But the Clintonian synthesis has been orphaned for ideological reasons, not because it was tested and found to fail. Liberals simply don’t want to believe that low-income Americans, black and Hispanic as well as white, might benefit from public paternalism in welfare policy, soft “values” rhetoric on marriage and family, and restrictions on illegal immigration — even though the working class’s best recent decade featured a Democratic president who embraced all three.They don’t want to believe that soaring incomes for the 1 percent, their great bugaboo, can coexist with real gains for the middle class – even though the two coexisted in the late 1990s.They don’t want to put any limits on soaking the rich and their investments — even if that means going way above the tax rates that prevailed during the economy’s last impressive boom.Not that conservatives have been all that interested in learning from Clintonism either. Two decades after the G.O.P. insisted, wrongly, that any tax increase on the rich would devastate the economy, the Republican tax agenda is still founded on a supply-side absolutism the ’90s boom should have laid to rest.This leaves our politics in a peculiar place. Within the memory of everyone save the youngest Bernie Bros and social socialists, there was an era that delivered something for the many, that put almost every trendline on a better arc.
Yet the politics of that era are orphaned — so much so that not even a Clinton will defend Clintonism anymore.