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It's Not Your Father's Democratic Party: How the Party has Changed for the Worse since Clinton's era

Today’s Democratic Party is an institution beholden to its public-sector union clients, academics, Eastern elites, and the crony capitalists who give it funding and benefit from the White House’s largesse when it gives them contracts -- such as those for the failed energy companies like Solyndra.

Its base is the anti-business and anti-war Left, symbolized by the likely-to-fail campaign for Senate in Massachusetts waged by Elizabeth Warren. Hers, like that of the president, is that of a party that has taken “an ever-more-stridently leftward turn.” Gone is the emphasis of the DLC for private-sector growth, government efficiency, personal responsibility, and what Boyer writes is “an affirmation of mainstream values.” And one should add that also gone is a tough foreign policy against very real enemies, replaced by Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy. This has left the U.S. without influence to stop the slaughter in Syria, to defend Israel from ever growing attacks, and, most importantly, to force Iran to stop preparing the enrichment of uranium.

Boyer highlights the very real differences:

Obama’s presidency has seemed, in key regards, a repudiation of the New Democrat idea. Clinton Democrats embraced business; Obama attacked private equity. A New Democrat would have championed the Keystone XL Pipeline; Obama, yielding to environmentalists, has resisted it. Although Obama campaigned in coal country in 2008 as a friend of the industry (and of all those blue-collar jobs associated with it), his Environmental Protection Agency has established regulations so severe that one administration official admitted, “if you want to build a coal plant you got a big problem.” Many of the workers affected by such policies are swing-state voters, who are also keenly sensitive to values issues. Obama’s health-care mandates on contraception may help him with single women and urban voters, but it might hurt him among Catholics in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act; Obama stopped enforcing it, and then declared himself a supporter of gay marriage -- the day after North Carolinians voted a traditional definition of marriage into the state’s constitution.

Pollster Doug Schoen says Obama has “substituted class warfare for Clintonism.”

“I think the New Democrat movement can be saved,” says Al From, founder of the Democratic Leadership Council. “We do go through cycles. But it would have been a lot better if we had had a second New Democrat president to cement it.”

From, speaking to Boyer, ties the change to those he calls the “cultural liberals,” reflected in the press, academia, New York’s Upper West Side and Brooklyn’s Park Slope, and, of course, most of the film academy and big Hollywood boosters of Obama like George Clooney. The rest of the party’s base is made up of those who get government checks and those in the business community who get what From calls “corporate welfare.” In other words, the party has become “the party of elites and dependents.”

Given this reality, it is not a surprise that during the Republican National Convention -- as I said in my previous column -- the media did not highlight the speech by Jane Edmonds or even let most people know of the defection to the Republican side of former Alabama Congressman Arthur Davis, the man who seconded Obama’s nomination at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Davis is an African-American who must have taken great pride in the symbolic importance of a black man receiving the nomination of one of America’s major political parties. But Davis found that Obama had taken a different path than that which allowed Democrats in the South to gain electoral victories. Rather than trying to get those who had voted for Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan to vote for him, Obama, Davis points out, “was figuring out how to rally the Democratic base around him,” and he never “had to do what Clinton had to do …which was to figure out how to construct some kind of other political case that appealed to conservative-leaning voters.”