American Politics in the 1990s: Bill Clinton and the Third Way

Seminar 1
  • Nov 1, 2023, 9:00 am3:00 pm
  • Nov 13, 2023, 9:00 am3:00 pm
PK-12 Community


Stanley N. Katz, Ph.D
School of Public and International Affairs


Event Description

Bill Clinton was elected when a third party candidate (Ross Perot) entered the race, but when Clinton prevailed over George H W Bush, he set out to reposition the Democratic Party. The notion of the Third Way was adopted in emulation of the English Labor politician, Tony Blair. Its premise was that a liberal political party needed to move Right toward the political ideological Center in order to win presidential elections. This was the view of the Democratic Leadership Council, which represented the more conservative elements in the party. For Clinton it meant moving to the Right on questions like welfare (“ending welfare as we have known it”), crime and the like. The Republican response in Clinton’s first term was the scorched earth policies of Newt Gingrich, achieved through the threat of government shut-downs. But, astonishingly, Clinton recovered, winning a second term, only to be impeached in reaction to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In the end, Clinton’s personal behavior probably cost Al Gore the election in 2000, with it the chance for a longer term intrenchment of the Third Way. In this seminar we will explore these ideas and events, and discuss the ways in which both of the major American parties situate themselves on the ideological spectrum.