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pax 01-31-2004 09:37 AM

Cuter than Kerry, Nicer than Dean
Read the full article here:


I'm hardly the first observer to be impressed by a firsthand look at Edwards, whose "Two Americas" speech has become a minor phenomenon in this primary season. James Carville has called it the best stump speech he has ever seen. Josh Marshall likened the effect of watching Edwards to being "hypnotized." And Republicans have taken note: One party operative told the Washington Post that Edwards could be "Clinton without the scandal -- John Kennedy, from the South."

Heady stuff for a candidate needing an infusion of cash and a win in South Carolina. Before too long, the Edwards speech could be like a museum exhibit that political tourists flock to see before it closes, as I did in Rochester last weekend. Still, Edwards' surge in Iowa and modest rise in New Hampshire, built on intensive retail campaigning, suggests that -- more than for any other Democratic candidate -- to know him is to like him. How does Edwards do it?

...Edwards has also inverted the purpose of the standard political address, normally intended to get the audience to feel good about the candidate. The "Two Americas" talk also makes Edwards' audience feel good about itself. Sometimes he is blatantly hokey -- "I believe in you" is one of his concluding lines. But Edwards uses subtler tactics as well, creating a feeling that he -- and you -- can confide in each other.

Edwards starts by introducing the idea of the two Americas: "One for all those who are in positions of power and privilege ... and one for everybody else." Clearly, we're all in it together. But Edwards quickly extends the level of intimacy in the room. Let's discuss a political taboo, he says: the poor in America.

"I understand why people don't talk about it," Edwards states. "For the most part these folks don't vote. This issue would be way down the list of anybody's poll issues." Translation: I respect you too much to pander. Edwards continues: "The reason we should talk about the 35 million Americans who live in poverty is because it's wrong, and we have a moral responsibility to do something about it." A similar riff about racism ensues.

These early sections of the speech warm up the audience but seem to leave his critics cold. Who in a Democratic primary would oppose ending poverty and racism? When speaking of "moral responsibility," however, Edwards is using a line that could play better in a general election: Secular liberals will hear it as a standard pitch for social justice, whereas more religious voters, presumably in Southern or Midwestern hunting grounds, may well understand the phrase as an affirmation of Christian ethics. Similarly, another phrase Edwards likes to use, "working middle-class families," neatly bridges a class divide that Al Gore never rhetorically resolved during the 2000 campaign.

Edwards' speech is, in fact, roughly as substantive as anyone else's. In short order, Edwards makes clear that he wants to revise the Bush tax cut, introduce an ambitious college-education subsidy scheme, see the Patients' Bill of Rights into law, and introduce programs giving people incentives to make down payments on homes and accumulate savings. His policy cake just has a much thicker honey glaze surrounding it.

Besides, other subjects in the Edwards speech feel weighty to his audience. Take bankruptcy and personal finance, for example. Families that were once well off, Edwards announces, "are saving nothing. They're going into debt. The problem that creates is, if they have a serious illness, or a layoff, or some kind of financial problem, they go right off a cliff." Here Edwards is being more daring. Bankruptcy remains a kind of social taboo in America, far more prevalent than you'd know from listening to television pundits.

That's why you can always hear the crowd's approval when Edwards says he wants to crack down on "predatory lenders, payday lenders, and these credit cards companies that are fleecing the American people, every single day." He continues: "I know that some of you have seen these ads. Don't you love these? ZERO PERCENT introductory offer. Right. How long does that last? And then the rate goes to 18, 19 percent. We can ban these kinds of abuses." The senator may not be revealing his inner policy wonk, but talk about television ads is a language voters understand...

"You can all relate to this," Edwards usually says. "You can ask yourself, in your own mind. How many times has somebody said to you that you can't do something? That you're not quite prepared for this, you don't have the right training, or are not experienced enough?"

...Is John Edwards qualified to be president? Well, are you qualified for that job you want, but don't have? In making the case for his own candidacy, Edwards makes the case for your advancement, too. Howard Dean may tell his supporters, "You have the power," but John Edwards makes them feel it on personal level, with an expertise self-help gurus would envy.

Of course, hypnosis wears off eventually. But Edwards' ability to connect with voters seems borne out by the numbers -- and not merely by his success in Iowa. In New Hampshire, exit polls showed that almost half of Edwards' support came from voters who made up their minds in the last three days before the primary. Like Bill Clinton, Edwards tends to fare better with women than men. Part of his support simply comes from his personal appeal.

Superficial as that may be, it's an element of electoral success the Democrats would be unwise to dismiss. After all, if presidential elections were decided simply by the issues, the Democrats would have an incumbent right now. Most polls in 2000 showed that on issue after issue, voters favored positions closer to the Democratic platform. This apparent edge added up to less than the sum of its parts for Gore. In John Kerry, the Democrats may have themselves a winner. Or they may have another Gore-type candidate: A more experienced and knowledgeable politician than Bush, with Vietnam service as a bonus, but an unavoidable awkwardness on the stump.

This is to say nothing of geography, which is virtually a raison d'Ítre of the Edwards candidacy. Perhaps -- as Kerry has been musing aloud -- the Democrats can win without the South, by adding, say, Ohio from Bush's haul in 2000. Then again, not only have population shifts made Gore's states worth seven fewer Electoral College votes in 2004, but -- as no Democrat seems willing to mention -- Gore carried four of them (Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin) by only minuscule margins. Perhaps making North Carolina blue is a good plan after all.

Optimists and sunny-personality types -- Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton -- fare well in presidential elections. Edwards, channeling Clinton, says his campaign is "based on the politics of hope." Edwards may need more than hope to get through the primary season -- but it's a good quality to exude in November.
So is it Edwards, and not Kerry, who should be the logical successor to Dean? I'm thinking he looks better and better and I find myself hoping he scores the win in SC.

Here's his website, too: http://www.johnedwards2004.com

verte76 01-31-2004 09:49 AM

Interesting. He's an awfully good candidate. People in these parts are really interested in him. I wouldn't mind having a Southerner, that would make it easier to win.

U2andPolitix 01-31-2004 10:01 AM

I still say a Kerry/Edwards ticket...but next saturday I'll get to meet both Kerry and Edwards. Clark and Dean (:madspit:) will be there too but I could care less about them. I'll let y'all know how the event goes and how cute Edwards is in person!

oliveu2cm 01-31-2004 10:58 AM

I really like Edwards. I took some anonymous survey voting on which issues I supported, and the end result told me who I matched up with. I matched with Edwards on the majority, and Clark & Kerry tied further down. So I like Edwards, and I'm willing to hear what he has to say. :up: I especially like that he tries to relate to what it's like to live in our world, rather than the egocentric world other politicans seem to live in.

najeena 01-31-2004 04:46 PM

It's nice to hear optimism for a change. We'd all be better off with a dose.

WinnieThePoo 01-31-2004 05:24 PM

but , but he's a lawyer and the MOLE , his eyes are freaky , he speaks like forest Gump and i need a shrink , yipeeee :huh:

U2andPolitix 01-31-2004 07:32 PM

don't insult his accent its beautiful! my whole family sounds like that! just because we southerners talk slow doesn't mean we ARE slow. i do admit the mole is quite annoying but beyond that he's quite the cutie patootie.

theSoulfulMofo 01-31-2004 07:38 PM

someone please tell me the difference between Bush and Edwards... i don't know much about Edwards other than that he's charismatic... to me, Edwards is the Democrat Bush (I say this, because Edwards supported the war and Pat.Act.)

Please enlighten me. I'm interested in knowing. :|

U2andPolitix 01-31-2004 07:55 PM

Edwards was the #1 senator in voting against the Bushies the MOST, he wants to repeal tax cuts for the rich, he wants an investigation to figure out if there was either A) an intellegence failure or B) if we were misled or C) both. He's willing to let the Pat. Act expire instead of rechartering it. He's prochoice, is against a constitutional amendment saying marriage is between a man and a woman, etc. etc. Hope that helps! go to www.johnedwards.com for more detailed info.

verte76 01-31-2004 08:46 PM

Honestly, politix, one of those campaigns should hire you!!

verte76 01-31-2004 08:47 PM


Originally posted by WinnieThePoo
but , but he's a lawyer and the MOLE , his eyes are freaky , he speaks like forest Gump and i need a shrink , yipeeee :huh:
Hey.......Southern accents are cool. If they're not why do my parents have them? Gotta love those Wiregrass accents even if I can't always understand them.
Don't judge by accents. :censored: :censored: :censored: :censored: :censored: :censored:

Screaming Flower 01-31-2004 10:39 PM

i've been leaning more and more towards edwards for the last few months. at the moment, he's got my vote.

U2andPolitix 01-31-2004 10:54 PM


Originally posted by verte76
Honestly, politix, one of those campaigns should hire you!!
my friend who is with the Kerry campaign has said that I should be the campaign manager :wink: it'll happen one day!

MrsSpringsteen 02-01-2004 09:19 AM

I agree, that speech is almost mesmerizing-I've seen it on CSpan about 4 times now. I want to know more of the substance behind it, but there's no denying its' power and message.

It's all about media spin, and if it could somehow start going towards him he'd fare much better. I don't pay attention to that at all, but many people do.

pax 02-01-2004 10:36 AM

I'd love to hear that speech. I wish I knew where I would be living in the late spring and summer; if I did, I think I'd try to join his campaign (but at the moment I don't know if I'll still be chillin' in Pennsylvania or if I'll have moved on to New York by then).

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