E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote a recent column that covers the recent Third Way meeting in Charleston, SC. There is the usual blather from the attendees who describe themselves as “moderates” against leftists in the Democratic Party. But Dionne goes on to take some quotes from Third Way President Jon Cowan that supposedly demonstrates that centrists are moving leftward. First, Cowan gave the usual criticism of progressives, and then there was the second part of his speech:
But what came later in Cowan’s speech may have been the larger and more important revelation: that the group is not offering “a warmed-over 1990s centrism.” Cowan’s critique of what were, after all, the years of Bill Clinton’s presidency was not hedged: “Back then,” he said, “we placed too much trust in the market’s ability to provide a reliable and realistic path to prosperity for most Americans. In the last 30 years, we have seen the impact of globalization and automation on our workers. And it is clear that a rising tide will not lift all boats.”
Then, Matt Bennett the Executive Vice President said this:
Nonetheless, he added: “We have to own some of the mistakes of the New Democrats” of the Clinton era. Among them, he said, was underestimating the effect of trade liberalization on a significant number of blue-collar workers and “the speed and ferocity with which technology would decimate certain sectors of the American workforce.” A particularly negative effect of this was the “concentration of opportunity” in certain regions as large parts of the country were left behind.
Bennett goes on to say that “We need to be working to tame capitalism.”
Dionne argues that the centrists in the Democratic Party realize that they made mistakes, and they are acknowledging some of the progressive criticism of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s Administrations. And centrists are supposedly leaking to the Media that they would be happier if Elizabeth Warren won versus Bernie Sanders.
Third Way has been around in one form or another since 1985. And the probusiness Democrats have been ascendent since that time. Meanwhile, Democratic political fortunes plunged under their guidance. And I do not believe for one nanosecond that this group of corporate politicians has any intention of changing their economic agenda.
Some of the economic quick hits of centrists and Third Way politicians:
- Embrace of free trade which is now rejected by many Americans. How else do you explain the success of the orange baboon? He ran against NAFTA and the TPP.
- Cutting Social Security benefits. Even Obama was into cutting Social Security to come up with the mythical “Grand Bargain” with Republicans.
- Deregulating Wall Street and the Big Banks. Remember who helped out to weaken Dodd-Frank? Many centrist Democrats and others who got lots of campaign cash from the banks.
- Opposition to a living wage.
I think that they still believe in this corporate economic agenda because it is where their money comes from. And another prime example of this is Joe Biden’s recent comments to a bunch of his wealthy donors. Biden reassured his wealthy donors that he would not “demonize” them, and they would suffer no loss in their standard of living.
Except for Biden’s moment of honesty, I believe that Third Way and other centrists are just going to appropriate some of the language of the left or economic populism. They will say that they are committed to changing the economic system, but they will argue to do it gradually or incrementally and not jeopardize economic growth. And in the end, they will do nothing, or they will do some window dressing.
I think E.J. Dionne Jr. means well in his column, but I do not trust Third Way or centrists politicians.