ALLIERADE | Det var ingen tillfällighet att Bill Clinton var en av huvudtalarna vid demokraternas partikonvent i Charlotte.
Clinton är den främste företrädaren för vad som kallas New Democrats – en mitten-höger falang inom partiet som ser mer positivt på näringslivet och personligt ansvarstagande än vad den genomsnitlige Obama-anhängaren gör.
Clinton var på sin tid populär bland mittenväljare, liberala republikaner och Independents. Exakt samma väljare som i mångt och mycket har vänt Barack Obama ryggen under hans snart fyra år i Vita huset.
Med dagens dåliga ekonomi och en president som många väljare uppfattar befinna sig på vänsterkanten har Obama inte längre råd att tacka nej till draghjälp från Clinton.
Peter J. Boyer skriver i Newsweek:
The left’s complaint about Clintonism was that it made the party less distinct from the GOP—which, in effect, it did. When Clinton, Gore, and other Democratic centrists joined the Democratic Leadership Council in the 1980s, their purpose was to find a way to sell a liberal program to a nation that consistently rejected it, by moderating the program. The DLC emphasized private-sector growth and government efficiency, personal responsibility, and an affirmation of mainstream values. The chief prize was the Reagan Democrat—that white, working-class voter who was increasingly going Republican in places like Clinton’s Arkansas.
Clinton called those voters “the forgotten middle class,” and he appealed to them not only with his New Democrat policy program, but by relating to them personally, and grounding his own political identity in their experiences. The main thrust of that ’92 convention, and of much of the campaign thereafter, was to introduce Clinton to America as “the man from Hope,” who never knew his father, and whose mother left him with her parents while she attended nursing school. “He devoted his candidacy to that forgotten middle class, it was a conscious strategy,” says Paul Begala, a key Clinton strategist, who now advises the super PAC supporting Obama (and who is a contributor to The Daily Beast).
Although anti-Clintonism wasn’t the overt theme of Obama’s 2008 candidacy (it is surprising, in retrospect, the degree to which “Hope and Change” seemed agenda enough in that referendum election), Obama’s presidency has seemed, in key regards, a repudiation of the New Democrat idea. Clinton Democrats embraced business; Obama attacked private equity. A New Democrat would have championed the Keystone XL Pipeline; Obama, yielding to environmentalists, has resisted it. Although Obama campaigned in coal country in 2008 as a friend of the industry (and of all those blue-collar jobs associated with it), his Environmental Protection Agency has established regulations so severe that one administration official admitted, “if you want to build a coal plant you got a big problem.” Many of the workers affected by such policies are swing-state voters, who are also keenly sensitive to values issues. Obama’s health-care mandates on contraception may help him with single women and urban voters, but it might hurt him among Catholics in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act; Obama stopped enforcing it, and then declared himself a supporter of gay marriage—the day after North Carolinians voted a traditional definition of marriage into the state’s constitution.
With a terrible economy as his greatest vulnerability, Obama has lately taken to claiming Clinton’s economic approach as his own (“we’ve tried our plan, and it worked”)—a reach that galls some Clintonites. “What David Axelrod and Obama have done is they have substituted class warfare for Clintonism,” says Doug Schoen, a Democratic political analyst and pollster (including for Newsweek and The Daily Beast) who has advised both Clintons. “At every juncture, they have substituted class-based politics—resentment of the rich, taxing the rich—for fiscal discipline, and prudence.”
Obama, whose father was absent, and who was raised by a single mother and who, for a time, relied on food stamps, has downplayed his own very Clintonian tale. “It’s very much available to him, I can’t say why he doesn’t do it,” Begala says. “It’s so interesting to me that the guy who has written the most literate presidential autobiography since I don’t know who, has somehow lost the narrative thread of his character, the character in his play.”
Bild: Tidskriftsomslaget är den amerikanska utgåvan av Newsweek den 10 september 2012.