Reelecting Bill Clinton: Why America Chose a "New Democrat"

By Ledbetter, Calvin R., Jr. | The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Reelecting Bill Clinton: Why America Chose a "New Democrat"


Ledbetter, Calvin R., Jr., The Arkansas Historical Quarterly


Reelecting Bill Clinton. Why America Chose a "New Democrat. " By John Hohenberg. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997. Pp. x, 298. Appendix, index. $26.95.)

Contrary to the popular wisdom, which classified the 1996 presidential campaign as both boring and predictable, John Hohenberg in his book gives us a readable and interesting account of that election. He helps to explain why America again chose Bill Clinton, in preference to Bob Dole and Ross Perot, and how Clinton's ideological position as a "New" Democrat affected the campaign. It is the author's opinion that by moving the Democratic Party more to the right on such matters as crime, welfare reform, deficit reduction, and large governmental programs, Clinton captured the vital center of American politics and that this was one of the keys to winning a second term. This ideological shift plus Republican blunders, such as Dole's failure to answer convincingly the question of why change administrations, as well as a good economy and Clinton's superb campaign skills meant victory for the Democrats.

The book is divided into thirty-seven chapters, most of which are short and punchy. These chapters cover the 1996 campaign from start to finish. Unfortunately, there are no footnotes so sources are hard to check. The treatment of the Dole campaign is especially noteworthy. Dole was faced from the beginning with a Clinton lead in the polls of from 20 to 25 per cent. Despite Dole's attempts to narrow the lead by resigning from the United States Senate, choosing an energetic and articulate Jack Kemp as his running mate, and proposing a 15 percent across the board tax cut, Clinton's lead still refused to budge until late in the campaign. At one time, Dole was so far behind there was even some fear that he might finish third, behind both Clinton and Perot. …

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