In 1992, a magnetic young Democrat swept aside twelve years of unbroken Republican rule by campaigning on a platform that seemed to cross the old left-right divide. Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, the first Democratic president elected after the Cold War, was the great prophet of the Third Way, a seemingly post-ideological marriage of “pro-growth” economic thinking and moderate social liberalism.
It was an idea whose time had come; with the dust still clearing from the collapse of the Berlin Wall, both market liberalism and political liberalism appeared to have vanquished their final great enemy. And in the 24 years since the end of the Civil Rights era, Baby Boomers had spawned an entirely new generation of voters — one that had never known life under Jim Crow. Third Way adherents branded themselves as heralds of a new political order, to replace the interminable squabbling between left and right that had marked prior generations. The same year that Clinton won the presidency, that view received some prestigious intellectual corroboration thanks to the publication of political theorist Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man, a book that posited the world had reached “the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”