NEW YORK—"It was Bill Clinton who recognized that the categories of conservative and liberal played to Republican advantage and were inadequate to address our problems," President Barack Obama wrote in his book The Audacity of Hope. "Clinton's third way ... tapped into the pragmatic, non-ideological attitude of Americans."
Clinton's "third way" was "triangulation," a candidate's attempt to position himself above and between the left and the right. A Democrat, Clinton insulated himself from Republican attacks by appropriating their ideas. Obama is even more of a triangulator.
Triangulation can work for candidates in the short term. Clinton got re-elected by a landslide in 1996. (It failed, though, for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.) But triangulation hurts parties, which sell an ideological point of view.
Clinton's greatest achievements were Republican planks: free trade deals like NAFTA, welfare reform, balancing the federal budget on the backs of the poor and working class.
Because of Clintonian triangulation, the liberal base of the Democratic Party saw the 1990s as a squandered opportunity: eight years of unprecedented economic expansion with not one new social program. They got the message: voting Democratic doesn't guarantee Democratic policies.
Obama ran as a centrist, but he's not a moderate president. Obama is a Republican, thanks to triangulation gone wild. In his first year, Obama continued numerous Bush administration policies, many of which originated in the far extreme wing of the GOP.
It took more than a year, but Obama can finally point to two legislative achievements: health-care reform and reducing private banks' role in student loans. The student loan bill is liberal but too modest. Student loans ought to be replaced by grants. Ultimately, universities and colleges will have to be nationalized.
Obama's revamp of health care, on the other hand, goes too far, perverting the liberal desire to provide health care for all into a transfer of wealth from poor to rich.
Buying into the flawed American assumption that a bad system can't get worse, ObamaCare entrusts 30 million new customers--to the tune of roughly 10 grand a year each--to the mercies of private insurance companies.
ObamaCare pours hundreds of billions of dollars into the coffers of corporations. Once people are paying more for visits to the same crappy doctors they can't afford now, they'll hold the Dems responsible. And here's the kicker: Not only will the insurance companies make higher profits, so will the government.
The Congressional Budget Office projects the U.S. Treasury will come out ahead by $130 billion over 10 years. But again, think about it: If the health-care bill is making a profit for the government, where is that $130 billion coming from? You and me.
Obama, the media and many of us have forgotten what the problem was: Health-care costs were too high. Now, they'll go higher.
Democrats will lose seats in Congress. It may already be too late to keep the White House in 2012. But if they continue to follow the triangulation strategy, they could destroy themselves for years. They might even expose the overall bankruptcy of our two-party pseudo-democracy.