The major reason why any ordinary people might have had an interest in defending Bill Clinton’s presidency all these years was because they supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations, which this post has nothing to do with. There’s really nothing much for progressives to like in that story–NAFTA, welfare reform, the crime bill, all stuff that greatly harmed Democrats (and America) on the one hand; and on the other, corporate giveaways like the DMCA, bank and telecom deregulation, and (also) NAFTA. Honestly the best deal was probably CHIP in exchange for capital gains cuts, which is practically the definition of a Faustian bargain. It was pretty bad all-around. I guess he appointed two pretty good Supreme Court Justices and had some slightly positive effect upon the economy, but other than that, I’m not sure how one would even defend this presidency on a progressive basis other than relativistically (which is typically the way it’s done). Not that I’m wishing that Bush Sr. had won in 1992, because Roe would be a thing of ancient history by now if he had. (The unlikely Perot win, of course, would have been like Trump winning, but at least Perot had better views on abortion and the like.) But, is there any reason to believe that a Mario Cuomo presidency would have been better? I think there is–Cuomo owed more to unions than Clinton did and represented the old pre-DLC Democratic Party, which it would have remained had he run. (Also, the idea that we needed Bill Clinton to win the general seems incorrect to me–he couldn’t even hold together Dukakis’s coalition on his way to a 42% finish. He won much of the South but in a three-way contest requiring much lower vote percentages. Not too difficult to imagine Cuomo matching Clinton’s general performance and also winning a second term based on the economy.)

Anyway, there are no more Hillary Clinton presidential aspirations so I have to wonder if anybody besides Jon Chait will bother to defend these choices. Of course, of course, the context was different. I can accept that to some degree for welfare reform and the crime bill. But nobody was pining for NAFTA. And all this sort of stuff was supposed to help Team D in a way that never happened. Triangulation was bad for Democrats because they just became one of the two options that Clinton rejected. Ultimately, triangulation was only beneficial for Bill Clinton.

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