The Media might be coming around to Edwards - thanks to the liberal message
by Peter from WI, Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 12:20:46 PM EDT
[cross-posted on my blog Madison For Edwards]
It's 55 degrees and sunny in Wisconsin in the month of March. Miami University (my alma mater) is in the NCAA tournament for the first time since the Wally Sczerbiak days. And the mainstream media has had two good stories about John Edwards in one weekend. Is the world coming to an end? All signs point to yes.
More importantly, back to those stories in the press. As I wrote on Saturday, the New York Times had an interesting, well-written story on Edwards working the ground in Iowa in the Saturday Times. And today, the Washington Post follows them with a story on Edwards. In the story from Dan Balz, "New John Edwards Sells Less Biography, More Liberal Issues", the WashPo finally talks about Edwards the candidate of 2008. He is "more serious and his elbows are far sharper than they were four years ago" and "his positions have more edge." The thrust is that, as the title suggests, "an emphasis on biography has given way to a focus on issues, where there has been a demonstrable shift to the left."
And tacitly, the article acknowledges that the mainstream media has not exactly been paying as much attention to the 2004 nominee for Vice President. "Although he labors in their shadows, Edwards has drawn attention from the party's two glamour candidates, Sens. Hillary Clintion and Barack Obama." While outlets like the NYTimes and WashPo have virtually led the charge to key in on the "rockstars" of Clinton and Obama, it has been mostly up to the alternative outlets, like blogs Daily Kos and MyDD to raise the profile, especially among grassroots/netroots activists and the Democratic rank-and-file, of a candidate that is truly offering a vision for this country beyond plattitudes and flowery rhetoric. Although former trial attorney and senator Edwards is no stranger to intense and intensely engaging speeches. But there is a difference in the words and lectern-content of Obama/Clinton and John Edwards.
In Edwards' own words from the WashPo article:
"Some of what is being characterized in that way is the result of me being strong and clear about where I stand and not being soft and muddy. I think that we're in a place in American history where any serious presidential candidate and the president of the United States need to be clear what they want to do for the country."
Being strong and clear, not soft and muddy? Offering a vision for the direction of our country at a pivotal point, coming off of four years of a disasterous presidency that exposed the utter failure in practice and philosophy of modern American conservativism? It's like this is someone who wants to be a Democratic president and has not only learned the lessons of contemporary politics but also has at his core real values and an understanding of how to communicate them in a way that resonates with people and their own values. For Democrats, this offers a not-just-refreshing but indeed inspiring change from the dominance of mushy and electorally-deficient "centrism" and triangulation. For Americans, this offers a real change and almost fundamental revolution in what we can expect of politics and how public affairs can impact our lives positively.
As if John needed to add an exclamation point on himself as a candidate and as a political persona:
"I should make absolutely clear: Nothing has changed about John Edwards as a human being and my value system. It's exactly the same as it's always been, which is wanting to give people the chances that I've had."
For those cynics who have tried to chalk up Edwards' allegedly newfound liberalism (and importantly, his ability to articulate liberalism as in line with American values) to a calculated 'ploy' to appeal to Democratic primary voters, this is a direct repudiation of their claims. And this is important. Those cynics are the ones who see messaging and 'political positioning' as strictly "politics," just do not get it that politics and public affairs are about more than consultant-driven elections and governance - they are about who we are as a people and what do as a body politic regarding everyone in our society and our society at-large. One does not 'position' him- or her-self to win votes. They express their values and their vision to make clear how he or she will govern and what that means to voters and citizens. That might just be the biggest difference between Clinton/Obama and Edwards. Politics is a vehicle for positive change and the improvements of peoples' lives and not a vocation where complex choices and issues are reduced to, at worst, the results in opinion polling or political capital.
And this is not just the candidate making this clear, reinforcing that as a politician, he is not the "public face" of a political operation but instead a true leader. Here is another bit from the article:
"He knows what he wants and believes it with a passion," said David E. Bonior, a former congressman from Michigan who is Edwards's campaign manager. "I think he's very confident about his values and beliefs and he's expressing that."
David Bonior shares Edwards values. As elected officials and as people, they have both been friends of and advocates for working families, the labor movement, and those who seek a better world through politics and public affairs. And that is key. Edwards' campaign team is assembled not of the 'best' D.C. consultants, although there are some heavy-hitter political operatives onboard (Ed Turlington comes to mind first). It is made up of people who share the values and vision of John Edwards. This is not so much a campaign for the presidency, but instead an electoral contest that is the natural outgrowth of a movement for progressive action towards actualizing American liberal values.
Just to ice this cake a wee bit more, I have to include another quotation from the story:
"It's not about political calculation and incremental change. We're going to bring about the real changes, the transformational change that's needed in this country."
That's John Edwards, candidate for president. Since when have Democratic candidates talked like this? Even if you were one of the aforementioned cynics, I would ask what kind of political calculation this is? The conventional wisdom is that safety, 'moderation' and seeking the ideological center so as not to 'offend' the sensibilities of any voters is the way toward electoral success. Especially in a national campaign for president. So either John Edwards gets it that being true to oneself and offering a clear, distinct and progressive vision makes for good politics, or this is really who John Edwards is. My gut, my instincts, and my head tell me that it's both.
But to place in the "world is definitely ending" file, Bob Shrum actually made a statement that made sense - and one totally out of character with his past work, especially that of 2004 (which sunk the Kerry campaign).
"I think he has a strategy to meet the party where it is," said veteran strategist Robert Shrum, who was an adviser when Edwards first ran for the Senate in 1998. "It's a party that wants fundamental change, not just in Iraq but on issues like health care. He's going to meet the voters where they are. I think he believes, and I think he's correct, that the old strategy of triangulation won't work in Democratic primaries -- and certainly won't work for him."
He's meeting the party where it is? Meeting the voters there too? Is that Bob Shrum for real? Regardless, (and it blows my mind to say this) Bob Shrum is right about Edwards (to a point - he seems to cling to that consultant mindset of 'political positioning') and right about American politics. Expressing your values as a person (as a candidate) and articulating them in a way that resonates is good politics - and it's good for the progressive movement - and really, the American people have liberal values at their core; so a candidate authentically communicating that is making serious political hay while doing the right thing.
So there you have it - a progressive movement candidate is running in a way that advances liberal values and the connection to them among the populace and he is doing well politically with it. I can't imagine a more simple reason to back John Edwards. And among the many reasons that he is my guy, this might just be the most important.
Please feel free to join me in supporting John Edwards and make a contribution via the Wisconsin For Edwards ActBlue page.
[original post at Madison For Edwards]