What do you call a politician who supports the Defense of Marriage Act and a balanced federal budget? Today, that describes a conservative Republican. Sixteen years ago, that was a two-term Democratic president.
Bill Clinton is a rock star among Democrats. He’s one of the most requested politicians on the campaign trail because his unique appeal allows him to go to regions of the country where President Barack Obama isn’t particularly popular.
But while Democrats are more than happy to have the former president preaching their praises, the party is rallying against two of the highest profile accomplishments of his presidency.
Last week, Democrats basked in the glow of the Supreme Court decision that ruled DOMA unconstitutional. It’s no secret that DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton, who also ran ads opposing gay marriage in selected states in his 1996 re-election.
But while Clinton signed DOMA without fanfare, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 was a different story.
Working with a Republican majority in the House, Clinton signed the the bill in a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.
“Like every generation of Americans before us, we have been called upon to renew our Nation and to restore its promise. For too long, huge, persistent, and growing budget deficits threatened to choke the opportunity that should be every American's birthright. For too long, it seemed as if America would not be ready for the new century, that we would be too divided, too wedded to old arrangements and ideas. It's hard to believe now, but it wasn't so very long ago that some people looked at our Nation and saw a setting Sun,” Clinton said in his signing speech.
Today’s Democrats are singing a slightly different tune.
Democrats, including the president, don’t believe the deficit is an immediate problem. And while Republicans are touting and advocating for a “balanced budget,” Democrats want a “balanced approach.” The new Democratic approach includes a mix of spending cuts and tax increases but has no intention of balancing the budget, at this point.
Of course, Democrats will point to a difference in the state of the economy from the mid-1990s to today, but that doesn’t completely explain the marked change in philosophy when it comes to a balanced budget.
While the Democratic party is running from the Clinton legacy, it certainly hasn’t damaged his standing within the party. He is as popular among Democrats as he has ever been. And his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is poised to be the frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination once again. It probably helps that he has evolved with the party, particularly on DOMA.