WHAT KIND OF A PRESIDENT DO WE WANT-- AN INSIDER AND CORPORATE SHILL OR AN INDEPENDENT OUTSIDER READY TO KICK SOME SERIOUS BUTT?
This morning I was watching a talk show on the BBC and the moderator asked for predictions about the biggest story of 2008-- the U.S. elections. Two of the talking heads thought McCain would win, one Clinton and one Obama. When talking about the Democratic nomination, no one mentioned Edwards; it was all Clinton the Insider who would provide a smooth transition from the Bush years and wouldn't change much and the quasi-"revolutionary" Obama. Do they ever have that wrong-- at least the part about Obama. Democrats in Iowa and Democrats starting to pay attention around the country are noticing that there is only one agent of change running this year: John Edwards. You want more of the same? Vote for Clinton, Obama or any of the pathetic pygmies seeking to personify a third George Bush term. You wanna shake things up a little? Edwards is the one. Insiders are scared shitless of him; his game plan will win in Iowa. Meanwhile an Insider hack like Stuart Rothenberg is already running around like a chicken without a head as Edwards surges and looks more and more like the victor in the first contest-- great news for anyone who actually knows the U.S. must end the war in Iraq.
Democrats must decide whether they want a candidate who is angry and confrontational, and who sees those favoring compromise as traitors (Edwards), or a candidate who presents himself as a uniter (Obama), or a candidate who presents herself as someone who understands the ways of Washington and can get things done (Clinton).
While Clinton and Obama both acknowledge the importance of working with various interests, including Capitol Hill Republicans and the business community, to come up with solutions to key problems, Edwards sounds more and more like the neighborhood bully who plans to dictate what is to be done.
The former North Carolina senator is running a classic populist campaign that would have made William Jennings Bryan (or Ralph Nader) proud. Everything is Corporate America’s fault. But he’s also portraying himself as fighting for the middle class and able to appeal to swing voters and even Republicans in a general election.
...But let’s be very clear: Given the North Carolina Democrat’s rhetoric and agenda, an Edwards Presidency would likely rip the nation apart – even further apart than Bush has torn it.
On Capitol Hill, Edwards’s “us versus them” rhetoric and legislative agenda would almost certainly make an already bitter mood even worse. He would in the blink of an eye unify the GOP and open up divisions in his own party’s ranks. Congressional Republicans would circle the wagons in an effort to stop Edwards’s agenda.
Non-insiders, on the other hand, are starting to see Edwards as the one man who can help America break free of it's shameful Bush past, someone who really will right the wrongs of the past 8 (if not 28 years). Without Ralph Nader 2000 run, George Bush, if remembered at all, would be known as a hapless, sub-mediocre former Texas governor. Today Nader let loose on Clinton for the Bush-lite Insider and representative of a hopelessly corrupt system that she is. He acknowledged that Edwards is the only one fit for the job.
"The issue is corporate power and who controls our political system and it's not who has experience for six years or two years," he said, alluding to an ongoing debate over experience between Clinton and freshman Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
"She has experience in the Senate, and what that experience has meant is going soft on cracking down on corporate crime, fraud, and abuse, soft on cutting tens of millions in corporate subsidies," he continued.
...Nader, a four-time presidential candidate, called Edwards a Democratic "glimmer of hope." He has long criticized Democrats as indistinguishable from Republicans, chiding both parties as slaves to corporate financing and interests.
And Nader isn't the only non-hack to slam back at the Rothenbergs, Clintons, Bushes, Romneys and Obamas. While fake populist Mike Hucksterbee wows credulous Republican rubes with his "Look at this negative ad about that horrible pro-abortion Mormon cultist and lying flip flopper I decided not to air," a real populist who speaks a language millions of ordinary Americans understand has endorsed Edwards. Yesterday John Nichols reported in The Nation why John Mellencamp is in Iowa supporting Edwards-- and why that's more important than the bevy of airheads who back Clinton, Obama, Giuliani and Huckabee.
Edwards "has waged a dramatically different campaign than Obama's feel-good effort. Where Obama has run the softest sort of campaign, Edwards is mounting a edgy, muscular effort that owes more to the memory of Paul Wellstone or the sensibilities of Ralph Nader than to the smooth triangulations of Bill Clinton or the not-so-smooth compromises of John Kerry. Edwards has fought his way back into contention with aggressively populist positions, anti-corporate rhetoric and a campaign that eschews glitz for grit. Necessarily, the former senator from North Carolina opts for a different sort of celebrity than the other contenders."
So it is that Mellencamp will come to Iowa Wednesday to close the Edwards campaign off with a "This Is Our Country" rally at the not-exactly-Hollywood Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines. (In case anyone is missing the point here, they will be distributing the tickets from the United Steelworkers Local 310 hall.)
Where Winfrey brought a big name but little in the way of a track record on the issues that are fundamental to the rural and small-town Iowans who will play a disproportional role in Thursday's caucuses, Mellencamp is more than just another celebrity taking a lap around the policy arena.
For a quarter century, the singer has been in the thick of the fight on behalf of the rural families he immortalized in the video for "Rain on the Scarecrow," his epic song about the farm crisis that buffeted Iowa and neighboring states in the 1980s and never really ended.
Mellencamp has not merely sung about withering small towns and farm foreclosures. As a organizer of Farm Aid, he has brought some of the biggest stars in the world to benefit concerts in Iowa and surrounding states, and he has helped to distribute the money raised at those events to organizations across Iowa.
Farm Aid is nonpartisan. It's not endorsing in this race. But Mellencamp is. The singer, who this year will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but whose music remains vital enough to have earned a 2008 Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, was lobbied for support by other campaigns, especially Clinton's. But he has a long relationship with Edwards. He has an even longer relationship with the issues that Edwards is talking about. Indeed, his credibility is grounded in the recognition that Mellencamp has repeatedly taken career-risking anti-war, anti-racist and anti-poverty stances that other celebrities of his stature tend to avoid.
What matters, of course, is the fact of that credibility -- and the fact that it is so closely tied to the farm and rural issues that have meaning even in the more urbanized regions of Iowa. That is why, if there is an endorsement that is going to have meaning with the people who drive down country roads to attend caucuses on what looks to be a very cold and unforgiving Thursday night, it is likely to be that of the guy who proudly sings that, "I was born in a small town..."
If you check our Blue America site here at DWT you'll see that we're concentrating our efforts on House and Senate seats again this year. To me the most important races looming, the ones I plan to concentrate on for the next couple of months are Democratic primaries that pit agents of change against insider hacks-- like agent of change Donna Edwards vs hack Al Wynn in Maryland, agent of change John Laesch vs a Blue Dog hack named Foster in Illinois, and agent of change Mark Pera vs hack Dan Lipinski. Those are the races we urge our readers to contribute to this month. But... if any of our readers happen to live in Iowa or New Hampshire, please think carefully about doing the right thing and voting for John Edwards.
UPDATE: THE AGONIST ENDORSEMENT
Very much worth careful consideration for everyone in Iowa tomorrow. Also very worth paying attention to is Jane's on the scene coverage at FDL for the next few days. That's where I'm turning to for the straight story, not to the shallow hacks at CNN or the Washington Post.