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August 31, 2007

Edwards' Voice

This Time article on Edwards is an interesting document, painting Edwards as something near to an insurgent candidate, the underdog behind the campaigns of Obama and Clinton. This, too, is an important point:

For 30 years, Democratic contenders have hugged the political center and avoided such talk because they believed that populism scares away middle-class voters. But Edwards thinks those rules are finally changing, that voters everywhere are ready for a sharp critique of what's gone wrong. And he has one advantage his opponents lack: a sweet-tea voice that makes his tough talk go down easy. He isn't ranting; he's twanging like a bluegrass banjo, rolling along in full control—outraged on behalf of people who have lost their jobs or pensions to corporate restructuring, people who watch their children go off to "this mess of a war in Iraq."[...]

Edwards joins us on the bus, and soon he's musing on electability too. "I think most journalists would agree that I'm the most progressive, Senator Obama next, and Senator Clinton closest to the center. But I'd be willing to bet that if you ask most Americans the same question, they'd reverse it." That's not only, he says, because "she's a woman and he's an African American and Ah talk lahk thee-is. It's simple geography. Ask Middle Americans: You've got three Democratic candidates. One's from New York, one's from Chicago and one's from rural North Carolina. Who do you think is most like you?"

Edwards' ability to speak populism with an accent and tone that's mentally associated with common sense moderation is a significant advantage, one that allows a left-leaning run the other candidates can't replicate. An interesting sidenote to these comments is that Edwards made a similar argument to me when I interviewed him for my profile. But it was off-the-record. That he's making this appeal more publicly and explicitly shows his frustration with the hammerlock Obama and Clinton have on the media coverage, and his own frustration that the ideological differences between the candidates aren't being sussed out.

August 31, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

It doesn't matter how "twangy" Jon Edwards gets or what state he's from - everyone knows he isn't like the rest of us. The guy owns a 28,000 square foot house. It's completely obscene.

(And no, I'm not just parroting right-wing talking points. Nobody in their right mind should own a house that large - this is the antithesis of "common sense". I came to this conclusion all by my little lonesome).

Love the guy's politics, though.

Posted by: George | Aug 31, 2007 3:36:38 PM

When it comes to policy, it's hard to pin down the supposed ideological differences. People are making ideological inferences based mostly on rhetoric and personal preference.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 31, 2007 3:46:38 PM

Your name being "George" is ironic "George." Did anyone think about how big of a spread of land that billionaire George Bush has when they were liking him? What was the saying- oh yeah, I can imagine having a beer with him. I think a lot of this stuff quite frankly is generated by other Democrats through their surrogates in the primary. It's fine, but if Edwards becomes the nominee, and the voice of the party that people can actually hear frequently- it goes out fo the window, especially compared to the millionaires boys club on the right.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 31, 2007 3:48:25 PM

"When it comes to policy, it's hard to pin down the supposed ideological differences. People are making ideological inferences based mostly on rhetoric and personal preference."

This post is false and also nonsensical. This comment is for others rather than meaning I'm going to argue with Sanpete.

If you want to begin to understand how the candidates differ start first with their websites that are actually quite good on say healthcare for outlining the differences of both style and substance among the candidates. Obama would be a lot more regulatory controls of the private sector, Edwards for mandatory healthcare but where the govt and private sector compete against each other and Clinton for incrementalism. Three very different substantive approaches. that alone shows the falsehold of the post.

The whole it's all rhectoric argument is nonsensical. All campaigns are rhectoric if they aren't incumbents because they have no accomplishments of having been in the office of which they aspire to hold. The best we can go in is the tea leaves of prior action and where they stand on the issues through the individual evolutions as candidates.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 31, 2007 3:56:02 PM

"I think most journalists would agree that I'm the most progressive, Senator Obama next, and Senator Clinton closest to the center. But I'd be willing to bet that if you ask most Americans the same question, they'd reverse it." That's not only, he says, because "she's a woman and he's an African American and Ah talk lahk thee-is. It's simple geography. Ask Middle Americans: You've got three Democratic candidates. One's from New York, one's from Chicago and one's from rural North Carolina. Who do you think is most like you?"

There's plenty in here to argue with - Obama's people, I think, would be livid at the suggestion that Edwards gets to claim the "most progressive" mantle (I wouldn't argue at all that Clinton's even close), but it's that last part that's just spectacularly partisan - who do you think is most like you... and somehow, Edwards says the answer is him. Not only that but his implication is, "I'm actually progressive... but no one actually thinks I am, and that's how I win." It's a nice try, but it won't wash - more than what George says (which, really, can't be just ignored, though it's not the most relevant piece of the puzzle), Edwards can't keep being out there with the hard left lines and not get tagged as the most progressive. This isn't something you can have all ways. And being seen as heavily left could be a problem (which is why Clinton's trying so hard to thread some "centrist" needle. And that's the problem I keep having with all three - every sentience is just so calculated, and it makes it hard to sort out what actually separates one from the other.

Posted by: weboy | Aug 31, 2007 3:57:19 PM

Excellent post.

John Edwards is redefining what Democrats are, bringing them back to their roots as the aprty of the people, the working man and woman. The President of the Carpenters Union said when endorsing him yesterday that Edwards was a "moderate." Economic populism is mainstream when Edwards says it. It is the new moderate position.

This is why he not only can win, but can redefine the politcial landscape. He will be the most progressive president since FDR.

Posted by: Tom Wells | Aug 31, 2007 4:03:42 PM

Speaking of falsehood, akaison, you never tire of just making stuff up about Clinton's as yet unreleased health care plan. You have no clue how it will compare to the others. Which makes my point very well.

There is a point of substantial difference between Obama and Edwards on health care, between universal access to affordable coverage and a requirement to purchase affordable coverage. Any other examples? Or is that enough for you to determine overall ideology?

Rhetoric and policy proposals aren't the same.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 31, 2007 4:06:45 PM

This is where one starts to contradict one's self when it's based on dislike:

This: "And being seen as heavily left could be a problem"

contradicts this:

"every sentience is just so calculated, and it makes it hard to sort out what actually separates one from the other."

Which is it?

Let me help you. The point of the diary is that perception is that he is moderate, but perception by the audience is not the same thing as what someone is. yet that perception can be our best ally just the same.


See Exhibit Reagan. Reagan was able to make conservative for those who wanted to listen seem okay and acceptable.

That's why the right reveres his having won. And why the left questions the value of the Clinton presidency in the long run.

Not in terms of the necessity of the Clinton presidency in its moment in history, but for its affect on the longer term history of the party. No one questions the coattails of Reaganism for the GOP- net positive for decades after Reagan.

Many question the net coattails of Clintonism. At best, like centrism itself- net 0 for the party.

My point? That Edwards shifts the debate as Reagan did. He makes by nothing more than who he is and the time in which he is running- the left seem moderate. He's doing so without having to talk about unity or how he is a moderate. Clinton and Obama must convince people they are moderate. Edwards does not.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 31, 2007 4:11:48 PM

Let me add- Edwards isn't changing what he is saying to achieve this perception. Obama, while a progressive, has had to modulate what he is saying to try to appear more moderate. Clinton has had to both modulate what she says, and worse act in ways to appear centrist.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 31, 2007 4:25:01 PM

This: "And being seen as heavily left could be a problem"

contradicts this:

"every sentience is just so calculated, and it makes it hard to sort out what actually separates one from the other."

Which is it?

No contradiction. One is about "being seen as." The other is about "what actually ...." Seems weboy understands the point and doesn't entirely agree with it.

Polls show that Edwards is right that he's viewed as the most moderate, with Clinton viewed as the most liberal. Who knows how well that would hold up. Bill was viewed as moderate at first, but soon came to be seen as liberal.

Obama, while a progressive, has had to modulate what he is saying to try to appear more moderate. Clinton has had to both modulate what she says, and worse act in ways to appear centrist.

Examples?

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 31, 2007 4:29:23 PM

Having a potentially close three-way primary race of actually center or center-left candidates is different than 'normal'.

Besides the money race (Hillary leads), the endorsement race (Hillary leads), the national polling race (Hillary leads) and the name recognition race (Hillary leads), we have the journalist and pundit race in which Hillary and Barak are the neck and neck race horses and Edwards is way behind the leaders.

Edwards isn't liked by the journalist/pundit/DC insiders. That seems to be an admitted fact. So they try to ignore Edwards and focus on Hillary/Barak.

If Edwards were ahead (more than the margin of error) in some of the other races, the tenor of the coverage would be quite different. Then those who don't like him would focus on how 'radical' Edward's program was and the negative side of his populism would be trumpeted from the steeples.

So Edwards is stuck with little coverage, and the lack of content/programmatic/ideological examination - which is harder work for the 'observing classes' - is the way to ignore how he is different.

If he wins some early primaries, the coverage will change and the attack dogs of the right and the DC elites will take him on.

DC NEEDS either Hillary or Barak as the Dem. candidate so they can focus of race and gender issues in the actual election and distract the public with those side issues. The gods forbid an honest discussion of content/program/direction in the general election.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 31, 2007 4:37:24 PM

Edwards isn't liked by the journalist/pundit/DC insiders. That seems to be an admitted fact.

Admitted fact? I doubt it's even a fact, and I haven't seen any journalists fessing up. Journalists focus on the frontrunners (by the various standards you mention), and those with the most interesting narratives. Edwards gets coverage consonant with his position and his story.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 31, 2007 4:53:21 PM

By his defamers you will know him.

Edwards is the most authentic candidate the Dems have this cycle. It's in his bio. It's in his policy stance.
This is why he is known as the inauthentic candidate. The truth is too threatening to the powers that be, moneyed and political. They are desperate to stop him. Like RFK, he might actually believe in all that crazy help the little guy talk; can't have that. Brooks and Borderella wouldn't approve. Kristol and Grover would faint. Wall Street would tut tut and K street would be pissed. The establishment wants to stop Edwards.

Posted by: Northern Observer | Aug 31, 2007 4:58:55 PM

Edwards isn't liked by the journalist/pundit/DC insiders. That seems to be an admitted fact.

Admitted fact? I doubt it's even a fact, and I haven't seen any journalists fessing up. Journalists focus on the frontrunners (by the various standards you mention), and those with the most interesting narratives. Edwards gets coverage consonant with his position and his story.
Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 31, 2007 4:53:21 PM


With all due respect Sanpete, your opinion lacks believability. Are you paid to do this? It smells of sophistry. A high profile journo came out and said the gang of 500 hate the guy. You read the net all the time. You probably saw it too. Enough with the contrarian mind games, it's boring.

Posted by: Northern Observer | Aug 31, 2007 5:05:22 PM

> Admitted fact? I doubt it's even a fact,
> and I haven't seen any journalists fessing up.

Time Magazine has an article this week where they essentially admit this.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Aug 31, 2007 5:06:26 PM

How many of you don't get that Sanpete doesn' know all of this? This isn't about the facts. It's about his compulsion. Anyway, I am not going to repeat myself on this thread about this sort of stuff. I have decideed to give a quick reminder and leave it up to others how much of his compulsive needs you are willing to tolerate.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 31, 2007 5:18:56 PM

by the way, I mentioned this elsewhere, but if you want to see how the media works check out the documentary by Alexandra Pelosi. When I went to a screening once she as much as amitted that the real issue that the media had with Gore and Kerry was that they didn't like them. Not what they were reporting on, but whether they liked them personally. One of my arguments regarding the Edwards campaign is to not run upstream on this. Get the media to like you, and you will get far more done that way because otherwise, no matter what you say, it's about their ego.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 31, 2007 5:21:36 PM

Why does every thread about Edwards devolve into an akaison vs Sanpete flame war? Boring! Can't you guys please ignore each other?

Posted by: br | Aug 31, 2007 5:25:26 PM

uh...edwards might be the most progressive out of the media chosen trio, but kucinich soars over him progressively in every way. his constant cheers and applause surpassed those for edwards obama and clinton during the afl-cio debate.

but gotta love the "liberal" blogosphere for towing the corporatist line. as kos would say, "ugh."

up next: why hillary clinton is the most progressive candidate in history to argue for the nuclear option.

Posted by: christian | Aug 31, 2007 5:26:38 PM

NO, Brooks has been kind to Edwards, raising other paranoid suspicions. But why would you expect Republican pundits to approve of any Democrat?

If something thinks the Time article admits media bias against Edwards (and the article is very positive itself), please quote the part you have in mind, because I don't see it.

People of every political stripe are naturally paranoid about how the press treats their candidate.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 31, 2007 5:34:00 PM

br, since I am not arguing with Sanpete, I have no idea what you are talking about. I've said about two things - the first to sanpete, and the second to others who are going to engage him in a pointless 50 plus post back and forth. the other post was to weboy. i know sanpete is trying to argue with me on what i said, but if you will notice- i haven't and nor will i respond directly. also, if you are so bored- next time add something a bit more substatnive than telling us that we are here to amuse you. nothing worse than someoen who adds zero to conversaation other than tell others they are here to amuse him.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 31, 2007 5:38:27 PM

I haven't seen any journalists fessing up.

Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic Monthly announced it on his blog a while ago, when explaining why Romney's makeup situation and Edwards' haircut were being treated differently. He went back and edited it after there was an outcry, but Digby still has the original:


There is a difference in the political reality: fairly or unfairly, a healthy chunk of the national political press corps doesn't like John Edwards.

Fairly or unfairly, there's also a difference in narrative timing: when the first quarter ended, the press was trying to bury Edwards. It's not so much interested in burying Romney right now -- many reporters think he's the Republican frontrunner.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Aug 31, 2007 5:39:19 PM

Thank you Neil for that post. But as I said there are a lot of historical anologies upon which one can draw. Going back to Gore, if you listen to the press now, they will say "oh we were so unfair." "oh we didn't really evaluate him fairly" blah fucking blah. The reality is that they always have these little navel gazing parties about how they could do their jobs better, and they turn around and do the exact same thing they did before. The problem is there is not 6th estate holding them accountable. blogs try by they are ill equiped in a mass appeal way to handle the job.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 31, 2007 5:42:30 PM

Sanpete,

I read the Washington Post everyday and it has a distinctly anti-Edwards flavor to it. Everything from the non-story on his house sale, to the haircut, to a recent piece suggesting that young people were abandoning his campaign.

I know quite a few mainstream journalists here and they tend to be distinctly uncomfortable with any kind of class based politics. It's just not done, don't you know. They are portraying Edwards as a phony because of his wealth. I don't know what they would do with FDR.

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Aug 31, 2007 5:53:04 PM

FDR couldn't have become FDR in today's political environment.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 31, 2007 6:00:41 PM

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