Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My problems with Edwards supporters

I should (and will) go more deeply into this at some point, but for now, my problems with John Edwards' supporters can be mostly found in this comment section over at Tapped.

I understand the idea of wanting to go to the mat for "your guy" (or girl), but even as I find myself gravitating towards one candidate over the others, I'm willing to entertain the idea that my preferred candidate might indeed not be the best one. But what I see from Edwards supporters (at least in the progressive blogosphere) is an arrogance based only in self-righteouness.

I get the appeal of the Edwards' "Two America's" campaign (especially coming from a rural area of Virginia and now living in San Francisco), and I do admire his commitment to both poverty issues and making universal health care a reality. But, let's not forget that Edwards voted for the Iraq War (despite his loud change of course, he still cast the vote), that he is viewed by many, rightly or wrongly, as a slick huckster due to his making millions as a personal injury attorney , and also, despite being from the south, couldn't even deliver his home state to his running mate in the last presidential election (he also looked bad getting a draw out of Dick Cheney in the V.P. debate that should have gone the way of Kennedy/Nixon in 1960, given the aesthetics of the participants). He also has just about as much legislative experience as a certain senator from Illinois who happens to be running for president (if inexperience is used against one, it should used against both, though Obama really isn't all that inexperienced).

In any case, none of what I mentioned above should automatically dismiss Edwards as a viable candidate. However, it should be enough to understand why one might have pause about his nomination. Personally, I think it's too early in the game to get into the tank for one guy. It seems like people have short memories and are forgetting about things like this .

Update: Something else I wanted to me, one of the major contrasts between the Edwards and Obama campaigns is that one seems to be emphasizing (maybe too strong a word) divisions (Edwards with the "Two Americas") while the other is talking about reconciling our differences (Obama). Both Edwards and Obama, I think, want to usher the country into a healing process, but I think the economic rhetoric that Edwards represents will be a bit radical for some (not everyone is enamored with using government funds to help the poor or to create a single payer health care scheme). A lot of this is packaging, but packaging is important. Obama, while not necessarily "post partisan", strikes a chord with a lot of people who are tired of politics as mudslinging. The last six years have been filled with a very high level of partisan vitriol and, with our image around the world in tatters, many want us to get back to "traditional" American ideals (whatever you hold those to be). Obama's emphasis on community, family, education and rebuilding our alliances abroad are all very appealing. In any sense, I think that a good portion of the progressive blogosphere is reading this moment in time wrong; they're looking for a fight when a lot of people are tired of fighting and while the generally pugnacious nature of Edwards' campaign appeals to that instinct, I'm not sure that is what the electorate at large is ready for. 8 years in Bush's America would make even the most skilled political infighter wary of going another round in the ring. Having said all that, I could very easily be wrong.

And for another take on this, Matt Yglesias contributes some nuanced commentary here:
I agree with Ross and with Jason Zengerle, that Ezra Klein's account of why John Edwards can't get ahead (lack of media coverage) isn't very plausible. If anything, Edwards has gotten more coverage vis-a-vis Bill Richardson than he seems to deserve.

That said, I don't think Ross is quite right either. There's actually nothing to explain here. Ex ante a former one term Senator and former losing Vice Presidential candidate just doesn't have a very good chance of winning the presidential nomination. Given the objective realities of the situation, his campaign's doing pretty well. He's leading in Iowa. Lefty intellectuals love him. Progressive bloggers love him. Labor leaders love him. If he continues to establish a lot of good will among opinion leaders on the left, plus continues to be a white man in a world where a lot of people think a white man is more electable than a woman or a black guy, and pulls off a win in Iowa, then he just might be able to "bounce" his way to victory. How much better could he realistically be doing?

Update II: Mark Schmitt wonders out loud about Edwards' commitment to poverty issues and a massive flame war breaks out in the comments.

Ezra also chimes in on Mark's post here.

Update III: Oliver Willis offers another take on Edwards and his poverty message.

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