December 29, 2006

Tomorrow Begins Today... Great Start for Edwards

John Edwards, up to his knees in the still ravaged 9th Ward of New Orleans, set the tone for the coming Presidential campaign with what I believe was a smart and effective message. Though I don’t think highly of his chances, he’s done us all a great service by so intelligently framing the debate early, powerfully, and nobly.

Eschewing the standard trappings of a campaign announcement, Edward’s message -- which is essentially to get off your ass and DO something -- was instead delivered while he was off his ass doing something in New Orleans. His call to action, reminiscent of Kennedy’s inaugural request to ask not what your country can do for you, stands in stark contrast to the removed, out of touch Imperial Presidency of GWB. While Bush has asked you to work harder and sacrifice so he can spend your money as he best saw fit, Edwards, with youthful energy and enthusiasm, in blue jeans and with sleeves rolled up rather than in a fancy suit behind a podium, was instead a man of the people who was offering to work for them, and alongside them.

Edward’s “Tomorrow Begins Today” campaign website states that he’s in favor of universal health care, strengthening the middle class, leading the fight against global warming while reducing our dependency on oil, and providing moral leadership for the world. Specifically, he states that we cannot wait until the next President is sworn in two years from now, but we must start today. I think he very wisely gauged the national disdain for the narcissistic personality cult that politics has become in recent years. By redefining leadership as matching action with belief, and by reaching out directly to the voters and skipping the mainstream media circuses of more traditional campaign announcements, Edwards has aligned himself with the public’s perception of what kind of leader will best succeed where Bush has failed.

I consider this a brilliant strategy as it makes use of the vast and roiling resentment many Americans feel toward the current occupant of the White House today, not waiting until November of 2008. His “change starts now” approach, whether that change is for Edwards or for someone else, suddenly offers an outlet toward instant gratification and will resonate with the more than 60% of Americans who don’t presently approve of Bush.

Edwards has begun the effort to channel our national anger – and the predictable almost certain anger to come over the next two years – and will require that the Republicans respond and defend all that they haven’t done as well as what they have done poorly. For instance, it will no longer be enough for Republicans to defend the choice to go to Iraq by saying “You voted too!” as they did in 2004. Edwards rallies the “what have you done for me lately” crowd, much to the detriment of the GOP who have very few laurels on which to rest.

The 2008 campaign is now about something more than us vs. them, or the even more nebulous good vs. evil. Now it’s about action vs. inaction, and that’s a hell of a concrete foundation for the Democrats, who have been so harshly accused of having nothing new to offer for so long.

This stance has the additional benefit of wresting the moral authority from the far-right Republicans. Whereas the GOP had successfully positioned themselves as the more righteous of the two parties while discussing abortion and homosexuality, Edwards has begun changing the moral axis on which the conversation will revolve. Rather than the prurient sexuality of the liberal left, which the righteous right themselves nullified with their own deviant displays, instead we’ll be talking about the idleness and wicked ways of the do-nothing 109th congress and the inability to take effective action in Iraq and New Orleans, and against the more and more obvious reality of global warming. Edward’s opening shot has begun re-framing the morality issue in favor of change, with a new model: the vibrant, vigorous Democrats who stand opposed to the feeble, paralyzed Republicans; diligence, humility, and forbearance vs. sloth, gluttony, and the sin of pride. Now those are some moral issues I can get behind.

In every contest where there is only one winner there are still many roles to play, and several candidates may do great service to their party and the nation in their unsuccessful bids for the Democratic nomination. I believe Edwards is one of those candidates who will be remembered fondly and highly appreciated though he will ultimately not be our President-Elect in 2008. Yet none the less Edward’s early efforts will play an important role in setting our national expectation of what qualities our next leader should possess. For the Democrats it is a great start, and well begun is half done, as some famous dead white man once said.


At 10:00 AM, Blogger Allan said...

The sad truth is that anyone (including Edwards) with enough influence to be considered a "serious" major party candidate has already sold out to large corporate donors, lock, stock, and barrel, and to which he is beholden. It is only in that way that you can be considered in the first place. "You got to dance with them what brought you." Or, in this case, "bought" you.

The last candidate with name recognition who had not sold out was Ralph Nader.


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