I think there is such a thing as Clintonism. And I think it’s one of the main reasons why the Republican Party, back in the 1990s, were very determined to crush Bill Clinton – either before he became president, or to destroy his credibility in office. They thought he was taking their ideas and packaging them as progressive politics.
We look back now, and this idea of the Third Way, as it becomes known, is so synonymous in the UK with Tony Blair, and because of how that all came to an end, it seems rather inglorious. But one need not be too much of a fantasist to see how that approach to politics could have continued quite successfully – had Florida gone the other way in 2000 and Al Gore been elected president, as a New Democrat, as Bill Clinton positioned himself.
At heart, Hillary is a cautious, small-c conservative who in the UK would be quite at home in the centre ground of British politics.
Bill Clinton’s great hope was to distinguish himself from Democrats of the past, people like Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy, and position himself as a proponent of a moderate, reforming centre-left around which traditional Democrats could coalesce – but which also what used to be referred to as Reagan Democrats could come home to. It was a system of government which, in Clinton’s own words, gave opportunity to all, but asked for responsibility from all. So, a reduced role for the federal government, but not an end to government involvement. Reform for welfare, not the end of welfare. And no fear of using US military power as and when necessary, but not as a first resort.
If we look at Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, it’s very different from 2008. That’s because of the presence of Bernie Sanders. He has certainly drawn Hillary further left than she wanted to run. At heart, she’s a cautious, small-c conservative who in the UK would be quite at home in the centre ground of British politics. She’s no great radical, and neither was her husband, so there is an overlap – but we’re talking about politics 25 years on, so there has been some movement from those early policies of Bill Clinton.