No, I am not thinking of all the missteps by Bill this primary season.
I was actually thinking about how Bill destroyed Hillary’s chances of winning the nomination way back in the 1990’s. If we look at Obama and Hillary’s base, it is a class divide. The professional, upper, middle class leans towards Obama, while the working class leans towards Hillary.
Since the 1930’s, the Democrats have been organized into two main coalitions; working class, and professional liberals.
The working class coalition was motivated by economic liberalism with strong support from unions. Their overreaching progressive ideal was making the economic sphere fair for the working class. The working class was the dominant coalition in FDR’s New Deal programs. In fact, in 1932 FDR had to rely on ex socialists and communists to get the New Deal through.
The upper, middle class, liberal coalition is best seen in the emergence of the DLC. Unlike the working class coalition which emphasized economic justice and downplayed social issues, the DLC down played economic issues, and emphasized social issues. In 1992, Bill Clinton became the face of the New Democratic Party.
In Bill Clinton’s 8 year rule, he sided with the Republicans and passed Welfare Reform, promoted conservative balanced budgets, and passed NAFTA. As Thomas Frank wrote in both One Market Under God and What’s the Matter with Kansas the economic conservative rule of the New Democrats caused the working class to abandon the Democratic Party for the Republican Party. As Frank points out, a major consequence of taking economic issues off the table is social issues became front and center in both political parties.
Today, Hillary has quite the problem. The voter base she relies has greatly shrunk because of the policies of her husband. Many of the voters in Hillary’s voter base are in the Republican Party supporting Huckabee. If Hillary continued to push an economically liberal message, she would very likely win over those voters back in the general election.
The problem for Hillary is the working class is a dwindling force in the Democratic Party. The irony is the heir to the now dominant upper, middle class, liberal coalition is not herself, but Obama. Obama is and will be Bill Clinton on steroids.