Saturday, March 10, 2007

Edwards for President!

Raising the Bar
The Democrats swept to victory in 2006 by delivering an economically populist, antiwar message. When the Campaign for America's Future asked voters to name the three most important issues of the election, "Iraq" topped the list, followed closely by "gas prices and oil companies" and "health-care costs." In 2004, 53 cents of every dollar in salary increases went to the top 1 percent of earners. Inequality has gotten so bad that even George W. Bush has given a speech decrying its rise and the attendant spike in CEO pay.

In short, it would seem an ideal moment for the class-conscious son of a millworker. But populism is traditionally a hard sell in American presidential politics, even when the timing is fortuitous, and Edwards has compounded that problem by declaring war on poverty as well. That's not exactly a proven combo for winning the nation's highest office, and the electorate may not want to hear such harangues from a mansion-dwelling lawyer worth tens of millions of dollars. But it's been a long time since a presidential campaign featured a populist as authentic as Edwards, and he's spent a long time proving his talent for winning over skeptical groups of ordinary Americans. For Edwards, those groups used to be called juries. Today they're called voters.

I’m not sure that Edwards has much of a shot, but he’s my man: the only presidential candidate (or pre-candidate) since Hubert Humphrey who is on message. The message of the Left is economic populism, supported by a welfare state and social engineering. That is all the law and the prophets.

This message was drowned out during the noise of the Vietnam era when the Left became inextricably linked to the anti-war movement and subsequently muddled with various forms of identity politics until no one was sure what the Left was all about. At best it was a laundry list of projects that reflected the preoccupations of the coastal, urban elite: abortion rights, gay rights, multiculturalism, gun-control and, probably more than any specific agenda, the ethos of that elite including their thinly-veiled disdain for the white working class. Conservatives, predictably, jumped in and persuaded “middle Americans,” that they were the true populists by promoting Culture Wars.

Will the lower classes actually believe Edwards? I doubt it. The dogma that government is the problem not the solution is too firmly entrenched and the lower classes are convinced that the only benefit government can provide for them is “tax relief.” But I still support this guy if for no other reason than to get a hearing for the old time religion of the Left. Maybe in a decade or two people will catch on.


Levity said...

I think we are like-minded people---but I do think that you should check out before you commit yourself to Edwards.

H. E. said...

I liked him on the last round but don't think he has a shot this time around. Not that I think Edwards will make it, but I do think there's a better chance and also that he'll be able to get more publicity for the his policies.