Saturday, January 12, 2008

John Edwards and the people he scares

Ask corporate lobbyists which presidential contender is most feared by their clients and the answer is almost always the same -- Democrat John Edwards. ...

One business lobbyist, who asked not to be named, said Edwards "has gone to this angry populist, anti-business rhetoric that borders on class warfare ... He focuses dislike of special interests, which is out there, on business." Another lobbyist said an Edwards presidency would be "a disaster" for his well-heeled industrialist clients. ...

"My sense is that Obama would govern as a reasonably pragmatic Democrat ... I think Hillary is approachable. She knows where a lot of her funding has come from, to be blunt," said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Stanford Group Co., a market and policy analysis group.

But Edwards, Valliere said, is seen as "an anti-business populist" and "a trade protectionist who is quite unabashed about raising taxes."

"I think his regulatory policies, as well as his tax policies, would be viewed as a threat to business," he said.

He instigates fear and loathing in the DLC as well:

As would be expected, the two gentlemen from the Democratic Leadership Council on a conference call today told reporters they’re very confident in their party’s chances of reclaiming the White House, they’re happy that substantive issues are being discussed…

And then Al From, the D.L.C. founder, said he was “very happy about the two candidates” Americans are considering.

Only two candidates?

Our ears perked up as we listened on.

“This is a really hard choice, really, for Democratic voters because they like both candidates,” said Mr. From. “For me, I don’t see that going to be a problem. I think in the end, Senator Obama’s appeal that he’s made very firmly and directly to independent voters, and Senator Clinton’s appeal to the forgotten middle class are going to add up to a very smashing Democratic majority in the fall.”

“This is not uncommon in primaries to see this kind of passionate support for one’s candidate,” added Harold Ford Jr., the D.L.C. chairman and a former Tennessee congressman.

Well, O.K. But what about John Edwards? He beat Mrs. Clinton in Iowa, as one reporter pointed out, but Mr. From still doesn’t think Mr. Edwards is viable.

I’m not going to speculate where the Edwards people go because I don’t know, to be honest with you. I think Edwards has run a hard, tough campaign. It’s not a, you know, he doesn’t take the tack that necessarily I agree with. What we’ve seen so far in this campaign is optimism. …

I think what you’re saying is that this is moving into a two-person race and that people in the race have been optimistic and hopeful, and I think that bodes well for the party because in the end, as long as I’ve been in politics — and I’m a lot older than 37 — the optimism always beats pessimism.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post says that "Edwards has offended many Democrats with his candidacy". Like whom? Lawrence O'Donnell says he is a loser and maybe even both a sexist and racist because he would "deny Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton the one-on-one contest they deserve."

Now I would expect rabid dogs like the US Chamber of Commerce to come out against him -- hell, they even hate Huckabee, for God's sake -- but I would also like to know which Democrats Balz is referring to. Because if any of them have the stones to identify themselves, it should be pointed out that they aren't actually members of the Democratic Party.

They may be Democrats but they're not Democratic.

I was greatly disappointed that Iowa -- and then New Hampshire -- did not give Edwards the boost he needed. While he is now a long-shot for the nomination, I welcome his determination to stay in this race. In the wake of the Granite State's surprising result, I began to notice on the various Democratic fora I visit that many Obama supporters appeared frustrated that Edwards had not dropped out and endorsed their candidate. They believe he is splitting the anti-Hillary vote.

I think everyone should be happy that Edwards would, as he has signaled, campaign through to the convention even though the others are currently favored to win the nomination. Once Edwards does, sadly yet eventually for this blogger, withdraw -- and be that immediately after February 5, or sooner, or later -- I agree with the Obama camp that a vast majority of his support moves to the senator from Illinois and not to Mrs. Clinton. It could well be enough support for her opponent so as to deny her the nomination -- from any moment well before, to shortly after -- the roll call of the first ballot in Denver this summer.

Or to deny her the nomination entirely, of course.

Thus Clinton supporters calling for Edwards to end his campaign ought to be able to better demonstrate that Clintonian savvy for triangulation.

John Edwards, like David Van Os, is precisely the kind of Democratic politician this country needs to elect more of. Edwards -- like Van Os did in his 2006 race for Texas Attorney General -- is talking about the issues in a way that Clinton and Obama never have (and likely never will). In the debates, his campaign rallies, in his television advertisements, he calls attention to problems that the corporate media all too often filter out. His rhetoric about rescuing the middle class, and those below, ought to be terrifying to the entrenched elites in corporate America and the Democrats in the Democratic Party. John Edwards in the White House threatens business as usual, right to its foundations.

Obama and Clinton, despite all the "change" rhetoric, have not shown themselves to be committed to a progressive agenda. Clinton, in my now-updated opinion, is beatable in a general election if McCain is the nominee. And even if she wins, it will be a narrower victory than any other Democratic nominee could achieve, and probably without even a slim majority in the Senate or House or both. And we would be back to all the things that destroyed the Democratic party in the 90's: triangulation and center-right policies masquerading as liberal positions. The return of the vast right-wing conspiracy machine with a vengeance. Endless media stories about Clintonian "scandals" regardless of the merit. The snarling mug of James Carville on television every night. The DLC and its own K Street strategy, triumphant.

And obviously we will see little if any gain for progressive positions. Universal health care? Dead on arrival. She doesn't make that mistake twice. Maybe a plan that allows health insurance companies and Big Pharma to suck up even more money than they do now. Iraq? A delayed or "deferred" withdrawal, leaving thousands of American soldiers stuck in a quagmire of neoconservative and neoliberal warhawk fantasies. A continued push by AIPAC and conservative Israeli politicians to involve America in a war against Iran. The continued downgrading of environmental issues, especially lacking a response to global warming that promises any hope of real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

And to be honest, despite all the happy talk from Obama about being the candidate of hope and change, I don't know that an Obama presidency would be a whole lot different, with the possible exception of Iraq. He may secretly be a progressive wrapped in moderate/centrist/bipartisan rhetoric, but I'm not convinced that he would engage in promoting policies that would radically alter the status quo. His speeches have actually referenced Republican talking points on Social Security, for Chrissakes. He is tied to as many big money corporate interests as Clinton, and nothing I've seen from him so far in his senatorial career leads me to believe he would cross those special interests if push came to shove. I hope I would be wrong about that, but that's all it is -- hope.

Which leaves us in a place only the punditocracy could love: endless discussions of the "horse race" aspect of the campaign, with little if any substantive discussion of issues and policy differences between the candidates of either party. And the promise of a future only slightly less bleak than the Bush years.

In short, business as usual.

So that's why I still support John Edwards, and hope that he forces a brokered Democratic convention this summer.

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