorships, and left it with none of those advantages.

Well first, Democrats made gains in ’96, ’98, and ’00. Before September 11th, the Bush Administration seemed to be on the verge of an administration destined for a historically embarrassing one term status. While September 11th was a tragedy, issues such as homeland security and the War in Iraq became the impetus for BushCo to push their agenda in all areas. Without the constant selling of fear and anxiety I really doubt that the Republicans would have won some of those 2002 Senate races, and I don’t they would still occupy the White House. But that is how the world plays out. If it were not September 11th, there could have been something else domestic or foreign.

Second, one of the complaints that I have heard repeated about the Clinton Administration was their preoccupation with legacy. After President Bush was elected in November, there was, and is, a discussion of whether or not BushCo is going to run to the center and focus on legacy while continuing right wing rhetoric or whether they will set out for an aggressive conservative agenda. Right now I think it is hard to tell as American conservatives have been floating the same issues for decades, and I as blogged about before – I’m not so sure how seriously they are about Social Security. Are they really pushing for major changes at the moment, or is this just another incremental step in the right wing’s privatization plans, and pass it off to Senator Frist if he is elected in 2008? I can’t see any major changes that aren’t met with a huge backlash – especially when Bush is now a lame duck and in a few months they will be focused on retaining the White House. If you read the interview with Mr. Bush in the Washington Post he seemed to be softening his stance on a Federal Marriage Amendment, among other things. But I don’t see any Clinton style “reforms” like the like 1996 telecommunication act.

Speaking of the Clinton White House losing the House and Senate in ’94, much of this loss has been credited to Democrats not having real new ideas since the New Dealers, triangulation, and not understanding the potential backlash over now Senator Clinton’s health care task force. By 1994 Republicans already had a sophisticated media delivery system for their agenda – which has often been sited as the reason for them current dominance of government at every level. Those of you have that been skeptical of incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid should take some comfort in knowing that Democratic rapid response is up and running out of his office. Listen to the OTM story, or read it tomorrow, titled Politicking in Unison. Perhaps the Bush Administration will meet a similar fate they continue to lobby for expensive and inefficient changes to Social Security. Did you see how fast they had a comment from a Roosevelt last week?

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