Thursday, April 21, 2016

Other views: "Trumpism and Clintonism Are the Future"

Following are selected snippets from Michael Lind's essay in the NY Times Campaign Stops series (April 16th). (h/t Michele Manos)

As long as my post is, it does not do justice to Lind's analysis. You need to read the whole essay for the reasoning behind Lind's positions and observations summarized here.

No matter who wins the New York primaries on Tuesday or which candidates end up as the presidential nominees of the two major parties, one thing is already clear: Trumpism represents the future of the Republicans and Clintonism the future of the Democrats.

Those who see the nationalist populism of Mr. Trump as an aberration in a party that will soon return to free-market, limited government orthodoxy are mistaken. So are those who believe that the appeal of Senator Bernie Sanders to the young represents a repudiation of the center-left synthesis shared by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. In one form or another, Trumpism and Clintonism will define conservatism and progressivism in America.

This may turn out to be the most turbulent election year since 1968, but the source of the turbulence is different. The presidential election of 1968 was a milestone in partisan realignment — the breakup of the mid-20th-century Democrats and Republicans and the reshuffling of voter blocs among the two parties. In 2016, this half-century process of partisan realignment is all but complete. What we are seeing instead of partisan realignment is policy realignment — the adjustment of what each party stands for to its existing voter base.


Whatever becomes of his bid for the presidency, Mr. Trump exposed the gap between what orthodox conservative Republicans offer and what today’s dominant Republican voters actually want — middle-class entitlements plus crackdowns on illegal immigrants, Muslims, foreign trade rivals and free-riding allies. Other candidates less flawed than Mr. Trump and more acceptable to the Republican establishment, like Ted Cruz, are likely to bring Republican policy positions and Republican voter preferences more closely into alignment, by moving somewhat to the left on middle-class entitlements and somewhat to the right on immigration and trade.


A similar process of policy realignment is underway among the Democrats. But notwithstanding the enthusiasm of the young for Bernie Sanders, the major tension is not between Mr. Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It is between Hillary Clinton and the legacy of Bill Clinton.

This realignment within the Democratic Party requires Hillary Clinton to distance herself from many of the policies of her husband’s administration and to adopt policies favored by her party’s core constituencies. On issues from criminal justice to immigration enforcement, that is precisely what she has done. Even if she had not been challenged by Mr. Sanders, she probably would have done this anyway, because with the departure of the Reagan Democrats, the Democratic coalition has shifted to the left.

Democratic socialism?

The centrality of identity politics, rather than progressive economics, to the contemporary Democratic Party is nothing new. In 1982, the Democratic National Committee recognized seven official caucuses: women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, gays, liberals and business/professionals. Thirty-four years later, this is the base of the Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton. The pro-Sanders left objects to the solicitude of the Democratic Party for Wall Street and Silicon Valley, the sources of much of its funding. But it is safe to assume that most progressives, when confronted with conservative candidates, will prefer incremental, finance-friendly Clintonism over the right-wing alternative. Moreover, the ability or even willingness of Mr. Sanders to help down-ballot or state candidates is doubtful. The next generation of Democrats are figures like Julian and Joaquin Castro and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who are much more in the mold of the Clintons and Mr. Obama than of the maverick outsider Bernie Sanders.

Most important of all, it would be a serious mistake to assume that the growing sympathy of many of today’s millennials for the concept of democratic socialism as embodied by Mr. Sanders will translate into a social democratic America in the 2030s or 2050s. Half a century ago, as the Age of Aquarius gave way to the Age of Reagan, many of the hippies of the ’60s became, in effect, the yuppies of the ’80s — still socially liberal, but with new concerns about government spending, now that they were paying taxes and mortgages.

Gone for good?

For all of these reasons, it is likely that the future of the Democrats will be Clintonism — Hillary Clintonism, that is, a slightly more progressive version of neoliberalism freed of the strategic concessions to white working-class voters associated with Bill Clintonism. On the other side of the aisle, it is probably only a matter of time before the conflict between elite libertarianism and the populism of the voters in the Republican Party is resolved more or less in favor of the voters, by a new orthodoxy that moves left on entitlements and right on immigration, while eschewing Mr. Trump’s inflammatory approach.

In the larger perspective of history, 2016 proves that Roosevelt Democrats and Rockefeller Republicans are gone for good. Clinton Democrats and Trump Republicans are here to stay.

Scriber concludes

I know that many of you will find fault with Lind's analysis and I welcome your counterpoints. But even if Lind is right, Bernie Sanders has a role to play in the remaining months before the election and that is to push Clinton even further to the left. See my post on this from yesterday.

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