The “Third Way,” loosely characterized as an avenue between capitalism and socialism, is a form of political phrasing which escapes clearly defined parameters, and, as with all such models, it retains a dynamic potential for expansion and continuously evolving meaning. Hard experience has taught us that an all-embracing phrase of this nature will inevitably have pressing implications for families and communities at all levels and in all nations. A comparison between the views of the United Kingdom’s Tony Blair and U.S. president Bill Clinton, both of whom have referred to their own policies as “the third way,” will provide an opportunity to reveal underlying intentions and purposes.
In an essay entitled “Blair’s Paradox,” David Marquand, principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, explores Blair’s New Labour program through a comparison with previous Thatcherite policies. He points to the more persuasive New Labour approach, noting “four crucial differences” between the regimes: “Thatcherism was exclusionary; New Labour is inclusionary. Margaret Thatcher was a warrior; Tony Blair is a healer. Where she divided, he unites. Where she spoke of ‘enemies within,’ he speaks of ‘the people.'”
New Labour behaves with the confidence of those who view themselves as embodying “a consensus of the well intentioned, embracing rich and poor, young and old, suburbs and inner cities, black and white, hunters and animal rights campaigners, (the) successful and unsuccessful.” Marquand describes this approach as “the nearest thing to Christian democracy that modern British politics has known. And Christian democracy is light years away from Thatcherism.”
Globalization a given
As with the Clinton New Democrats, “New Labour takes globalization as a given and seeks to run with what it believes to be the grain of the global marketplace.” While it remains committed to the “flexible labour markets and low social costs” of Thatcherism, it also accepts the European Union and monetary integration as a “given.” Joined to this approach is the “workfare state (that) comes straight out of the old Fabian stable of top-down social engineering. It rests on the premise that government at the centre not only can, but should, remake society to fit an a priori grand design.”
Marquand believes that Blair’s constitutional agenda points the way toward a profound transformation of the British state. Perhaps more importantly, in his estimation, the changes stand a very good chance of generating their own dynamic in ways that cannot presently be predicted.
The parallels between New Labour and New Democrats are strong. In his State of the Union message to the U.S. Congress, Bill Clinton stated, “We have moved past the sterile debate between those who say government is the enemy and those who say government is the answer. My fellow Americans, we have found a third way.” Clinton’s “Third Way” is propagandized within the Democratic Leadership Council and in Al Gore’s “reinvention” of government. As with the Blair government, the ideology is revealed in the details, rather than in its propagandized claims.
William A. Galston, Clinton’s former deputy assistant for domestic policy, and Elaine C. Kamarck, former senior policy advisor for Vice-President Al Gore, writing in the DLC Journal, Blueprint, names the “realities” of the new vision. In the 21st century, America will be reshaped by the “growth of the information age economy, by the passing of the New Deal generation, by the shifting of the geography where we live, by the altered structures of our families, and by the increasing diversity of our society.” These “plate tectonics of our national life” will show the way that “progressive politics will be compelled to traverse.” The first questions that come to mind when facing such changes are: “where are we going?” or “where are we being driven to?”
The formation of personal, social and cultural values – components which the DLC is left struggling to force into the category of state-formed “character education” for lack of wider possibilities – has proven to be substantively and morally bereft. The moral behaviors of the DLC’s major political representative and founder, Bill Clinton, is, in fact, a living example of the behavioral values imposed on Canadian, American and British school children, and ultimately on the children of the world, through forceful contraceptive programs at home and abroad. It is hugely insufficient to ask if these were Planned Parenthood policies. Planned Parenthood, institutionally and policy-wise, is a product of our societies, and as such, completely dominates our institutions. Have our societies been racially “planned”? It certainly seems to be a possibility.
Welcome to the world of the “Third Way.”