Sunday, December 31, 2006

John Edwards, regular guy.

Since John Edwards announced his candidacy I've been following the various discussions around the internets.

Today, over at The Moderate Voice, Dutch conservative Michael van der Galien wonders whether Edwards can appeal to moderates without vowing to eliminate the budget deficit.

If I were American, I would object to Edwards’s view on the deficit: I would argue that it should not just be ‘contained’, a future President should be dedicated to exterminate the deficit alltogether, or at least to dramatically reduce the deficit.

Certainly Edwards is up front about the fact that deficit reduction is not his first priority.

Edwards also refuses to let his domestic ambitions be held hostage to the words "fiscal discipline." Though he acknowledges that the deficit has become a problem under Bush, he said the bigger priority is investing in health care, alternative energy sources, and programs designed to strengthen the middle class and attack poverty.

I suppose this is a question any candidate will face, to what degree will they seek to ameliorate the fiscal damage caused by BushCorp™'s grandiose borrow and spend policies?

But deficit reduction is not an end in itself, it is only a good insofar as it contributes to the welfare of the American people. And while the US' deficits are troubling, the next president will have a whole range of troubling issues to face. And finding a balance among these various challenges would seem to me the essence of a moderate approach.

And how else can Edwards appeal to moderate/centrist voters, on the assumption that, Rovian wedge politics notwithstanding, a successful presidential candidate needs to have votes from the center? (An assumption with which, by the way, I agree.)

I'm now going to make the astonishing suggestion that the best recent example of how to do this has been provided by none other than your CaliBlogger's favorite punching-bag, George W. Bush.

As Jon Stewart would say: Wha'?

But think about it. Bush's widest appeal had nothing to do with his stands on gay marriage, abortion, stem-cell research or any of the other issues he used to solidify his wingnut base.

Indeed his main appeal to the non-insane center was that they liked him despite his stands on those issues.

They liked him because that, agree with him or not, you both knew where he stood and knew that his beliefs were honestly held.

Whether you actually believe in Bush's actual sincerity (and I, for one, do not) his ability to at least appear sincere has been his most attractive feature. The guy Americans would, famously, most like to have a beer with.

And that seems to me to be Edwards biggest potental plus with moderates.

I can argue that his positions on energy, health and the economic insecurity being increasingly felt by the US middle-class are not so far from the center as some might think. But we can have that argument another time.

But specific policy positions aside, it seems to me that Edwards has learned the critical lesson, sincerity sells.

And he also seems to have tweaked his campaign style to reflect that fact. Just look at his announcement.

Gone is the finely tuned stump speech, nuanced and honed as a lawyer's closing argument. No bunting. No marching bands. And frankly, no triangulation.

Just a YouTube video.

Just a guy you'd like to have a beer with.


Minor Ripper said...

I think Edwards is great but I just don't know what has changed since 2004 except that he is two years older. The more I think about the Dems in 2008, the more I think the nomination is Al Gore's to lose: he was robbed in 2000, has been consistently right on Iraq (unlike Hillary), and will not have a problem with either cash or name recognition... I wrote a story on this at

Steve Kang said...

I'd love to see Gore throw his hat in the ring as well.

As for Edwards, though I'm not backing (i.e. sending $ to) anyone as yet, I liked him back in 2004.

Plus a two year absence from THIS government may not be a bad thing.