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In the Clinton Schroeder example I'm saying that someone who acts to make the tax system more progressive and seeks to enact measures that will increase government support for the poor is arguably to the left of someone who does the reverse. What a politician expends their political capital on says more about them than an abstract ideological spectrum. That's because forcing through changes is what is difficult. That one person starts off with a system that is well to the right of the other needs to be taken into account. Otherwise you can start making the argument that Thatcher was to the left of LBJ, for example, because after Thatcher the UK had universal health care and the US didn't. And no, few Germans would agree with me about Schroeder, but that's cause they don't understand or know America, so rather than evaluating Clinton according to the context he was operating him, they do so as if he were a German politician working in Germany. On health care Clinton failed partly because he came up with a godawful mess of a compromise in the vain hope of assuaging the insurance industry, but partly because the American health care crisis was in its early stages. Managed care was in had only begun to spread a few years earlier, many people still had the old style health insurance that functioned like a wonderful single payer system - no dealing with bureaucracy, no worrying about approvals or reimbursements, just go to the doctor of your choice, present your card and you're free to go. Basically what Clinton was promising was their nightmare - managed care, in return he would away the fear of being uninsured, but very few voters were.

The shift in liberal thinking is the disenchantment with neo-liberalism, with the blind worship of the market. Not necessarily among the population as a whole, but among the self-consciously liberal elites. Krugman is a perfect example of that change - from orthodox neolib to something else entirely.

You might as well give up, because 35 years of making deals with the moderates (remember, Jimmy Carter was a moderate too - the 2nd cold war started under him, as did the deregulation which Reagan of course accelerated) sure hasn't gotten anything done. Quite the contrary, it has simply facilitated the nation's drift rightward.

It is funny how Carter is remembered, a mix of successful propaganda and the fact that he's been much more left wing as an ex-president. (Though I like the foreign policy part - my foreign policy politics are well to the right of my domestic ones). Still, the same sort of compromising also got us LBJ's Great Society. Compromise isn't a good or bad thing in itself, it's the results that count. If the next president can move the country substantially to the left, I'll be happy even if it doesn't go as far as I'd like due to the need to get the moderates on board.

by MarekNYC on Fri Jan 12th, 2007 at 01:20:54 AM EST
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