May 28, 2007


John Edwards' populism is a risky bet: The presidential candidate takes a forceful tone on poverty that appeals to the Democratic base but might alienate others (Janet Hook, May 28, 2007, LA Times)

For more than two years, Edwards has been methodically building his campaign around an issue long shunned by leading Democratic candidates: the plight of the poor and working class. He has backed up his public appearances with unusually detailed proposals to provide universal healthcare, raise taxes on the rich and eliminate poverty over the next 30 years.

"This is a huge moral issue facing the country," Edwards said in a telephone interview as he headed into a Memorial Day weekend campaign swing through Iowa. "I don't see in polls that it is a driving issue [for voters], but it is for me."

In adopting poverty and low-wage work as his themes, Edwards has struck a far more combative, populist tone than in his 2004 presidential campaign. And that has helped him elbow into the top tier of a field dominated by better-financed candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) — and has even boosted him to a lead in polls in the key early-voting state of Iowa.

But Edwards' 2008 strategy carries risks, in part because it speaks most directly to a slice of the electorate that has notably little political clout. Perhaps the last major presidential candidate to make fighting poverty a central theme was Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) in 1968, before his assassination that June. Some analysts warn that an agenda that might suggest "class warfare" risks alienating middle-class swing voters and moderate Democrats who do not want to revive criticisms that theirs is the party of the poor.

Is it too much to hope that for the third consecutive presidential election the Democrats will revert to the Second Way?

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 28, 2007 8:22 AM

The U.S. now, with 12.7% living below the poverty level, which is the highest percentage among first world nations, continues to import poverty, either willingly or indifferently. How can Edwards try to raise the income of the poor when they are competing against people who are poorer?

Posted by: George at May 28, 2007 11:03 AM

Except that our poor are the middle class of the rest of the world and the rich of their nations of origin. That's why they can send so much money back.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2007 12:15 PM

"Speaking at New England College's graduation two weekends ago, former Sen. John Edwards advanced his political ambitions by breaking two taboos. He politicized both the college's commencement address and Memorial Day.

Edwards urged Americans to use Memorial Day to protest the war in Iraq.

Even left-wing columnist Joe Conason, a critic of the war, the Bush administration and the American Legion, criticized that move, writing, "it is neither kind nor smart to wave protest signs on Memorial Day."

To call Edwards' move "unkind" is being charitable. Using America's fallen as a backdrop for an anti-war protest is a crass exploitation of our war dead.[...]"
NH Union Leader, 05/27/2007

I'm pleased to report that at the town's Memorial Day events today not one NEC student or other protester was evident.

Posted by: Genecis at May 28, 2007 2:55 PM