Peter Beinart in The Atlantic:
The story of the Democratic Party’s journey leftward has two chapters. The first is about the presidency of George W. Bush. Before Bush, unapologetic liberalism was not the Democratic Party’s dominant creed. The party had a strong centrist wing, anchored in Congress by white southerners such as Tennessee Senator Al Gore, who had supported much of Ronald Reagan’s defense buildup, and Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, who had stymied Bill Clinton’s push for gays in the military. For intellectual guidance, centrist Democrats looked to the Democratic Leadership Council, which opposed raising the minimum wage; to The New Republic (a magazine I edited in the early 2000s), which attacked affirmative action and Roe v. Wade; and to the Washington Monthly, which proposed means-testing Social Security.
Centrist Democrats believed that Reagan, for all his faults, had gotten some big things right. The Soviet Union had been evil. Taxes had been too high. Excessive regulation had squelched economic growth. The courts had been too permissive of crime. Until Democrats acknowledged these things, the centrists believed, they would neither win the presidency nor deserve to. In the late 1980s and the 1990s, an influential community of Democratic-aligned politicians, strategists, journalists, and wonks believed that critiquing liberalism from the right was morally and politically necessary.