Twenty years is a long time for ideas to percolate. Younger voters and pundits supported Obama without understanding why Democrats were saddled with the “big government” label in the first place. The only Democratic president in their memory was also the only one who didn’t seriously goose the size of government. And the Democrat who won in 2008 was a serious-sounding fellow from the University of Chicago who repeatedly promised “pay as you go” budgeting, no tax increase for 95 percent of Americans, and a “net spending cut.”
Did these liberals—some of whom frequently flashed their free trade credentials during the Bush administration—just forget what they used to believe? Or are they suppressing their principles until Obama announces that the economic crisis has finally been solved and we can resume regularly scheduled fiscal sobriety? Either way, their ongoing silence has to count as one of the great underreported political stories of the Obama presidency.
The New Democrats may be gone, but many of their worst policies—on criminal justice and foreign policy especially—are still locked into place. We replaced politically insincere, base-distancing market enthusiasts with deadly serious, interest-group-embracing Keynesians. Come back, 1990s. All is forgiven.