PPI President Will Marshal explains why Bill Clinton’s contributions to restoring the language of civic obligation are so frequently overlooked over at Democracy:
“In “Restoring the Language of Obligation,” [Issue #24] James Kloppenberg laments “the ignorance of most Americans about the centrality of the concept of obligation in American history.” Yet there’s a gaping hole in his own synopsis of that history—the 1990s, when civic themes re-entered the nation’s political discourse in a big way”
“Invocations of civic duty and the disinterested pursuit of the common good were touchstones of American politics from colonial days until around the 1970s, says Kloppenberg, when liberals “traded the language of duties for the language of rights.” He argues persuasively that the ensuing fixation with rights talk and identity politics sped the unraveling of the New Deal coalition, and, by eroding more expansive notions of social solidarity, abetted the rise of Ronald Reagan’s anti-government populism.”
“But there his recap ends, skipping the striking period of civic ferment that followed. In politics, for example, Bill Clinton and the “New Democrats” consciously sought to reclaim the civic-republican tradition. Concepts like mutual obligation, community, and national service, and balancing citizens’ rights with their responsibilities, were central to the nation’s political conversation in the 1990s, and even migrated abroad via the “third way” dialogue between Clinton, Tony Blair, and other center-left political leaders.”
Read the entire article HERE.