The 2008 Presidential Election – Part III: The Big Decision

What You Need To Know: A Summary For You Lazy Asses

·         The choice has been narrowed to Barack Obama and John Edwards.

·         Obama seemed to be the obvious choice as he has talked more about national community and active government than anyone else in the country.  But he seems to have abandoned those themes for a fuzzier, “let’s all work together and end vicious partisanship” message, one that will not work in an environment where there really is little if any common ground.  And he seems to have made a weak name for himself in the Senate, not showing any signs of being a strong liberal leader.

·         Edwards, on the other hand, has at least implicitly showed support for active government through his platform (though not explicitly in his campaign speeches) and most importantly he understands that politics is war.  He knows that there is a huge battle to be had in order for big change to become reality and he is ready and eager to fight that battle.

·         It is for these reasons that I endorse John Edwards for President of the United States.

 

It’s a new year and time to start picking a new president, and as I am now for the first time eligible to vote for a candidate for President of the United States, I have to make a big decision.  As I explained in The 2008 Presidential Election – Part II: The Democratic Field, I had narrowed my choices down to Barack Obama and John Edwards.  This actually occurred fairly early in the year – probably sometime before March.  But how to decide between the two?

 

In an August 2006 email to a political-minded friend I wrote:

 

As I’ve said before, I will support the candidate who will openly talk about the need for more

active government and thus shift the political center leftwards.

 

Judging solely on that criterion, the obvious choice would be Obama.  More than any other candidate – indeed, any other U.S. politician, period – Obama has talked about how all Americans are connected as one people, how what happens to one affects what happens to all, and how we need to have an active federal government that represents and reflects that connection and will work proactively and aggressively to confront common challenges and concerns.

 

The best example I can think of is an email sent by Obama on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) to DSCC mailing list subscribers, one of whom was myself.  The April 17 2006 email was entitled “Had Enough?”.

 

I’ve had enough of so-called leaders who don’t think government should even try to solve the big, national problems.  In their clouded philosophy, government is the problem.  I’ve had enough of the attitude that we’d be better off if we just divvy it up into individual tax breaks and let everyone fend for themselves.  I think we’ve all had enough of being told to buy your own health care, your own retirement security, your own child care, your own schools, your own private security force, your own roads, and your own levees.

 

This idea of America can never actually work because it so fundamentally ignores our legacy as a people.  Our greatness as a nation has always depended on our sense of national community and mutual responsibility.  Everybody has a stake in America.  We’re all in this together and everybody gets a fair shot at opportunity.

 

As Democrats, we still believe in the idea of America.  We’re ready to compete in an increasingly interconnected world.  We’re ready to conduct a smart foreign policy that matches the might of our military with the power of our diplomacy.

 

As I was reading this, my thought was, “Wow, if he says this on a regular basis on the campaign trail when he runs for President, I’d support him in a heartbeat.”

 

So has he?  Well, not exactly, and not enough.  While he still mentions the twin themes of national community and active government, those themes don’t seem to be the main ones of his campaign.  His campaign seems to be more focused just on the idea of “hope”, and how we should feel optimistic about our ability to solve national problems again.  Well, okay, but that doesn’t tell us exactly what your part of the effort will look like.

 

In large part, he’s also campaigning on his ability to bring people of different parties and political persuasions together and work together for a common purpose.  It even says on his website:

 

Senator Obama has been able to develop innovative approaches to challenge the status quo and get results. Americans are tired of divisive ideological politics, which is why Senator Obama has reached out to Republicans to find areas of common ground. He has tried to break partisan logjams and take on seemingly intractable problems. During his tenure in Washington and in the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama has accumulated a record of bipartisan success.

 

“Tired of divisive ideological politics”.  “Reached out to Republicans”.  “Break partisan logjams.”  “Bipartisan success.”  These are the terms that frequently show up in Obama speeches and get media attention.  Not things like “national community”, “we’re all in this together”, and “I’ve had enough of so-called leaders who don’t think government should even try”.

 

Not to say that Obama never mentions national community and government that tries.  I did an admittedly cursory search through Obama’s speeches page on his website and found references to the two themes in his speech to Take Back America 2007, “Taking Our Government Back”, and “Our Common Stake in America’s Prosperity”.  It’s heartening to see the communitarian/active government rhetoric in these speeches.  It makes me want to support him.  But I shouldn’t have to dig through his website to find out this stuff.  I should hear it and read about it in every news report there is about Obama.  I should hear about it from Obama at every debate.  And no, it’s not the media’s fault – if Obama talks about it enough times they’d cover it.  But he doesn’t; instead, what he devotes the lion’s share of his time to, and consequently what the media covers most, can be essentially boiled down to this simple message: We the American people should be hopeful and optimistic enough to believe that Obama can (magically) bring together Democrats and Republicans to solve our huge problems and concerns.

 

The most hyped-up Obama speech was his remarks to the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson dinner.  This was the speech that supposedly revitalized his previously flagging campaign.  Were the communitarian and active government themes the major selling points?  No – they were barely mentioned.  Okay, you do see the communitarian aspect referenced here:

 

Because I will never forget that the only reason that I’m standing here today is because somebody, somewhere stood up for me when it was risky. Stood up when it was hard. Stood up when it wasn’t popular. And because that somebody stood up, a few more stood up. And then a few thousand stood up. And then a few million stood up. And standing up, with courage and clear purpose, they somehow managed to change the world.

 

That’s why I’m running, Iowa – to give our children and grandchildren the same chances somebody gave me.

 

That’s why I’m running, Democrats – to keep the American Dream alive for those who still hunger for opportunity, who still thirst for equality.

 

That’s great.  But the key part that most people were focused on was not that, it was

 

I am running in this race because of what Dr. King called “the fierce urgency of now.” Because I believe that there’s such a thing as being too late. And that hour is almost upon us.

 

Okay that’s great too.  But it’s not what I’m looking for in a President.

 

Like Hillary Clinton, Obama has been excessively careful to not make a liberal name for himself in the Senate.  While some of that is understandably due to not wanting to overshadow his more senior colleagues, the times that he does step out of the box still seem to be for overly centrist positions.  Similar to what The Nation did for Clinton, it lays out the case that Obama is too cautious and moderate in the piece “Mr. Obama Goes to Washington”.

 

“I don’t think in ideological terms. I never have,” Obama said […] Shifting back to how he sees himself in the Senate, Obama seemed to amend his previous statement about what kind of leadership progressives can expect from him. “I am agnostic in terms of the models that solve these problems,” he said. “If the only way to solve a problem is structural, institutional change, then I will be for structural, institutional change. If I think we can achieve those same goals within the existing institutions, then I am going to try to do that, because I think it’s going to be easier to do and less disruptive and less costly and less painful…. I think everybody in this country should have basic healthcare. And what I’m trying to figure out is how to get from here to there.” He went on to tell me about his support for other structural changes such as public financing of elections, forcing broadcasters to offer free airtime for candidates, adding strong labor protections to trade pacts and major efforts to create a more just tax system.

 

Obama is telling the truth–he’s not opposed to structural changes at all. However, he appears to be interested in fighting only for those changes that fit within the existing boundaries of what’s considered mainstream in Washington, instead of using his platform to redefine those boundaries. This posture comes even as polls consistently show that Washington’s definition of mainstream is divorced from the rest of the country’s (for example, politicians’ refusal to debate the war even as polls show that Americans want the troops home). [emphasis added]

 

Another thing I don’t like about Obama is that he seems to be maddeningly ambivalent and always overly careful to avoid ideological extremes, and thus tries to give himself a sort of aura of level-headedness and wisdom that really isn’t there.  His book The Audacity of Hope, while containing some great communitarian and active government rhetoric, consisted in large part of a sort of running debate, where the formula would basically be, “Some on the right will insist on [insert extreme conservative position], while those on the left will insist on [insert extreme liberal position].  Of course both are not what’s right for America… what is right is what I’m about to say…[insert some squeamish centrist viewpoint that tries to say so many things at once that in the end it says nothing at all]”  Obama doesn’t want to take tough stands and have a real message because he tries too hard to be everything to everyone, which of course in the end means he is really nothing.  It’s a shame because I know that when he is really honest and takes a tough stand, as he did in that DSCC email, he’s a great liberal and a great candidate.

 

I don’t think Obama is scared of losing an election, as Clinton is.  Obama has made it clear that he’s willing to take political risks.  Rather, I think his nods to centrism and bipartisanship are from the same school of thought that guided such moderate losers as Democratic Senators Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and John Breaux (La.).  These are people that are so inculcated with the idea that “bipartisan is good” that they think that bipartisanship is an end rather than a mean, and that if it’s not bipartisan or centrist it’s bad.  I think Obama, to a lesser degree than Lieberman and Breaux, subscribes to this school of thought. (I will discuss this in further detail in an upcoming entry called “The Cult of Centrism”.) One of my favorite columnists, Paul Krugman, discusses this tendency in his column “Played for a Sucker”:

 

And on Social Security, as on many other issues, what Washington means by bipartisanship is mainly that everyone should come together to give conservatives what they want.

 

We all wish that American politics weren’t so bitter and partisan. But if you try to find common ground where none exists — which is the case for many issues today — you end up being played for a fool. And that’s what has just happened to Mr. Obama.

 

Obama used to talk a decidedly ideological message about national community and active government that would turn off most conservatives.  But now it seems that he has forsaken that strong message for a broader, more inclusive one that tries to soothe everyone at once with platitudes about working together to achieve common goals.  It’s a disappointing change that casts doubt on him in my mind as both a candidate and as a President.

 

And what of John Edwards?  Is he running on a platform of national community and active government?  No he is not, though he like Obama has mentioned elements of both in his speeches.  But what he is running on is a message very attractive to me: It’s time to get things done, and the way to do that is to beat down those who would stand in our way – the big corporations and special interests.  Not join with them or negotiate with them, as Clinton and Obama would do, but BEAT them.

 

From “Restoring Economic Fairness”:

 

There are powerful forces that will resist us. These are the same powerful forces I have fought against all my adult life. But I have defeated them before and we will defeat them together because no matter how powerful special interest America thinks it is, there is no one more powerful than the American people and together we can build One America and restore the American Dream we all believe in.

 

But let me tell you one thing – it’s not going to be easy and it’s going to take all of us together. Because the people with power aren’t going to give it up without a fight. And we can’t sit down with them and make a deal. We can’t triangulate our way to big change; we can’t compromise our way to big change – we need to lead the way to big change.

 

From his speech on the Middle Class Rising Agenda:

 

“None of this is going to be easy. I hear all these candidates talking about how we’re going to bring about the big, bold change that America needs. And I hear some people saying that they think we can sit at a table with drug companies, oil companies and insurance companies, and they will give their power away. That is a fantasy. We have a fight in front of us. We have a fight for the future of this country. And the change we need will not happen easily. We need someone who is going to step into that arena on your behalf, someone who is ready for that fight.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have been in this fight my whole life. From the time I was young, until when I was a lawyer. For twenty years, I walked into courtrooms representing families like yours against big corporations and their armies of lawyers. Every time, they looked at me and said, we can win. But they didn’t. Because I beat them. I beat them. And I beat them again. And I learned that it may not be easy to beat these powerful interests, but if you’re right, and you’re willing to stand up, you can win.

 

From the August 7 2007 AFL-CIO debate:

 

When are we going to actually stand up to these drug companies, these insurance companies? We’ve got to stop playing nice. We have to beat these people. There is too much at stake for America and too much at stake for people like James Lowe.

 

And while Edwards isn’t explicitly talking about active government, it’s very much implied in his platform, which calls for a raft of new federal programs, including an ambitious and well-designed health care plan that involves an expanded government health care program similar to Medicare available to every American who wants it.  The Edwards message that I’m getting is that the potential for active government is already very much there, but the obstacles are the corporate and special interests that stand to lose from active government and thus are blocking the way, and once Edwards gets into the White House and kicks the shit out of them the federal government will be free to finally do what is right and necessary for the security and welfare of the American people.

 

Now, my main concern about Edwards initially was that his lurch to the left was not authentic, and merely a ploy to gain support in the primary.  After all, in 2004 his campaign, while striking a similar populist chord concerning the “Two Americas”, was disgustingly moderate, with small potato proposals that in the end seemed to amount to just about nothing.  The jump from that to Edwards 2008, whose proposals, rhetoric, and vision for the country makes him look like a latter-day Lyndon B. Johnson, is huge, to the point that it raises very legitimate questions about which Edwards is actually the real deal.  It’s a viewpoint brought up in The New Republic piece “The Accidental Populist”:

 

Like the shirt, Edwards’s persona for the 2008 campaign–that of a combative champion of the working class–seems a strange fit. Although Edwards ran for president in 2004 as a populist, he did so as a sunny one–a disposition that appeared a natural extension of his congenitally cheerful personality. He dubbed his political organization the “New American Optimists” and presented himself as the “son of a millworker” whose later success as a lawyer and a senator was a hopeful story about American possibility. His stump speech, which called attention to the “Two Americas,” was less an airing of grievances than a buoyant pledge to bridge the divide between rich and poor. And his policy proposals–including incremental reform of health care and micro-initiatives to help the poor–were fiscally friendly as well, showing that his populist heart was governed by a New Democrat brain.

         

But now, Edwards is trying to turn that smile into a snarl, or at least a frown of concern. Since losing the vice presidential race in 2004–and subsequently leaving the Senate and Washington–he has spent his time focusing on the forgotten and neglected corners of the United States and, to a lesser extent, the world. Acting as a sort of latter-day Tom Joad, he has visited not just picket lines but homeless shelters, disaster zones, and refugee camps. And, in his current quest for the presidency, he intends to make the plight of the people he has encountered in those places his central issue. Accordingly, he has ditched his past commitment to fiscally restrained Rubinomics and now favors universal health coverage and an expensive raft of other policy initiatives to lift Americans–and even people in other countries–out of poverty. When he officially announced he was running for president in late December, he did so not sitting next to his wife in the comfort of their family home in a Raleigh neighborhood called Country Club Hills–as he had in the 2004 campaign–but standing by himself in the debris-strewn backyard of a hurricane-damaged house in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward. “This campaign,” he declared, “will be a grassroots, ground-up campaign, where we ask people to take action.” [emphasis added]

 

Edwards’s explanation for the startling transformation is included in the same piece:

 

“I can tell you one thing that’s changed for me, and it’s very significant for me personally,” Edwards told me in one of several conversations we had in the weeks before he officially launched his campaign. “When I was running for president before, in 2003, 2004, I spent most of my time thinking about what I could do to be a better candidate.” He paused, as if to let this confession sink in. “That’s just not what I think about anymore,” he went on. “Now what I spend my time thinking about is what I want to do as president of the United States.” Often derided as “plastic” and “a lightweight” during his last national campaign, Edwards has, in other words, been searching for his own political essence, both as a source of gravitas and as a rationale for his continued presidential ambitions. And, in his role as a crusader for the working class, he seems to think he has found it.

 

My conversations with two other politically-minded friends came to the same conclusion.  Edwards of 2004 was still in the “traumatized Democrat” mode, always looking over his shoulder and carefully trying to avoid appearing too liberal.  But with the defeat of that careful moderate method, Edwards said “to hell with it” and just decided to campaign as who he really is and who he’s always been – the liberal activist who defended ordinary people in the courtroom as a trial lawyer and now seeks to defend ordinary people in the Oval Office as President.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the Edwards we’re seeing right now, the Edwards of 2008, is the real Edwards.

 

Edwards and Obama have sounded much of the same rhetoric on the campaign trail, and both offer a massive amount of new federal programs that will basically signal the return to big government.  Both are promising big change in Washington if they’re elected.  Where they differ is how change can be achieved.  Obama seems to be more of the mindset that change has to come on a bipartisan, cooperative basis, where everyone has a say and people of different parties, ideologies and persuasions come together to a big table and hash things out.  Edwards seems to think that certain people – namely, big corporate interests like drug companies, insurance companies, oil companies, etc. – can’t be brought to the table because they’re like the Terminator: they can’t be bargained or reasoned with.  Anything they touch will just become corrupted, and if they’re in any way accommodated, rather than completely defeated and smashed into the ground, they’re going to prevent any change from happening.  There is a very good debate in the op-ed world over these two views, with Paul Krugman arguing for Edwards in “Big Table Fantasies”, and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek arguing the case for Obama in the bluntly-titled “Why Krugman Is Wrong: Why Obama’s approach to health care isn’t naïve.”

 

I vastly prefer Edwards’s view to Obama’s.  I’m tired of compromising with the enemy and being told that that’s the best way to do things or the only way things will get done because things haven’t gotten done.  And it’s not like we haven’t tried compromising – in fact, it feels like that’s pretty much all we’ve been doing the past seven years.  Plus there was that one guy who we sent to the White House to get things done- what was his name?  Cliffon?  Critton?  No wait- Clinton, Clinton.  Clinton went to the White House to get things done, but then he was told that he had to compromise, and in the end nothing got done.

 

Well I’m sick of it.  I want to send a fighter to the White House.  I want someone who will fight for big government, not just someone who will talk about it once in awhile and then forget about it and let special interests take over.  I want someone who will take on those who stand in our way head on and not worry about poll numbers or being nice or conciliatory or looking too angry or unrealistic.  I’m sick of compromise, and being realistic, and being told that certain things have to be this way.

 

Barack Obama is a great candidate and leader.  He has talked extensively on the all-important, overarching themes of national community and active government, and shows an understanding and empathy for the common causes that we liberals believe in.  But John Edwards is the one candidate who realizes the need for active government to make a difference in people’s lives and is ready and willing to fight for it, no matter the obstacles or the cost.  And that is why I endorse John Edwards for President of the United States in 2008.

 

JANUARY 2 2008 ADDENDUM: My political friend and Obama supporter pointed me to a recent Obama speech called “Our Moment Is Now”, the first key excerpt being:

 

It’s change that won’t just come from more anger at Washington or turning up the heat on Republicans. There’s no shortage of anger and bluster and bitter partisanship out there. We don’t need more heat. We need more light. I’ve learned in my life that you can stand firm in your principles while still reaching out to those who might not always agree with you. And although the Republican operatives in Washington might not be interested in hearing what we have to say, I think Republican and independent voters outside of Washington are. That’s the once-in-a-generation opportunity we have in this election. [emphasis added]

 

Okay first off, you can stand firm in your principles, and “reach out” to those who disagree.  But reaching out just means, “hey, I stand for X, wanna join me?”  And the other person will say no, and you can have as much discussion and debate as you like but in the end you’ll just have to agree to disagree.  And nothing gets done.  If you want to “reach out” and get something done, you’ll have to compromise, which means you won’t be standing firm in your principles.  So Obama’s “reaching out” really means nothing, and in the end he’ll have to either not stand firm in his principles or he’ll just have to beat back his opposition like Edwards will.

 

Second, Republican and independent voters may be interested in what Obama has to say, but they’d be interested in what Edwards has to say too.  After all, Edwards’s ire is directed almost entirely at big corporations, not Republican and independent voters.  Edwards’s message of taking government back for the common people is perfectly capable of appealing to ordinary Republicans and independents that aren’t dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, and I see nothing that says Obama is inherently more capable of appealing to Republicans in or out of Washington than anyone else, including Edwards.  Yes, Obama may not be as confrontational as Edwards and that might warm up Republicans initially.  But after all the small talk and banter, he’s going to have to come around to what he actually wants to get done, and it’s the same things that Edwards wants done.  Republicans aren’t that easily fooled or charmed – I don’t think you can dress up the same policies with personable appeal and expect a difference in reception from them.

 

Next excerpt:

 

But that’s not what hope is. Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task before us or the roadblocks that stand in our path. Yes, the lobbyists will fight us. Yes, the Republican attack dogs will go after us in the general election. Yes, the problems of poverty and climate change and failing schools will resist easy repair. I know – I’ve been on the streets, I’ve been in the courts. I’ve watched legislation die because the powerful held sway and good intentions weren’t fortified by political will, and I’ve watched a nation get mislead into war because no one had the judgment or the courage to ask the hard questions before we sent our troops to fight.

 

Okay, that’s great!  Obama is addressing the concern I have with his approach.  So what’s the answer?

 

But I also know this. I know that hope has been the guiding force behind the most improbable changes this country has ever made. In the face of tyranny, it’s what led a band of colonists to rise up against an Empire. In the face of slavery, it’s what fueled the resistance of the slave and the abolitionist, and what allowed a President to chart a treacherous course to ensure that the nation would not continue half slave and half free. In the face of war and Depression, it’s what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. In the face of oppression, it’s what led young men and women to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through the streets of Selma and Montgomery for freedom’s cause. That’s the power of hope – to imagine, and then work for, what had seemed impossible before.

 

That’s the change we seek. And that’s the change you can stand for in seven days.

 

Oh… well.  That’s just great – more platitudes.  Thanks for saying a whole lot of nothing.

 

My friend also pointed me to an insightful article from The American Prospect called “The ‘Theory of Change’ Primary”.  It’s a great article that explores the different approaches espoused by Clinton, Edwards, and Obama from an angle that I had never considered before.  As the article tells it, Clinton wants to “work hard” and try to convince people bit by bit through “superior knowledge and diligence”.  Edwards wants to ram things through and smash his opposition into the dirt.  Obama wants to “reach out” to conservatives, but not to meet them halfway, as a “principled centrist” like John Breaux or Joe Lieberman would.  Rather, he gets them to the table to expose their hypocrisy, shortcomings, lack of compassion, etc. and defeats them there.  Thus, hope and bipartisanship is a sort of “tactic”, not an end to itself.

 

If this is the case then I find it much more promising than what I’ve seen so far.  However, I see several problems with this.  First off, like I said earlier you can’t stand firm on your principles and reach out and get things done.  That’s too much like having your cake and eating it too.  You can reach out in the sense of, “I like and respect you, and here’s what I think” but in the end the other side won’t agree and then you’ll just be back at square one.  At that point you’ll have to choose between standing firm and overrunning your opposition (Edwards) or compromise and meet the other side halfway (Breaux, Clinton, Obama…?).  Given that Obama has rejected the Edwards approach and talks about how he can work with Republicans (remember, “record of bipartisan success”?), I have a feeling that he’ll choose the latter approach of working with Republicans.

 

Second off, this tactic assumes that Republicans will look like idiots because they supposedly have “nothing”, when they don’t have “nothing”, they just have something that we liberal Democrats disagree with.  Take health care for example, as it’s the marquee domestic issue this election.  Democrats have all put out great plans for the federal government to finally get involved and do something about the uninsured.  Republicans have not – but it’s not because they don’t care about the uninsured or think that they don’t deserve health care.  They do think so, but they think the federal government shouldn’t be involved.  And that’s not necessarily an evil or losing – or unpopular – viewpoint.  So you’ll bring them to the big table in hopes that they’ll humiliate themselves only to find that they make an argument that will resonate with at least some of the American population, and your tactic backfires.  Why not just take the debate to the road, to the American people, and argue explicitly for federal involvement (and thus, active government), and fight the conservative argument head on, instead of pretending like you’re negotiating in good faith only to give conservatives a voice at the President’s table?

 

Third off, Obama has come this far by campaigning on how he’ll end partisan gridlock in Washington, not by smashing through it but by charming or soothingly negotiating his way through it.  That doesn’t sound like the hard-nosed tactics that this article is claiming it is.  I have never heard Obama say that his plan was to reach out to Republicans and special interests only to lure them into a political gladiator arena to be skewered.  If this is so, then Obama will have been elected on a false mandate – he’ll be sent to Washington in hopes that he can end the partisan bickering with his magnanimous personality, or whatever, and instead he’ll end up looking confrontational, like Edwards.  People are expecting Obama to be large-minded, pragmatic and willing to negotiate or compromise, and when Republicans find that he’s just as stubborn as, say, John Edwards, they’re gonna cry foul and betrayal and we’ll go back to good ol’ Washington gridlock again.

 

I also don’t think that reaching out to Republicans only to get them skewered at the big table really makes a difference.  What’s the difference between that and going on the air to make the case for your proposals and the arguments against the Republican rhetoric, as Edwards will probably do?  The difference is that Obama tried to be nice to Republicans, whereas Edwards skipped that step to go directly to battle.  Well, I don’t think it makes a difference if Obama tried to be nice.  Yes, perhaps he will be able to nail down support from moderate Republicans, but despite being more confrontational Edwards is too smart to let moderate Republicans who might support his plans slip away – his campaign rhetoric hasn’t been directed towards moderate Republicans in Congress, but rather big corporations and special interests that are mostly linked to the die-hard conservatives.

 

The problem with Obama’s “let’s be nice and have a fair shake” step is that then he’ll be lured into talks with conservatives and special interests who want to see his plans dead, and then Obama will be put into the aforementioned hard choice between agreeing to disagree and going to battle or feeling obligated to compromise.  My friend tells me Obama will not compromise, as he said in the speech mentioned above, but given that his message has been about working with everyone to get things done and end the hurtful partisan talk in Washington, and that most people, myself included, do NOT read that as meaning that he will reach out and be friendly to resistant Republicans before smashing them, the message he’s run his campaign on compels him to follow the road of compromise.  And we all know where that road leads to – a place where hope and progress do not go.

 

JANUARY 2 2008 ADDENDUM II: I realize the risk in supporting Edwards; that he may turn out to be a total phony and not a real liberal.  I understand that.  But for me, I think that in an election, you support a message as much as, if not more than, you support a candidate.  In other words, when I support someone I’m not just supporting who I think that candidate is as a person, I’m supporting what he or she has to say.  That’s in large part because what they have to say is more-or-less crystal clear, whereas it’s impossible for me to know if they’re really a good person or what they’re really thinking in their heads.  So if it does turn out that Edwards is a big phony, that’s fine, because my vote for him will have been for the message that Edwards was delivering, not the flawed vehicle that was delivering it.

 

I will also say that given the positive things I’ve felt about Obama, he is a strong second choice and I’d happily support him in the general election should he be the nominee, and if his “Theory of Change” is reinforced or proven correct.  I don’t know if I can say the same for Clinton.

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