Not enough of us have been asking how our politics had moved so far to the right, farther to the right than main street Republicans wanted. Today, in the Republican Party, the center is somewhere around where the John Birch Society was in the 1960's. Now, that's a serious shift, because Ayn Rand was shunned by that Republican Party, including conservatives like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater. But, as a progressive, I know that shifts don't happen overnight. Something else had changed. Something had changed at the hands of Democrats. And it was NOT that they were too "liberal." I think it was quite the opposite.
What if Republicans really hated William Jefferson Clinton because he outflanked them and won the loyalty of their wealthy business elites? He did that! In turning away from the New Deal and undermining Unions, decimating welfare, making "free trade" and NAFTA a priority, deregulating banks and insurance companies, building the police/prison State and ratcheting up the war on drugs, President Clinton moved Democrats so far to the right that he gained the support of the banksters and hedge fund managers.
Because of Clinton's brilliant strategic maneuver, the Republicans had to get even more extreme in their oligarchic side in order and win over white racists in the South and North or they could never beat the Democrats from the right. By outflanking the Republicans, Clinton triggered their move far to the right for survival. In doing that, they were vulnerable to being taken over by the John Birch Society and Tea Party, which they did. Gradually, this displaced the conservative, main street Republicans who had dominated the party - and who had managed to keep racists and confederates at bay for the sake of national unity.
So, Clinton's move into neoliberalism and his partnership with the financial elites destabilized American politics. His shrewd maneuver gave him tons of money in his presidential races and decimated Republican fundraising, forcing them to double down on the Southern strategy and dog-whistle racist politics. The dude is really popular and really, really smart and energetic, but must have confused his personal interests and short-term political gain, for the long-term interests of our nation. Of course, most people who aspire to the Presidency are predisposed to thinking that they are wise and great leaders. Otherwise, why would they have been short-listed as President?
Clinton unintentionally ended up sending America into a right wing death spiral. When common sense was desperately needed because of the resurgence of racism, economic decline, Southern obstructionism, FoxNews and Tea Party extremists, it was nowhere to be found. There were/are few adults left to address our crises of infrastructure, out of control police/security State, education and catastrophic climate change. Most every Democrat has been blinded by Clinton's success and has followed his march to the right.
Obama may not be as "free market" Ayn Randian as Clinton, but his administration is pretty far down that path and very close to the out-of-power main street Republicans. The problem is that Obama and Clinton did not have enough respect for the power of greed and corruption. They are inadvertently making evil more efficient, thinking that the economic gain will trickle down from the elites, assuming that capital is more important than labor.
Short-term gain vs. long-term survival of our democracy is at stake. They win elections, but we lose our middle class, our standard of living, our chance to live sustainably in a free nation. They win the Presidency but lose Congress. Needless to say, the Republicans have also suffered in this process. They have lost their moral center and face challenges from libertarians, although without a deep tradition, libertarians are very easily drawn in the the Republican Tea Party camp. What of the future? Let's see what Obama does with his time left in office. I actually think that he can now be free of Clinton's legacy, if he is read to step forward.