Clinton And The Mortality Of The Democratic Party

04/13/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Originally published on, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

By: Will Nelligan

In 2004, after he underwent quadruple bypass surgery, a lot of Americans (including myself) were put a little more in touch with President Clinton's own mortality. Now, as I find myself glued to my computer and television, awaiting information on his latest of heart troubles, I'm also thinking about the mortality of Mr. Clinton's party.

Despite personal scandals and political failures, Clinton turned out to be one of the most effective and popular presidents in United States history. While President Obama's staff has talked about learning from Clinton's failures; it seems like it might be time to also learn from the Clinton successes.

Bill Clinton was the first Democrat since FDR to win re-election to the presidency. This was pretty significant by itself, but more significantly, he won after raising the income tax on wealthy families, mandating family and medical leave, placing more restrictions on handguns, increasing funding to tax credits for working families, and creating the AmeriCorps service program. Not exactly centerpieces of a centrist agenda, and yet to today's Democratic leadership, most of what Clinton did during his two terms in office would be inconceivable; a death-knell for the party's electoral opportunities. Why?

In short, because Clinton was able to be all things to all people. Toni Morrison described him as "the first black president," a Rhodes Scholar and Georgetown lawyer who never seemed to rub away the common beginnings he shared with tens of millions of his constituents. The RNC couldn't label Clinton an elitist, a snob, or arrogant; in fact, they couldn't seem to label him as anything besides "the Teflon President."

In the past year, President Obama hasn't enjoyed the same popularity or legislative success. And the president's instinct to tackle every issue from a bold and visionary perspective has only made it easier for Republicans to scare people into joining their political causes.

While it can't be easy for President Obama to focus on the practical and the immediate, when his instincts are the opposite, that's what he needs to do, to earn the trust that Bill Clinton enjoyed as president.

Focusing on the jobs bill, in the way President Obama has done, might begin to turn the tide. If the talking points around creating close to a 100,000 jobs per month prove to be accurate, I bet we'll see some notching up in his approval ratings.

Health care reform was a definite setback for Obama, but it took Roosevelt more than half a decade to initiate Social Security and it took Clinton nearly the entire length of his Presidency to create the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

President Obama was elected with a broad mandate, but voters didn't necessarily grant him sweeping trust. However, if he dives head-on into job creation as Roosevelt did, and full-force into improving the lives of working and middle class families as Clinton did, President Obama will more than earn the confidence of his country and the victory of his party. He'll earn himself a spot as a rightful heir to the transformational presidency.

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