Beinart's main point is that up until recently, our politics have been defined by the Reagan/Clinton years. Reagan set the tone with his "government isn't the solution, its the problem," and Clinton solidified that with his ascent to big business, triangulation and suggestion that "the era of big government is over."
Where Beinart gets it right is to suggest that that old frame is over for the millennial generation. But he goes on to focus only on the part about their opposition to the 1%ers in big business and erroneously suggests that President Obama has simply carried on with that part of the Clinton legacy.
It is true that the President didn't use the financial crisis that was underway when he came into office to simply tear down Wall Street as many on the left hoped he would. One can make the case that doing so would have caused even bigger chaos in the world economy and ultimately hurt the already struggling poor and middle class more than they were at the time. But let's leave that argument for another day.
Does the President's failure to go the direction many liberals were suggesting mean he bought into the Clinton legacy of appeasing corporate interests in our political process? Beinart suggests that it does. And yet further down in the article as he's describing the process for the emergence of the "new new left," he points out how Howard Dean initially changed the calculus of political campaigns and Obama eventually succeeded where Dean failed.
...he [Dean] established a template for toppling a Democratic frontrunner: inspire young voters, raise vast funds via small donations over the Web, and attack those elements of Clintonian orthodoxy that are accepted by Democratic elites but loathed by liberal activists on the ground.The main reason Clinton bowed to corporate interests is that he and the DLC calculated that the only way to avoid another overwhelming loss like the one the Democrats suffered in the 1984 presidential election was to get access to corporate funds for political campaigns (anyone else old enough to remember the Clinton fundraising scandals that emerged as a result? If not, I have two words for you..."Lincoln bedroom.")
In 2008, that became the template for Barack Obama.
What Dean started and Obama finished was to prove that those vast amounts of funds that could be raised via small donations could beat the stranglehold big business had on our political process. Not only did he end the Clinton legacy in that regard, he did so by beating that very same Clinton machine in the process. That allowed President Obama to make pragmatic decisions about Wall Street during the great recession rather than become beholden to them for his political survival.
But an even bigger hole in Beinart's analysis is that he sees the millennial generation confined to their opposition to corporate interests. In doing so, of course he trots out that OWS was comprised mostly of millennias. But what he misses is that OWS appealed almost exclusively to white millenials. At an earlier point in the article, even Beinart has to accede that is not a true representation.
But among Millennials, there are fewer white, Christian non-immigrants to rouse. Forty percent of Millennials are racial or ethnic minorities.Beinart's big example of the emergent "new new left" is de Blasio's victory in the New York mayoral primary this week. He sees it primarily through the lens of a battle over economic policies. While he makes a casual reference to de Blasio rejection of "stop and frisk" (but fails to even address Bloomberg's racist remarks about de Blasio's family), he doesn't tie it to the idea that millenials of color (and the issues that are primary to them) will have an impact on the "new new left."
Leading in to the 2016 presidential race, Beinart suggests that Elizabeth Warren could pose a challenge to Hillary Clinton and capture this "new new left" due to her strong record of challenging Wall Street and income inequality. This continues the assumption that the issues that are important to black and brown millennials are the same as those articulated by white millennials via OWS. Of course that has almost always been the assumption of white liberals in this country. We've been able to get away with that for decades and so it comes as no surprise that Beinart continues to do so.
I would submit that a day of reckoning on that assumption is fast approaching. National political candidates who recognize that their fortunes are dependent on capturing the Obama coalition going forward are the most likely to help us avoid the consequences of clinging to those old assumptions for too long. As far as I can see, that field is still open for 2016.