Stanley Greenberg

Stanley B. Greenberg is a founding partner of Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps, and author of America Ascendant: A Revolutionary Nation's Path to Addressing Its Deepest Problems and Leading the 21st Century.

Recent Articles

The Mythology of Centrism

Pundits have misinterpreted Tony Blair's and Bill Clinton's victories as centrism triumphant. But voters chose leaders committed to stopping Thatcherism and Reaganism and restoring broad prosperity.

W hen Tony Blair and Bill Clinton held a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at 10 Downing Street in London on May 29, they might just as well have been standing in a place called the "radical center" or "dead center," to judge from the accounts of the American press. The New York Times , for example, wrote that Clinton and Blair shared an "unabashed moderation," while the Washington Post reported on the statesmen's "moves to the center." Of course, it is hardly surprising that the press accounts focused on centrism when the two world leaders themselves took turns scorning "doctrine" and "ideology" and applauding "fiscal responsibility" and "prudence." For many on both sides of the Atlantic, the Democrats' breakthrough election in 1992, followed by Labour's breakthrough in 1997, represented the successful pursuit of a "more moderate market niche"—the triumph of "electability," in Joe Klein's characterization. But reducing these breakthrough elections to the triumph of centrism...

Democratic Possibilities

Emphasizing work and family could revitalize the Democratic Party. But only if progressives seize the moment.

T his political era, properly understood, offers great opportunity for progressive Democrats. The conservatives ascendant in both parties are more intent on budget cutting and attacking government than on addressing the real needs of families, who face extraordinary challenges in a new, unsettling time. A new, family-centered politics can define and revitalize the Democratic Party, just as earlier defining struggles associated the party with security for working people and the expansion of individual rights—but only if Democrats maximize the moment. The 1996 election seemed to confirm the national frustration with politics. To be sure, Gingrich's conservative "revolution" met its Thermidor, as voters repudiated right-wing attacks on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, federal education programs, and national environmental safeguards. But a lower fraction of citizens voted than in any election since 1924. Since 1996, neither the second Clinton administration nor the re-elected...

Private Heroism and Public Purpose

Working- and middle-class voters remain economically anxious. But in the absence of a convincing narrative that connects to their lives, many are concluding from their condition that the only remedy is rugged individualism.

T he progressive economic narrative today begins with the stagnation and growing inequality that characterizes this period of change and possibility. That seems a natural enough starting point. Throughout this century, progressive movements have found their purpose in capitalism's failure to deliver on its promises to ordinary citizens. Once again, this is the central challenge of our own time. While the best-educated and global entrepreneurs are prospering, the great majority of voters face stagnant incomes; blue-collar workers face income decline. According to the congressional Democrats' policy chief, David Obey of Wisconsin, this has pushed "frustration to new peaks because families have run out of ways to cope." Unfortunately, the public has been little moved by the progressive analysis and expressions of concern. Overall, voters are somewhat more inclined to trust the Republicans on the economy (43 to 36 percent, according to an Emily's List national survey in May 1996), and...

From Crisis to Working Majority

Reports of the death of the Democrats are greatly exaggerated. Three new books, despite their author’s pessimism, suggest how to reconstruct the party’s middle-class foundations. 

The story of the Democratic Party crisis begins in Macomb County, north of the Detroit City line -- and in Northeast Philadelphia, Cobb County near Atlanta, California's San Fernando Valley, and numerous other working- and middle-class neighborhoods across the country. These were the homes of loyal Democrats: people who felt at ease in a diverse, bottom-up, majority coalition that used politics and government to advance the interests of working people. But here we find alienated voters today with little good to say about politics or Democrats. I heard those disaffected voices in Macomb County in 1985, when “Reagan Democrats” told me that the “middle-class white guy” gets a “raw deal” today When journalists Peter Brown of the Scripps-Howard newspapers and Thomas Edsall of The Washington Post visited Macomb and other areas last year, they found people even more articulate about busing, taxes and welfare, liberals and flag-burning -- and even more remote from the national Democrats. The...

Reconstructing a Democratic Vision

A political pollster and strategist suggests how the Democrats can reclaim the middle class without moving right.

T he Democrats ended the 1988 election demoralized. Late in October, Michael Dukakis, facing almost certain defeat, stood at rail-side in Bakersfield, California and made his confession. He was a liberal after all: a liberal in the tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy, one who "knows you have to pay your bills." He did not elaborate. He did not articulate any set of principles, offered no special perspective, and invoked no deeply resonant historical experience. The public was left, by default, with Lee Atwater's savage caricature: a Democratic Party short on patriotism, weak on defense, soft on criminals and minorities, indifferent to work, values, and family, and, inexplicably, infatuated with taxes. Among major demographic groups, the Democratic coalition could now depend reliably on only Jewish, African-American, and Hispanic voters. In 1988 both Catholic and union households split their votes evenly between the parties; in both 1984 and 1988...