Nothing says Merry Christmas like another Democratic debate buried on the Saturday night before the holiday. Few people are focused on the farcical Democratic race, but there is a very real drama enveloping the party’s front-runner, and I don’t mean the ongoing FBI investigation.
Hillary Clinton has been on the national political scene for nearly 25 years, but she is still scrambling to find a compelling reason for her candidacy for president — partly because she’s solely about power and self-aggrandizement.
But more importantly, it’s also because she is struggling to navigate her way through the radical new Democratic Party of Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Bill De Blasio.
In her relative youth, Mrs. Clinton was a notorious leftist who studied under the Communist radical Saul Alinsky. She wasn’t as effective an Alinskyite as Mr. Obama, but her heart was always with the leftists. That’s who she is temperamentally and ideologically.
Her husband, however, is not. He is a moderate Democrat, a Southern pragmatist who didn’t seek the destruction of the existing order but to work within it. As a result, he won the presidency twice.
She wants his kind of political success, but his Democratic Party no longer exists. She exists in Mr. Obama’s party. And she still hasn’t found her sea legs in it.
Here’s a question that should be asked of her at this Saturday’s debate:
“Mrs. Clinton: Your husband successfully moved the Democratic Party from the radical left to the center and was rewarded with two terms as president. President Obama has successfully moved the party back to the far left, which partly explains the enduring popularity of your primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders. In which version of the Democratic Party are you most comfortable, your husband’s moderate party or Mr. Obama’s far-left one?”
Here’s why it matters.
In 1968, there were three major groups on the political scene: the Great Silent Majority, led by Richard Nixon; mainstream Democrats, led by Hubert Humphrey; and the radical leftists who sought to transform America into a socialist utopia.
The leftists poured into Chicago in 1968 for the Democratic National Convention, sparking riots that led to chaos and violence — and took over the party. Nineteen sixty-eight would mark the last pro-American Democratic president ticket in Humphrey-Muskie.
In the subsequent years, the leftists used their leverage within the party to nominate fellow radicals: George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama. The pro-American Democrats were sidelined by the most viciously anti-American elements of the leftist movement. Some weren’t even part of the Democratic Party at all but were avowed socialists and communists. And yet they managed the wholesale takeover of the party, which they commandeered to one electoral disaster after another.
Those political losses occurred in large part because the centrist Democrats fled. They opposed massive expansions of government power, believed in a strong foreign policy and truly loved America, were thus grandfathered in to the Great Silent Majority. Many of them had been supporters of Democrats Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Humphrey. As time went on, their ranks slowly dwindled.
The lone exception was Bill Clinton, who was a product of two developments: the perceived end of the Cold War, which generated domestic confidence in handing national security over to a Democrat; and the rise of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which cultivated “third way” candidates between the Republicans and the left.
For more than a quarter of a century, the DLC promoted centrism and championed pro-free-market Democrats. Its goal was to get Democrats back to the mass-market center in which they had thrived before the leftist takeover. During its zenith, the DLC boasted members such as Sens. Sam Nunn, Joseph Lieberman, Evan Bayh and Charles Robb, as well as congressmen such as Rep. Harold Ford Jr. and Democratic National Committee Chairman Ed Rendell.
Unfortunately, like many of the moderate Democrats it supported, the DLC met a grisly end. When the left achieved its ultimate victory in 2008 with the election of Mr. Obama, the moderate “Blue Dog” Democrats were whipped into submission by the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who made sure they voted their way on highly unpopular, big-government programs, such as Obamacare and “stimulus” spending.
In November 2010, those moderate Democrats were routed. Almost half of the Blue Dog coalition lost re-election, and the DLC found that it no longer had a vibrant Democratic middle to serve. It shuttered in February 2011. Democratic centrism had been rendered irrelevant once and for all.
That is the party in which Mrs. Clinton now swims.
And she may well find that, like the DNC, she’s going extinct in Obama’s America.
• Monica Crowley is editor of online opinion at The Washington Times.