Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for the ‘John Edwards’ Category

Dreaming of Bobby

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An Yglesias reader has this to say about Matt’s support for Barrack Obama:

Matt should just accept that his candidate is the least engaged in making bold domestic policy changes and move on. Obama is much more concerned with good government and atmospheric changes domestically and image changes abroad. That’s fine as far as it goes, it just doesn’t go as far as Edwards does.

Right. At the end of the day, Barrack Obama is running as a Bill Bradley-style process liberal, and that usually means stressing foreign policy, political reform, and social issues. It’s a type of campaign that traditionally attracts affluent, idealistic liberals. If this is your thing, Obama’s your man.

If economic justice is your thing, the obvious choice is John Edwards. I think a big problem for American liberalism in general is that, by soft-peddling the economic justice issue in such an incredibly lame fashion, (I mean, America’s safety net is absolutely fucking pathetic compared to the rest of the rich world) “process” liberalism is severely undercut. You can’t expect folks who are worried about homelessness or hunger or hospital bills to get overly worked up about gay marriage or climate change. Indeed, you might very well expect them to oppose progressive efforts in these areas, to the extent that financially-stressed working people tend to be overly susceptible to the siren call of right wing scare-mongering.

It’s no coincidence that the last time the two strains of liberalism were fused in a credible national candidate (Bobby Kennedy) came toward the tail end of a great period of expanding economic opportunity.

I think it’s high time we got our ducks in a row when it comes to economics.

Written by Jasper

December 18, 2007 at 9:46 pm

On second thought: the case for John Edwards

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Ezra seems skeptical about the ability of a President Edwards to enact his plans:

I can’t figure out what the Edwards plan is. How do you fight like hell to change the power balance in the system? What’s the pressure point? The vulnerability? I’ve heard some suggest campaign finance reform, but that has to pass Congress, first, and Congress is where the system exhibits its most profound rot. Does Edwards mean to use the bully pulpit to spark social organizing, as Reagan did with his tax cuts, creating enough voter pressure to scare Congress into constituent service before corporate fealty? If so, how will that work?

Well, it remains to be seen exactly how things will transpire, but I reckon there are two elements that speak to the superiority of the Edwards approach when it comes to effecting change:

a) Longer coattails. This has been written about extensively. Edwards will take more states against the Republican nominee than either Clinton or Obama, and this will give down ticket Democrats the greatest possible chance at gaining for their party larger congressional margins.

b) His fiery rhetoric probably is a big plus. I’m about as doctrinaire a free trader as you’re likely to find in liberal circles, but even I think Edwards’s views on trade may be useful if one’s goal is to strengthen the safety net and modify the tax code. The last thing the plutocrats want is anybody messing with their ability freely engage in the no-holds-barred form of capitalism that has made them jaw-droppingly wealthy. A populist president who enters Washington possessed of both deeper congressional majorities and the imprimatur of the voters for his anti Wall Street, pro worker views is probably in a far stronger position to exact meaningful concessions from the business community than either a connected DC insider or a national healer-in-chief.

Edwards surely is correct about the need to take power. It won’t freely be given.

Written by Jasper

December 17, 2007 at 12:07 pm

What’s the matter with John Edwards?

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John Edwards’s lack of progress is puzzling, especially given the increasing economic difficulty the country is experiencing. You’d think that the problematic economy — coupled with the high profile he has attained by a previous national run — would leave him in a stronger position.

I think it boils down to — and this is going to seem quite the cliché — that he’s just not sufficiently presidential. In the US system, we’re not just choosing the government’s CEO, we’re choosing a head of state. In a parliamentary system, were Edwards the leader of the opposition, he’d have a shadow cabinet minister dealing with economic affairs who could hammer away at the middle class anxiety issue. But Edwards has to make that case himself in the US style of politics. And his incessant, almost shrill focus on how much the economy sucks for ordinary folk — while music to my Denmark-lovin’ redistributionist ears, frankly brings him down in the eyes of a lot of voters. He sounds like he’s running for Consumer Advocate in Chief, or Povery Ameliorator in Chief. But John Edwards is running for leader of the free world.

Not that I don’t think that this election will probably be decided — as most ultimately are — on the economy (stupid), but you can make the economic case along with talking about other issues, especially after you get the nomination. To talk about how tough the middle class has it incessantly, almost 24/7 non-stop, hasn’t proven to be a winning formula. Even Americans who need a lot of help don’t want to think they’re voting for someone merely because that candidate is going to give them some rich person’s money. They want to be inspired. Edwards, I’m (truly) sorry to say, mostly hasn’t been inspiring.

It’s not over for him yet, but John Edwards doesn’t have much time to right his ship.

Written by Jasper

December 10, 2007 at 7:11 pm