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April 30, 2007

Everything Is Going According To Plan

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Perceptions_2 There's lots of good stuff in the latest Pew Poll, but one of the neatest bits is this survey of where people think the candidates stand. Higher numbers mean that people think the candidate is more liberal; lower numbers mean that people think the candidate is more conservative.

Despite being the most progressive of the three major candidates, with his perfect pro-choice voting record as a Senator from North Carolina, his opposition to funding the war, and his hard-core economic liberalism on health care and poverty, Edwards is still seen as more moderate than any other Democrat.

Which is exactly how I like it. He's the kind of candidate who not only wins a general election, but moves the country left without people realizing what's happening. Tell all your liberal friends about him, but tell them quietly.

April 30, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

don't want it to get out what the man believes...it's embarrassing! i mean, liberalism is unpopular.

Posted by: shhh | Apr 30, 2007 2:49:19 PM

Which is exactly how I like it. He's the kind of candidate who not only wins a general election, but moves the country left without people realizing what's happening.

Not an approach I would endorse. It leaves the dominant meme of the governing elites intact, to whit: "liberalism" is out of the mainstream which remains thoroughly "conservative" in a profoundly "conservative" US. What Edwards' numbers indicate is that the type of economic "leftism" that he espouses is actually mainstream everywhere outside the bastions of power, privilege and elite opinion.

A more cogent question is what definitions of Liberalism and Conservatism are at play here? I think it might profit us to ask why the poll includes Bill Clinton and Bush. Neither are candidates but they seem to occupy the position of opposite poles defining, the extremes of Liberalism and Conservatism respectively. What kind of criteria are the respondents using to arrive at this conclusion?

Posted by: W.B. Reeves | Apr 30, 2007 2:51:37 PM

Edwards' disingenuousness seems less interesting to me than several other things just in those poll questions. First of all, the "yourself" line. I note with some amusement that Republicans tend to think they are more centrist than Democrats do. And yet, the nationwide average is apparently, if I'm reading that poll correctly, left of center. Occam's razor suggests that current events account for this, but I found it funny to imagine that the Republican result is skewed by people who have been told so often that they are "great Americans" and Democrats are just an out-of-touch, unrepresentative minority so often that they begin to believe it.

Secondly, Republicans and Democrats give very nearly exactly the same rating to all the Republican candidates? Wha...? It seems like that has to mean something.

Where the Independents fell seems interesting too. They rated the Clintons, Obama, Gore, and Edwards as slightly more liberal than the Democrats did, but were closer to the Democrats than to the Republicans. (Examining the subgroups of polls like this quickly gets into groups or differences in answers that are too small to be meaningful, but to hell with it, is there any other type of poll analysis? And that question is only half rhetorical.) On Pelosi and Guiliani they pretty much split the difference. Independents thought McCain, Romney and Gingrich were slightly more conservative than Republican-Democrats did, and they thought Bush was slightly more liberal. Thoughts?

Posted by: Cyrus | Apr 30, 2007 3:04:04 PM

Everything Is Going According To Plan

Isn't that a quote from the Evil Emperor in Star Wars?

Posted by: Mikef | Apr 30, 2007 3:08:40 PM

Posted by: shhh | Apr 30, 2007 11:49:19 AM

don't want it to get out what the man believes...it's embarrassing! i mean, liberalism is unpopular.

Not really. Its that he gets out what he believes in specific terms instead of in pigeon hole labels. "Do this to start fixing this system that is in crisis, do this to help restore America's standing in the world".

And in the end, its the content of the values that's important, not the labels. The radical right wing movement seems to grasp that, either intellectually or instictively, as they have moved from small government libertarianism to big government meddling always under the same brand name.

Posted by: BruceMcF | Apr 30, 2007 3:20:18 PM

I don't really think this proves anything other than the fact that Americans know very little about what their elected officals actually believe in, or else they know very little about what the words "Liberal" and "Conservative" mean. Everybody: Republican, Democrat, Independent, rated Bill Clinton as more liberal than either Al Gore or Nancy Pelosi. Republicans put Hillary Clinton as the most left-wing of the bunch, despite the fact that she's running to the right of Edwards and Edwards is running to the left of her. Meanwhile, our party pegs John McCain as being to the left of Rudy Giuliani, despite the latter having been at one point in favor of civil unions, gun control (I think) and abortion. Gahhh.

Posted by: Mikey | Apr 30, 2007 3:20:34 PM

In the unlikely event Edwards is the candidate,expect teh following Drudge headline on a slow news day in October 08:

CAMPAIGN STAFFER REVEALED EDWARDS' SECRET PLAN

"He's the kind of candidate who not only wins a general election, but moves the country left without people realizing what's happening. Tell all your liberal friends about him, but tell them quietly."

Posted by: arthur | Apr 30, 2007 3:24:19 PM

actually its about redefining the "mainstream' not resuscitating liberalism.

Posted by: akaison | Apr 30, 2007 3:27:46 PM

actually its about redefining the "mainstream' not resuscitating liberalism

Hmmm... Expand?

Posted by: W.B. Reeves | Apr 30, 2007 3:34:21 PM

The key here is moving the country in the progressive direction, not just in policy terms, but the political center, which is what Edwards clearly wants to do. It's not clear if that's what Obama wants to do, or if he wants to fudge the differences. Hillary clearly couldn't do this even if she wanted to, because of her liberal image.

Posted by: AJ | Apr 30, 2007 3:40:27 PM

Which is exactly how I like it. He's the kind of candidate who not only wins a general election, but moves the country left without people realizing what's happening.

I'm with WBR here, although for slightly different reasons. What I find most baffling about Edwards supporters is exactly this subtext to their avowed populism-- the rubes won't figure out Edwards is a liberal until he's turned them into liberals too! I'm certainly not one to overestimate either the intelligence or the judgment of the electorate, but even by my standards this is an elitist, rather dishonest, and too-clever-by-half approach. At one point, in a fit of pique, I called this tendency 'smug cynicism,' and statements like the above seem to confirm that impression.

Posted by: latts | Apr 30, 2007 3:44:00 PM

This just in: Bill Clinton's not a candidate.

Posted by: jimmmm | Apr 30, 2007 3:47:17 PM

latts, I'm happy to be called any number of things, as long as "a guy who knows how to put progressive Democrats in control of America" is one of them.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 30, 2007 3:50:27 PM

I'd second latts, but also Neil, your response is so cheerleader that almost anything would prove your point - I get the sense it doesn't matter to you what Edwards rating is, whatever it is, it must be good. That's great in a fan, less useful in straight political analysis. I don't know what this poll really tells us, but that's my little bugaboo about putting one's faith entirely in poll driven analysis. If anything I think it's interesting that the GOP can't seem to find anyone to the right of George Bush. Whether people think the candidate is "liberal" or "conservative" won't tell us much in the end; the question is whether the candidate is saying things the electorate can relate to and agree with, the things that resonate. I don't know that Edwards has yet found the key to that challenge yet, but then I don't think a lot of the others have either, which is why I still think things are pretty fluid. And I think that's not a bad place to be.

Posted by: weboy | Apr 30, 2007 3:51:53 PM

"a guy who knows how to put progressive Democrats in control of America"

I would prefer "leadership" to "control".

Posted by: W.B. Reeves | Apr 30, 2007 3:52:42 PM

Neil, not to be rude, but you can say you 'know how to put progressive Democrats in control of America' when we have a President Edwards on 1/20/09... just as any of us could say that about our preferred candidates should they take office instead, and even then half of us enjoying the victory would almost certainly be dead wrong about how it happened. Elections are funny that way.

Posted by: latts | Apr 30, 2007 4:12:01 PM

Minor quibble:

It's fair to describe the platform Edwards is currently running on as more liberal than many others in the race.

It's a stretch to say that Edwards as a Senator (1998-2004) WAS anybody's idea of a liberal panacea. The obvious caveat is that he was a North Carolina Senator, but regardless, he does not have the progressive track record WHILE IN OFFICE of other candidates in the race. It's just not credible.

Posted by: rashomon | Apr 30, 2007 4:12:42 PM

I agree with Mikey. The American people are idiots if they actually believe the Clintons are the epitome of liberalism in America. And what's up with people thinking the Republicans, including Gingrich and McCain are centrists? Why are the Democrats all considered liberal while the Republicans are mostly center-right?

Posted by: Jenn | Apr 30, 2007 4:15:22 PM

I just took a look at RealClearPolitics.com and while I'm loathe to look at polls, Edwards is so far behind the rest of the pack it just doesn't make much sense to have Neil waste our time right now on his Edwards pipe dream.
And that is before the teaming up of Clinton/Obama which will handily take the Democrat nomination.

Breck Girl is toast.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Apr 30, 2007 4:17:23 PM

Well, latts, I take it to be true that we can make knowledge-attributions about future events. Even before they put a man on the moon, some NASA dudes knew how to put a man on the moon, and you could say that about them.

If Edwards loses the general election, I'll be really disappointed and have a lot to apologize for. But I've been following the polling data like a hawk for the last three-odd years, and it generally points in the same direction. Given what I'm seeing, there's no way I can keep my mouth shut about this.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 30, 2007 4:22:11 PM

latts, I'm happy to be called any number of things, as long as "a guy who knows how to put progressive Democrats in control of America" is one of them.

Neil, you'll have to learn how to make a bold case for liberalism before you get that title. As long as you're embarrassed by the term you'll always be fighting on the Republican's turf. Speak up for your ideas. That's the only way to win that battle.

Here's a recent example:

"Too many people run away from the label. They whisper it like you'd whisper "I'm a Nazi." Like it's a dirty word. But turn away from saying "I'm a liberal" and it's like you're turning away from saying that blacks should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus, that women should be able to vote and get paid the same as a man, that McCarthy was wrong, that Vietnam was a mistake. And that Saddam Hussein had no ties to al-Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11."

"The fear of being criticized can be paralyzing. Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run up to the war. In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was b...s.... Which is why it drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, "We were misled." It makes me want to shout, "F... you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic."

Posted by: Mikef | Apr 30, 2007 4:22:26 PM

Given what I'm seeing, there's no way I can keep my mouth shut about this.

Perhaps... you're certainly hopeful. And dedicated to Edwards. But I'm not certain what purpose your speaking out is supposed to serve, either-- it's not likely to sway those who prefer other candidates, after all, and those are the people you want to be willing to actively work with you should Edwards get the nomination. Sales and general evangelizing aren't exactly liberal strengths, so one's messages may not always have their intended effect.

Posted by: latts | Apr 30, 2007 4:33:55 PM

I think it's a sad place we've come to when we have to refer to *any* of these candidates as liberal. We've been hoodwinked if we can believe that.

I don't see Edwards as electable at all. If we're going to be cynical and try to get someone non-Republican in office, the Democrats are going to have to turn up some new faces, ones to attract the moderate and undecided voters. I don't think Edwards is it, people identify him with the Democrat machine.

I would really like to see Richardson move up into the limelight for nomination. I think he's someone who's actually qualified for the job, and won't be identified with what has come to be seen as the "losing culture" of the Democrats.

Posted by: DigitalAutumn | Apr 30, 2007 4:57:27 PM

that last post was funny-ha-ha.

Posted by: akaison | Apr 30, 2007 5:07:25 PM

An interesting question is whether these numbers will change after Edwards spends the better part of the next year trying to run to the left of Clinton and Obama.

Posted by: ikl | Apr 30, 2007 5:11:07 PM

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