In 1992, Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas came to the presidency on the strength of his personal charisma and his strategic vision for a “third way” in American politics that borrowed from both traditionally Republican and Democratic approaches to social and economic problems.

Promising voters that he was a “New Democrat,” Clinton spent his two terms distancing himself from the pervasive image of Democrats as poor stewards of the economy and soft on crime and welfare, an image popularized by the two previous administrations. Despite Clinton’s preference for consensus building over ideological confrontation, his personal Horatio Alger story and the dream of recapturing the White House after 12 years of exile gave liberals in his party reason to support him. To conservative Democrats and Republicans, Clinton’s ...

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