The Power of Truth

For all the bullshit in politics, truth matters. Voters know it when they hear it. Politicians look different when they speak it. Packaged the right way by the right person, truth prevails. Sometimes.

John Edwards is basing his campaign on a two-part truth: Big Business has too much power, and it won't give it away without a fight. The first part is self-evident. You can, like Obama, argue against the second, but to do so requires you to ignore history, common sense, and core tenets of capitalism.

Edwards is riding this truth to stay competitive in a race against two mega-celebrities. At every stop, he persuasively argues that he, and he alone, is capable of fighting the requisite "epic battle." It's the People v. Corporate Power, whose influence on our government he doesn't even bother to present as anything but malign. This is hardly a departure for Johnny Populist, but his message has sharpened; it's shed all rhetorical fat. His speeches contain no conditionals or qualifications. He's the anti-Kerry.

There's a word that's increasingly popping up in his speeches, a word with decisively Christian overtones that helps to explain why his political appeal is often lost on elites. The word is greed. Edwards is crusading against not only oil companies and HMOs but one of the seven deadly sins. There are different ways to preach values. Watch out, Gordon Gecko.

Corporate greed and the very powerful use their money to control Washington and this corrupting influence is destroying the middle class.

He has, as John Nichols says, the right message at the right time. According to Gallup, the least popular institutions in the country are HMOs, Big Business, and Congess. Or consider this, from Democracy Corps:

If Americans have ever been angrier with the state of the country, we have not witnessed it...When you ask in a national survey the 70 percent who say the country is off on the `wrong track' what underlying developments they are thinking about, they point to three inter-related themes, fully consistent with the more emotional response of the groups: big business getting whatever they want in Washington, leaders forgetting the middle class and America doing nothing about problems at home.

Of course, we don't need pollsters to tell us that the time is ripe for hard-edge populism, not after seven years of George Bush and, for that matter, forty years of increasing economic inequality, plus NAFTA, the Washington Consensus, Vodoo Economics, Enron, Halliburton, the Carlyle Group, the gutting of OSHA, Blackwater, Cintas, Nataline Sarkisyan---if John Edwards didn't exist, some political consultant would have to create him. He's the only candidate (with the exception of Ron Paul) who's speaking to the justified outrage and sense of betrayal permeating the public.


I've long hoped that influential bloggers would take up sides in the primary because active support from the sphere increases its relevancy, and because I figured that Edwards would be the primary beneficiary of endorsements. In the past week, both Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller have said they're rooting for Edwards. Though neither offered exactly a ringing endorsement, each recognizes what's increasingly clear: whatever his flaws, Edwards offers the best hope for a progressive revival. Here's Stoller:

Only Edwards has put forward an aggressive populist message, one conducive to the partisanship we need.  And while he has no strong political accomplishments and I'm not sure he'd run a good general election campaign, he's succeeding somehow in Iowa with almost no media focus and a deep hostility from DC (marked by his fundraising circles, which unlike those of Clinton and Obama are entirely driven by non-DC sources).  That is admirable, even if I don't fully understand how he's doing it.

But Stoller already answered his own question: How's he doing it? His "aggressive populist message."


Happy New Year. There's only year left in which George Bush can destroy humankind. Let's not let him.

Tags: corporations, John Edwards, Message, populism (all tags)



Re: The Power of Truth

You can feel the power of Edwards's truth by how uncomfortable it makes establishment figures like Joe Klein and Rothenberg.

by MassEyesandEars 2008-01-01 06:10AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

This is the best thing I've read all year.  OK, it may be a little early for that to mean a lot, but it does give me hope for the days and year ahead.

I have long felt that Edwards was the only candidate with the right message, the one that progressives would (I'd have thought) rally behind.  I simply do not understand why so many bloggers have been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the primaries to be over.  This is the time to speak up, folks, and no, not all Dems are created equal.

Anyway, I think Edwards is the right person and now that he seems to be scaring the hell out of the DC elites, not to mention a couple of other Dems, I think he's poised to pull a few surprises.  An early success or two will mean a lot, and if ever a populist was due to catch fire, now is the time.

by JJF 2008-01-01 06:33AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

Hey, this is the best comment I've gotten all year. The sphere does seem to be rallying behind Edwards a bit, although he could use a much bigger push.

by david mizner 2008-01-01 06:41AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

Why didn't you mention Jerome's love letters to Edwards?

by Bush Bites 2008-01-01 06:37AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

Well he hasn't explicitly said he's behind Edwards, has he?

by david mizner 2008-01-01 06:40AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

David have you read the populist moment by Goodwyn?

I think it perfectly captures what Edwards is trying to do; bring corporate power under democratic control. It's why his message resonates so strongly with me and why I hope and pray that Iowans will recognize their best chance since FDR to usher in a new progressive majority that works again for working people.

by adamterando 2008-01-01 07:07AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

No, haven't read it. Thanks for the suggestion, Adam.

by david mizner 2008-01-01 10:21AM | 0 recs
At, bloggers lean Edwards.. oots-on-the-ground-for-edwards/

Mind you, this is in upstate ny which should be Clinton country.


by optimusprime 2008-01-01 07:12AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

This is exactly why Edwards has appealed to me.  He recognizes one of the core problems is corporate control of nearly everything, and he's willing to fight them.  

After 7 years of Bush and the horrible impact of his policies, America will be willing to take a bigger "leap" than normal, which may be required for some people to support Edwards.  The same could be said, sadly, of voting for a woman or an African American.  However, I think in the end people will recognize our need for big change, which Edwards has to offer them.

The snow should be on the ground still and the high between now and Thursday night in the couple of cities I looked at should be in the mid 20s.  I wonder how that weather will impact turnout, if at all.  

Let's hope for good news on Thursday night - Edwards, Obama, Clinton - in that order and with wide margins between each of them.  

by passionateprogressive 2008-01-01 07:31AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

If you want a shorter, punchier version, which began running in Iowa this morning, check this out

by desmoulins 2008-01-01 07:34AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

great ad, I think. I don't know if any ads have the power to change things, but if they do, this one might.

by david mizner 2008-01-01 10:21AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

Thanks David, for another very clear summation of what's at stake here. I'm a sucker for truth, too. Obama and Clinton rely on platitudes too much of the time. John Edwards loves the truth, loves speaking it, the feel of true words in the mouth, the ring of truth to the ears is what we hope moves people. Not the platitudes, the manipulations, the equivocation of Obama and Clinton. Then comes worse, the misrepresentation of what Edwards says, which is what Obama is doing now accusing Edwards of having too much, too little and the wrong kind of money, a hypocrite, in other words, untruthful and untrustworthy. It's an amateur's game, and a mistake that Clinton won't make I think because she knows that Iowans hate that kind of talk. I'm counting on Iowa caucus goers to hash it out behind closed doors. Edwards supporters are well prepared with the truth and the fight.

by mrobinsong 2008-01-01 08:38AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

Great assessment...I have on comments state George Bush might destroy humankind is really absurd......such statement should be left for people who tried such as Hitler.....Joseph Stalin and perhaps the current leader of Iran......dont embarrass yourself with such statements......

by adbct 2008-01-01 09:26AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth

I was really just kidding--I'm one of "those" people.

by david mizner 2008-01-01 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: The Power of Truth des-moines-register-full-page-ad/
Full page ad in DMR
Every Iowan Knows the Truth - We Must Fight For Change.
An Important Message For Iowa Caucusgoers From John Edwards

"I believe there are four truths that must be spoken in
this election if we're going to meet our moral responsi-
bility to pass on a better America to our children, just as
20 generations of Americans have done before us.
The first truth we must face is that everything that
makes America America is threatened today: the promise
of equal opportunity, good jobs, a strong middle class,
and each generation doing its part to give its children a
better life is at stake.

Corporate greed has gotten its way in Washington for
25 years and our elected leaders let it happen. If we elect
another president appointed by the status quo - or just
trade corporate Democrats for corporate Republicans -
the middle class will fall further behind and our children
will pay the price.

The second truth is that this election is not just
another four-year fight between political parties or com-
peting ideas; it is an epic struggle for the future of
America. We are fighting for the America we believe in
against a small band of profiteers that has sold out
America for their own greed and power.

The third truth is that these forces of corporate greed
and powerful interests use their money to control Wash-
ington, and this corrupting influence is destroying the
middle class.

The fourth truth is that real change is going to take a
real fight. It always does.

by mrobinsong 2008-01-01 11:28AM | 0 recs
Why does no one care

that Edwards sided with corporate power while in the Senate? Bankruptcy Bill, Farm Subsidies for Agribusiness, etc.

by nerdoff 2008-01-01 11:59AM | 0 recs
97 percent lifetime rating

from AFL-CIO.

I'm sure the many national unions that have endorsed Edwards are well aware of the totality of his record.

How many national unions have endorsed Obama again?

by desmoinesdem 2008-01-01 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: 97 percent lifetime rating

United Auto Workers Region 4, which includes 30,000 members and retirees in Iowa

by nerdoff 2008-01-01 12:35PM | 0 recs


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