Just to answer Mike Gerson’s title of his column, no. Democrats are not stuck in 1979, but some are. Pre-1976 and why the Democratic Party lost back-to-back presidential elections in 1968 and 72 and in 72 Senator George McGovern loses to President Richard Nixon in a landslide, Democrats were seen as what would be called redistributionist, welfare statists Social Democrats that would be more into government dependence and redistribution to help people in need and to try to make the economy more equal. Than to empower people at the bottom and near-bottom with things like economic growth, job creation, job training and education. So they could get ahead in America as well.
Jimmy Carter comes along in 1976 and tries to change how the Democratic Party was seen and no longer make it look like a big government welfare statist party that it was seen as before. He had limited success obviously as a New Democrat, but he had a social democratic, Democratic led Congress to deal with. That had large majorities to deal with in both the House and Senate, all four years as President. Which meant if President Carter wanted to get any of his more new democratic proposals accomplished, things like welfare reform and what would become the Affordable Care Act in 2010, trade, deficit reduction, he had to work with Congressional Republicans. Without losing too many Democrats especially in the leadership.
The Democratic Party post-Jimmy Carter would lose too more landslide presidential elections in 1984 and 88. Why, one because they were running against Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Americans started feeling good again. But two, they were still seen as a social democratic McGovernite party that they were seen as in 1972. The Democratic Party of 1968 and 72 was much further left than the LBJ Great Society Progressive Democrats of the 1960s. The New Deal/Great Society Progressive Democrats of the 1930s and 60s, were now replaced with McGovernite New Left Democrats that is known as Occupy Wall Street today. That sees Bernie Sanders as their hero and perhaps Elizabeth Warren. But not Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.
When it comes to rhetoric, President Obama is further left than President Bill Clinton and certainly Hillary Clinton. Who I believe in Hillary’s case may be to the right of her husband rhetorically. But their policies when it comes to crime, trade, foreign policy, national security, civil rights, fiscal policy are fairly similar. Barack Obama at times at least may sound like a Elizabeth Warren Progressive, but he governs like a New Democrat. Which is how he ran for president in the 2008 general election, how he’s governed as President and how he ran for reelection in 2012.
As much as Republicans and perhaps even Mike Gerson, who tends to be much smarter than this, but as much as they want to paint Barack Obama as some New Left or Far Left Social Democrat or something, he’s not. I mean why do you think his so-called progressive base is not happy with him? Why do you think they were disappointed with him in his first term and still are today? Because they thought he was one of them. A Dennis Kucinich or George McGovern or Bernie Sanders. People that far to the left can’t get elected President of the United States. Barack Obama is a center-left moderate to liberal-progressive president, who is not far enough to the left for me on social issues. That is how he has governed, because that is who he is.