Michael Barone: Obama, Brown, and the ‘Third Way’

Roundup: Media's Take

[Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner.]

Left parties are in trouble in the Anglosphere. Here in America, Democrats are doing worse in the polls today than at any time in the last 50 years. In Britain, the Labour party is on the brink of finishing third, behind both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, in the election next Thursday.

All of which raises the question: What happened to the “third way” center-left movement that once seemed to sweep all before it?

Only a dozen years ago, in 1998, President Clinton enjoyed 70 percent job approval. Prime Minister Blair was basking in adulation in his first full year in office.

Bill Clinton’s “third way” New Democrats and Tony Blair’s “New Labour” party seemed to have a bright and long future ahead. Clinton’s designated successor, Al Gore, despite some ham-handed campaigning, came out ahead in the popular vote in 2000 and lost the presidency by only some hundreds of votes in Florida. With Blair at its head, Labour won an unprecedented series of three general-election victories, winning reelection in 2001 and 2005.

Now, less than a generation later, both New Democrats and New Labour seem defunct.

Both parties have moved well to the left. Barack Obama and Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, head governments that are running budget deficits of 10 percent of gross domestic product. Both are promoting higher taxes and expansion of government programs....

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