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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Third-Way Criticism of Third-Way Clintons

Matt Yglesias read my quick take on Obama’s economics speech this morning as representing a distinctly “third-wayish” take on the role of government in the economy, and offered this dissent:

What struck me was the digs at the actually existing third way regime of the 1990s, when a certain someone’s husband was president, and when Obama says the powers-that-were betrayed the vision of a mixed market approach in favor of run-amok corporate power.

He goes on to quote a section of the speech that squarely says the financial de-regulation efforts of the late 1990s were excessive and destructive, in no small part because of blandishments from Wall Street lobbyists. He doesn’t note, though I should have, that Obama twice blames “Democratic and Republican administrations” for the current failure of oversight. I don’t think Obama was referring to the Johnson or Carter administrations.
So Matt’s right, though I don’t think that means I was wrong. The overall construction of the speech was indeed “third-wayish,” and in fact implies that the Clinton administration erred in going over the brink into something approaching the conservative laissez-faire ideology. So Obama is able simultaneously (in conventional terms) to attack the Clintons from the left while maintaining a firm position in the center, which on this and other subjects the GOP has long abandoned. Whether Obama’s history of oversight malfeasance is accurate or not, it’s pretty good politics.

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