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42Inside the Presidency of Bill Clinton$
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Michael Nelson, Barbara A. Perry, and Russell L. Riley

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780801454066

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801454066.001.0001

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Positioning and Leadership in Clinton’s Domestic Policy

(p.46) 2 Triangulation

Bruce F. Nesmith

Paul J. Quirk

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on Clinton’s “triangulation” (or “third way”) approach to public policy. As a political term, triangulation is a Clinton-era neologism that has not passed into general use, even though it has broad potential application. It was created as a strategy to deal with the new Republican Congress, taking into account the Republicans’ extreme conservative positions on a variety of domestic issues. In this strategy, Clinton would stand firm on partisan Democratic positions when they were popular. On issues where Republican positions were more popular, however, Clinton would take advantage of the current Republican Congress’s tendency to overreach: he would make major concessions from conventional Democratic policies and adopt centrist positions that would have broader support than the Republicans’ offerings. By such systematic, instrumental positioning, Clinton hoped to win politically on most issues, no matter which party had the initial advantage in public opinion.

Keywords:   triangulation, public policy, Republican Congress, Democratic policies, public opinion

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