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June 20, 2007

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes...

I don't totally understand Brian's point here. Comparing the approaches of Obama and Edwards, he writes, "whereas Edwards has been very clear about how he'd try to make the changes he wants, Obama has not exactly laid out a clear vision of how one transforms our country's politics. It'd be one thing if he gave any indication of understanding what steps to take to do that. But "wouldn't it be nice" isn't quite enough when the task at hand is so large."

But what is the Edwards vision of "how he'd try to make the changes he wants?" As I understand it, he'd try to make those changes by...trying to make those changes. Indeed, it's Obama, with his focus on consensus and civic engagement, who seems to be articulating a vision of how you make changes, albeit one I don't actually agree with. Edwards' rhetoric has been designed to clarify his confidence that large changes are in the offing, and assure audiences that he won't shy away from making them. I find that comforting. But it's not an explicit vision of how change comes to the nation, save by John Edwards sending his legislation to Congress, and possibly giving speeches in support of it.

Indeed, the most compelling explanation of how to create change came from Hillary Clinton in the last debate, who said, "What's important, and what I learned in the previous effort, is you've got to have the political will, a broad coalition of business and labor and doctors and hospitals standing firm when the inevitable attacks come from the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies who don't want to change the system because they're making so much money from it." That's actually a vision of how to achieve health reform. The problem with Hillary is, in fact, the opposite of that with Edwards, which is that I believe she's got a coherent vision of how to use the office of the executive, but I'm deeply unconvinced she's willing to deploy that savvy in service of serious change.

June 20, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

The problem with Hillary is, in fact, the opposite of that with Edwards, which is that I believe she's got a coherent vision of how to use the office of the executive, but I'm deeply unconvinced she's willing to deploy that savvy in service of serious change.

Based on what? That she's not as far left as some would like? I think that a lot of people in this party have become what they've argued against and that is intolerant of other people's beliefs. You might not like her because you have geniune disagreements with her over her political beliefs but a lot of these attacks on Clinton are just rehashing of right wing propaganda.

Posted by: Phil | Jun 20, 2007 1:58:31 PM

Here's Edwards strategy. Be very specific and bold about what your want, win 32 states and 55 percent of the vote, use mandate and good-old-fashioned partisan politics to pass the plans that the voters had essentially endorsed.

Pretty much the way it's always be done, that is.

A vote for Obama is a vote for HOPE, and I'm not sure how to write that into law.

Posted by: david mizner | Jun 20, 2007 2:02:03 PM

Indeed, it's Obama, with his focus on consensus and civic engagement, who seems to be articulating a vision of how you make changes

How is he articulating this? He "focuses on consensus and civic engagement" to the extent that he gives lofty, inspirational speeches about how consensus and civic engagement are good. He doesn't say how he's going to transform politics.

John Edwards's plan to change policy, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward: he's going to get elected and push for these specific policy changes. Presumably most of these policies will win the support of a Democratic Congress. None of Edwards's policies are radical; quite a few would pass today's Congress with a few more Democratic senators. Your bizarre complaint that Edwards hasn't explained how he'll pass his policies is akin to asking your senator, "Sure, you say you're going to vote for this bill. But how are you supposed to vote for it - with your hand?!"

Obama, meanwhile, is promising to turn Washington into a Candyland of happy bipartisan cheer and civic good will, and with what? Sheer force of will?

Posted by: Christmas | Jun 20, 2007 2:02:55 PM

It's not a complaint. It's just an observation. I don't think Edwards needs to articulate a theory as to how a massive fight over his health care plan will go. But to say he's already done so simply isn't true.

Posted by: Ezra | Jun 20, 2007 2:12:19 PM

I don't think Edwards needs to articulate a theory as to how a massive fight over his health care plan will go. But to say he's already done so simply isn't true.

Articulating a theory as to how he'll pass all of his policies would be expecting Edwards to vault over a bar no other major candidate is being held to. But I don't think Beutler is claiming that Edwards has articulated this, or that he needs to. Edwards's argument is out there for everyone to see: I've got good policies and they're going to change America for the better.

Obama is claiming that he's going to change the nature of politics for the better, though, which is a claim that's at once much more vague and much more difficult to make. American politics are the way they are for a host of structural reasons, and Obama isn't saying he's going to enact major structural changes to the system (by, say, abolishing the electoral college, or overhauling the Senate, or reforming the way redistricting works or providing for public financing or what have you). He's just saying "I will change politics," full stop. That's the kind of goal that requires an actual plan behind it, and there is no plan so far - just a lot of rhetoric. It's very nice, very noble, very inspiring rhetoric, but it's not worth anything if it doesn't actually tell me what he's actually going to try to do.

Posted by: Christmas | Jun 20, 2007 3:05:22 PM

WTF? These comments above me are ignorant. What exactly do you think a President Obama is going to do all day, give speeches extoling civic virtue? No, he'll be the same things every other President does. One is coming up with policies that he'll try to get Congress to pass. Another is trying to manage the executive branch. A third is implementing his foreign policy agenda. Etc.

As voters it's incumbent upon us to decide which of the presidential candidates will a) push the most desirable policies, b) be successful at implementing those policies, and c) generally run government in the most competent fashion. Now we have Christmas above claiming that we should vote for John Edwards because "he's going to get elected and push for these specific policy changes." Right, because Clinton or Obama or whoever wouldn't push specific policy changes? That's not an argument for or against anyone, it's a statement of sheer obviousness.

"Obama, meanwhile, is promising to turn Washington into a Candyland of happy bipartisan cheer and civic good will, and with what? Sheer force of will?"

With nothing. He's not going to change politics. But if he gets elected, he'll push the best policies and be the most successful at implementing those policies. That's what I think.

Posted by: Korha | Jun 20, 2007 3:21:28 PM

I was musing last night on how I'd vote among the three leading Dems in an early primary state where my vote might make a difference (it likely won't, in Oregon).

My hypothetical simplified choices:

Hillary: lots of savey on how to actually get stuff done (but undemonstated by her in action in the Senate) , but not much drive to do anything more than tinker at the edges of issues.

Obama: a hope that somehow new politics, and work based on deep Hope being inspirational to action, will make unspecified-in-detail good things to happen - seemingly by the bipartisan magic the new politics supports, but which is also undemonstrated by his actions in the US Senate, and only mildly demonstrated by his actions in the Illinois Senate.

Edwards: specific proposals for deep change backed by his determination and an aroused and active electorate.

All of them seem to be saying either that David Mixner's 'they way change is always done' - by majorities and drive, or some wished for bi-partisan consensus will change the law-enacting dynamic. I'll discount the bi-partisanship appeal to adjust to current reality (and assume Obama really means bigger Congressional Dem. majorities). Not much to choose from here.

Remember this voice: "We shall go to the moon and do the other things, not because it is easy, but because it is hard".

And this aphorism: "if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there".

On this basis, if my vote had to be cast today and it actually counted in the nomination, Edwards is my man for now. Too bad he's fading in the many of the national polls.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jun 20, 2007 3:38:17 PM

I'm deeply unconvinced she's willing to deploy that savvy in service of serious change.

Really? I think she's committed. I think she wants to do as much as she can, which may or may not be as much as others could. We'll have a better idea about what she's committed to on healthcare in particular when the rest of healthcare plan comes out, I suppose.

I join you in thinking Edwards has laid out less than he often gets credit for, though I wouldn't limit that to political strategy. His healthcare plan is fine in laying out the outlines, but stuff like fighting world poverty, reforming the military and so on gets a lot of rhetoric, a few very broad figures, and very little about how anything would actually work. It often seems bolder than it is. The money to fight world poverty, for example, is money the Bush Administration has already committed us to spend. He's promising great things, but mostly in ways that appear more bold and specific than they really are.

Jim, you didn't mention Edwards' senate record, which isn't impressive either.

At this point, a vote for any of the leading candidates would be a vote for hope.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 20, 2007 3:45:20 PM

I feel Christmas and Brian Beutler's pain.

I have a general idea how one changes policy as president -- one introduces legislation, gets Congress to vote for it, and signs it. There are all sorts of ways special interest groups impact the game, but the basic structure of how to pass legislation and is clear.

I have absolutely no idea how one creates the civic transformation Obama is talking about. That would require some kind of broad cultural transformation, far beyond the power of anybody in politics to create. I mean, can you give me any sort of idea what a President does to generate a re-engaged citizenry? The majority of people are always going to have at most a superficial interest in politics. Does Obama think he can change that? I'm completely at a loss here for plausible mechanisms.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jun 20, 2007 4:06:09 PM


Hillary Clinton is the "Senator from Punjab," but Barack Obama is no better.


Both Clinton and Obama support the third-world (i.e. cheap labor) invasion of the U.S., and thus both are arch-enemies of the American Middle Class.

Big business is using legal and illegal immigration to drive down American wages.

The worst thing to happen to the American worker is the marriage of big business and multiculturalism. Liberals like Obama and Clinton can completely screw over the middle class but then justify it by saying it's "multicultural."


They are both in league with big business. And as Harvard labor economist George Borjas says, big business is using legal and illegal immigration to drive down American wages.

Has the Democratic Party declared war upon the American Middle Class?


I'd vote Republican before I'd vote for a Democrat weak on immigration.


Blue Dog Democrats Discussion Group
http://www.bluedogdemocrats.us/

.

Posted by: David T. | Jun 20, 2007 4:57:45 PM

I don't get it. Your criticism of Edwards is that he hasn't telegraphed his strategy for passing his agenda? Is that it in a nutshell. If he did take your advice, that would be the height of stupid. Telegraphing how he intends to pass his agenda is called an easy target.

Posted by: akaison | Jun 20, 2007 5:07:55 PM

And on HRC, no one who says they are committed to changing healthcare on increments in their second term is committed to much more than winning the first time, and then the second. On this front, even Obama is far more aggressive and ready to act than Clinton sounds like she is. I mean come on- increments during her second term? Talk about lame duck policy making.

Posted by: akaison | Jun 20, 2007 5:10:18 PM

Sanpete you have already been critiqued on your use of Edwards record as a Senator. It's easy to say it's not that impressive for a red state Senator to follow a progressive agenda when comparing it to the agenda of a blue state Senator. It's easy, but dishonest. It's similar to your comparing the polling of HRC is NY versus that of Edwards in the red state. As usual- no context at all. Although I must admit you do finally seem to be able to incorporate factual analysis into your conclusions. Even if it's rudimentary.

Posted by: akaison | Jun 20, 2007 5:12:57 PM

By the way- returning to strategy once in office- one of the reason why Obama's approach is problematic is precisely because he's telling everyone how he intends to lead. Not his vision mind you. Just how he wants consensus. Well- doesn't that just give everyone the desire to do what they did with triangulation- namely define the narrative before he does, and then consensus is defined by whatever way they have already framed the narrative.

Posted by: akaison | Jun 20, 2007 5:21:03 PM

Akaison, it's directly relevant, and not at all dishonest, to point out that Edwards' record as a Senator wasn't all that great. Even if he felt constrained by being from a red state, it was still not a record that compares favorably with the records of the others. Being from North Carolina didn't force him to vote for the Iraq authorization, or keep him from pushing some of the issues, such as poverty relief, that wouldn't have hurt him in North Carolina. First-term senators aren't really likely to have impressive records, but if the Senate records of the other two candidates are going to be cited, his should be too.

Your comments about me are off-base, as usual. You apparently didn't understand the polling thread, where the context was fully hashed out.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 20, 2007 5:28:01 PM

Being from North Carolina didn't force him to vote for the Iraq authorization, or keep him from pushing some of the issues, such as poverty relief, that wouldn't have hurt him in North Carolina.

Obviously not from North Carolina.

Posted by: W.B. Reeves | Jun 20, 2007 5:42:03 PM

Well, it's true that neither would have been uncontroversial there, but neither would have been a career killer there either. There were conservative arguments against the Iraq authorization, and it was more important than politics, in any case. Helping the poor actually doesn't sell as badly there as you might think, if it's done through job training, work programs, etc., stuff conservatives see as morally upright.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 20, 2007 5:56:09 PM

The big challenge with pushing an antipoverty agenda in the South is that it's hard to get away from the racial issues. You have to keep whites from thinking that their hard-earned money is being given away to the poor blacks whom they stereotype as lazy and dishonest. It's not easy.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jun 20, 2007 6:11:23 PM

It would have killed him in NC. You really have no idea what you are talking about to say it wouldn't. It's just pure speculation not backed up by anything. I have examples like Max Cleland of GA to demonstrate just how wrong you are.

But, regardless he did vote progressive on the economic issues. He has admitted to his mistake on the Iraq issue well before most were doing it back in 2005. He screwed up. His judgement was a mistake on that issue. Guess what I don't expect my president to be perfect. So was HRC's mistaken. I would accept it if she were to admit her mistake. But she hasn't admited to a mistake- to this day she refuses to do so. I believe they all voted crassly on this issue except OBama who wasn't in the Senate at the time. I do believe Obama would not have voted on it. So I do respect him on that issue.

Edwards only edges out Obama in my mind because I feel Edwards gets the times better than Obama and he has this quality of seemingly even now like a moderate. He is to borrow the new catch phrase transformative in what he's saying in that he's not running way from being progressive. It's what the right needed- and they got Reagan.

We are on the edge of a progressive era. Poll after poll and too much anecdotal evidence suggests this to me. The only thing that slowed this development as was recently described in a good article I read was 9/11/ But for 9/11 we would already be in full prorgressive mode. ALthough it can also be argued- and I am one of them but-for Iraq we would not have seen just how fully the GOP is at odds with present American values. We would not have seen how much the GOP idealogy is the emperor with no clothes on.
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Last years victory says this to me also. Yet OBama sounds like he wants to run a 1992 "cant we all just get along campaign." No, we can't. If we could , we would. We will get along when the Democrats make it clear that there are repercussions for the GOP not getting along. We have yet to do that. The public doesn't (and the polls after our vote on the funding reinforces this point) respect our weakness. It's not partisanship they want. It's not bipartisanship. It's results that reflect their core values- both economic and social . Nothing says sucess like winning. That's what they want to see out of us. How we get there is mostly a talking heads thing.

And yes it is dishonest to expect the voting record of a Senator from a red state to be that of a senator from a blue state- since we are doing these things- or in an honest discussion should be- by comparing our actual choices for the Democratic nomination rather than in some abtract perfect world scenario. If you aren't making this evalution on that level, then you aren't doing any serious evalution. It's easy to say okay if I could have everything then sure- he's not perfect. But I am not comparing him against perfect. I am comparing him against what we got.

Posted by: akaison | Jun 20, 2007 6:22:56 PM

You have to keep whites from thinking that their hard-earned money is being given away to the poor blacks whom they stereotype as lazy and dishonest.

That's still a concern, though less now than people often imagine. It's a reason work-based programs are safe ones politically.

Akaison, Max Cleland doesn't show that Edwards wasn't dead wrong on an issue that should have been more important than political considerations, as I said. And Edwards was a much more appealing politician than Cleland.

He has admitted to his mistake on the Iraq issue well before most were doing it

No, he was in a crowd by then, well after opinion polls had shifted.

And yes it is dishonest to expect the voting record of a Senator from a red state to be that of a senator from a blue state

I don't have that expectation.

I am comparing him against what we got.

Yup. Exactly why I brought it up.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 20, 2007 6:38:28 PM

And Edwards was a much more appealing politician than Cleland.

In general, that's true. But on military force issues specifically, Cleland is in a unique position. Three of his limbs got blown off in a war! If any Southern Senator should be able to go against the president on foreign policy, it's him. But he still lost after voting against the GOP homeland security bill.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jun 20, 2007 7:25:50 PM

It's true that it would have been politically difficult.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 20, 2007 8:10:50 PM

Excuse me for assuming that point was obvious since the subject matter was the Iraqi war vote- but yes Neil captures the point exactly. I would add the reason why he lost were the ads questioning Cleland's patrotism.

Posted by: akaison | Jun 20, 2007 8:20:35 PM

Hillary and Obama are speechifying with broad themes of "change" - while raking in lots of moolah from corporate donors - assured the 2 candidates will continue their corporati$t agenda if elected. Both candidates are Centri$ts - willing to compromise The People's interest for corporate interests.
OTOH - Edwards is very specific - calling out Big Oil for high gas prices, Big Insurance for high premiums, Big Pharma for ridiculously priced drugs - all corporate sponsors of the corporate media.
Hence - the media smears Edwards for his personal expenses and wealth - claiming it's hypocritical for a rich man to advocate for the working poor.
LOL - the media will do anything to protect their corporate sponsors.

Posted by: annefrank | Jun 20, 2007 8:45:28 PM

Does Edwards also solicit and accept money from big corporations?

Hence - the media smears Edwards for his personal expenses and wealth - claiming it's hypocritical for a rich man to advocate for the working poor.
LOL - the media will do anything to protect their corporate sponsors.

The media? Who's "the media" here? I'm sure that whatever criticism Edwards gets for hypocrisy, it's not from some homogeneous media substance but from particular commentators, and it's very unlikely that much of the media is interested in criticizing Edwards to protect its corporate sponsors. These are just stories liberals tell around the campfire.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 20, 2007 8:57:37 PM

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