In his 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton managed to reshape not only the Democratic Party but also discourse about the economy, culture, and (at first) the environment. The essential lever for such change was the fact that he brought the word “global” at last into mainstream conversation in the United States. “Global” meant something very different from “international.” It was different from Bush’s much more tiredsounding phrase, “the New World Order”—suggesting a realignment of old competing nationalisms, not a transformation of parochial nationalism altogether. With Clinton’s first campaign, “global” became a term that signified possibilities, not problems. It came to suggest the end to anxiety about eroding prestige, national crisis, and internal division and the beginning of a new kind of synergistic coherence, one that promised to bring nation and world together to the advantage of all. Clinton’s new story was an extremely positive one; it was a narrative of national recovery that depicted America’s new global environment as an exciting challenge, not a howling wilderness. Once this shift had occurred, it seemed clear that the neoconservative nationalist solutions of the ReaganBush era were not just wrong, they exacerbated the problems they claimed
to remedy. For example, given the de facto erosion of national economic borders everywhere, trickle down did not lead to recovery, but trickle out. Economic policies designed to benefit the wealthy in the faith that increasing their incomes would benefit all as excess wealth tricked down proved wrong. The extra money instead trickled out into the increasingly “borderless” global economy. Equally, the monocultural ideal that inspired Reagan-era conservative culture warriors suddenly seemed vastly less suited than bridge-building multiculturalism for creating peoplehood in the United States and for reattaining centrality in an interactive, cosmopolitan, global economy. Most important, with the end of the Evil Empire, that global economy wore a different face. It was no longer a competitive war zone; instead, it was styled as an interactive, interdependent cosmopolitan system and a new frontier for American business and society. The defensive nationalism of the Reagan era focused on external enemies and internal subversives; suddenly, these no longer seemed the problem. Instead, targeting them obsessively was a problem. It meant that one had not thought thoroughly enough about the “newness” of the new global economy, an omission that led to serious mistakes.