Friday, January 28, 2005

Ain't No Sunshine When He's Gone 

Dionne at WaPo seems to have gotten the first interview with John Edwards since he stepped back from things to deal with Elizabeth's illness and decide what to do next.

I like it. I like Edwards anyway, voted for him in the (entirely meaningless) Tennessee primary, hated how he was used in the campaign. Put a populist Southerner on the ticket and then never send him to the South to campaign?? Feh. Not so bright.

But anyway, he's back, and what he's looking to do ties in nicely with what RDF's earlier post was talking about. After all, you can't make a rainbow without Sunshine...
What if the problem the Democrats face cannot be explained by all the careful calculations of the careful political calculators? What if their 2004 loss was not primarily about losing a few Catholics here and a few married women there? What if the Democrats' challenge is about passion, not positioning?

John Edwards is wagering a lot, maybe his whole political future, on that list of what-ifs. The 2004 vice presidential nominee, the guy with the dad in the mill who gave the most remembered stump speech of the Democratic primary campaign, will rejoin the debate with a new speech in New Hampshire on the first weekend in February. From the sounds of an interview at his Georgetown house earlier this week, Edwards intends to pick up where he left off in that "two Americas" discourse of his.

"It needs to be clear to the country what our core beliefs are, and the last thing we need is strategic maneuvering," Edwards says. "What people want to see is leadership and strength and conviction. This is about what's inside us. It's not about how we get to the right place."

[snip] But conviction politics has not been in vogue in progressive circles. This era's two great center-left politicians, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, have been resolute Third Wayers, tacking carefully between left and right. The Third Way was a tacit admission of conservatism's momentum.

Moral issues matter, Edwards says, but Democrats won't look moral by getting into a bidding war over how often they can invoke the name of God. Instead, Democrats should speak with conviction about an issue that has always animated them: the alleviation of poverty. "I think it is a moral issue; it's something we should be willing to fight about and stand up for," he says.

Edwards, who is planning to set up a center to study ways to alleviate poverty, is enough of a politician to insist that he wants to advocate not only on behalf of the destitute but also for those just finding their footing on mobility's ladder. But he offers the unexpected claim that the very voters who have strayed from the Democrats would respond forcefully to the moral imperative of aiding the poor.

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