Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Clintons as Mosiac Figures

Matt Yglesias links to a Harold Meyerson editorial arguing that, while Bill Clinton was an extraordinarily important figure for the resurrection of the Democratic Party, in order to take that next step we need to leave him and his family behind. He uses the Biblical metaphor of the Exodus -- Jews had to wander in the desert for forty years so those with the slave mentality would die out, and a new generation -- born in freedom -- could take command. Ultimately, Moses himself, the leader responsible for Jewish liberation, dies just short of reaching the Promised Land.

Yglesias comments:
It's hard to imagine more thankless tasks than organizing for George McGovern in Texas or bearing the torch of progressive politics in late-1970s and early-1980s Arkansas. And of course Bill Clinton really did take the lessons learned from winning in that inhospitable territory and put the Democratic Party back in the White House. From that vantage point, he governed well and proved to a country that had come to doubt it that Democrats could be trusted to run the federal government. But is 2008 the hour of Mark Penn? I don't see it.

Even as an Obama supporter, this makes me very sad. Moses, of course, is a tragic figure. And, given the debt we owe Bill Clinton, it seems churlish to toss him aside as we finally reap the benefits he did so much to sow. It's hard to remember now (especially for folks of my generation, who grew up in the Clinton era), but prior to his election the Democratic Party was seen as dead in the water. Even as late as 1992, cartoonists were making jokes about how it'd be easier to run as a Communist and win than as a Democrat. Clinton got us out of the wilderness and resurrected the party brand.

No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, he is owed a great debt of gratitude for that. And no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, both he and his wife deserve a place of honor in the Democratic pantheon -- historically and in the future.

1 comment:

PG said...

Am I the only person who laughed out loud at the thought of the Democratic Party as the wandering Jews and Bill Clinton as Moses?