The biggest split in the Democratic Party today is between the neoliberal Clinton wing and those of us who want the party to act more like the 1960s Great Society or 1930s New Deal Democrats. What the “Bernie Bro” trope misses is that Bernie Sanders’ platform is far closer to the 20th Century Democratic platform than the center-right coalition built by Bill Clinton. This isn’t a dynamic that’s confined just to the internet or Democratic primaries, but for Democratic candidates in races against Republicans too. Per the New York Times:
In an election shaped by the #MeToo movement, where female candidates and voters are likely to drive any Democratic gains, Mr. Clinton finds his legacy tarnished by what some in the party see as his inability to reckon with his sexual indiscretions as president with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, as well as with past allegations of sexual assault. (Mr. Clinton has denied those allegations.) Younger and more liberal voters find little appeal in Mr. Clinton’s reputation for ideological centrism on issues like financial regulation and crime.
“I’m not sure that with all the issues he has, he could really be that helpful to the candidates,” said Tamika D. Mallory, an organizer of the Women’s March, who’s now promoting female candidates across the country. “It would do the Democratic Party well to have Bill Clinton focus on his humanitarian efforts.”
In August, the New Hampshire Democratic Party changed the name of its annual fall dinner from the “Kennedy-Clinton Dinner” to the “Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner.” Across the country, even former staffers of the 42nd president are rejecting his help to publicly campaign for them. The man known as the “explainer-in-chief” is now largely viewed as radioactive to publicly campaigning for liberal causes.
If you find yourself surprised by this news, ask yourself this: why would a party that is moving left each day want a man on the campaign trail who is known for being a womanizer (at best), who helped expand the federal prison system more than almost any president, and who cozied up to Wall Street unlike any Democratic president ever? Looking at liberal American politics from a historical perspective proves that Clinton’s conservative presidency was an outlier, not the new liberal standard.
This sentence from the Times helps encapsulate why so many of us on the left view the Clintons skeptically: “The couple still has pull, in part because of their decades-long personal relationships with so many strategists, donors and activists.”
Their “pull” is on the financial side of things—not on policy designed to help those that our political system has left behind. The strategists who devised a strategy that lost to Donald freaking Trump are still in the party and listening to the Clintons, and hatred of wealthy political donors is one of the few topics most Americans can agree on. In 25 years, Bill Clinton has gone from a new kind of Democrat to one who represents so many things that are wrong with the party and whose presence largely should be confined to history. The sooner the Democratic elite realizes how toxic all things Clinton are to liberal causes, the quicker the Democrats can regain their footing as a legitimately liberal, nationally competitive political party.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.