Gil Troy says the Clinton era never ended (interview)

Historians in the News
tags: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Clinton



News that Hillary Clinton unleashed her secret weapon—husband and 42nd President Bill Clinton—finally arrived this week. Following his first solo appearance at a campaign rally in New Hampshire on Monday, Mr. Clinton spoke twice, about national security and economic growth, before crowds in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, Iowa on Thursday. For many, his return to the campaign stage likely stirred memories of a more prosperous and secure time in the United States. Bill Clinton’s 1990s was a democratic gilded age. It also was a decade of dramatic social changes, technological revolution and spectacular political scandal. Leading this investigation of America during “The Age of Clinton” (St. Martin’s, 2015) is author and historian Gil Troy, who captures both the electrifying political charisma and unrealized promises of our first baby boomer president. Only four weeks from the Iowa Caucuses, Troy’s near-comprehensive chronology of the decade shaped by Bill Clinton provides timely insight into the Clinton family, his leadership and the Clinton legacy. Below is an edited transcript of RealClearBooks’ conversation with Gil Troy.

Q: Did the “Age of Clinton” end with the election of George W. Bush, is it beginning again with the emergence of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton or did it never end at all?

Clintonites would be quick to point out that George W. Bush was not “elected”: The Supreme Court selected him. Indeed, Al Gore not only won the popular vote in 2000, but on that morning, more Florida voters woke up intending to vote for Bill Clinton’s vice president. Still, regardless of what you think about the 2000 election outcome, the peace and prosperity that characterized the Clinton era ended dramatically on September 11, 2001 – and many Americans woke up the next day wondering why they had wasted the opportunities afforded by that 1990s interregnum.

So, yes, in some ways the “Age of Clinton” ended abruptly, tragically with Osama Bin Laden’s mass murders – let alone the economic crash of 2008. Today, even Hillary Clinton seems to be running away from key parts of the Clinton legacy, including Bill Clinton’s necessary, justified fight on crime and his lifting of regulations on Wall Street, as epitomized by the repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall act.

On the other hand, the “Age of Clinton” has continued, not only because Bill and Hillary Clinton have continued to dominate headlines, but because of many of the defining phenomena of the times persist, especially the rise of the Internet, the spread of the New Age, deindustrialized, highly digitized economy, the growing multiculturalism, the dominance of the celebrity culture, and an unnerving mix of what I call America the functional – all our everyday miracles – and an America that is lost, anchorless, polarized, adrift. ...




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