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Why Not Edwards?

Today had me thinking for a while that I wished Edwards had gotten the nomination instead of Kerry. He's certainly the better politician, and I think he'd make a better president besides, though it's hard to be 100% sure about this since he doesn't have any dramatically different issue positions. But then I thought back to what I thought during the Kerry-Edwards phase of the primary, which is that Edwards would have been slaughtered on national security by the Bush team. I think an Edwards Administration would do fine on foreign policy, and Kerry's 'nam experience and generally dull demeanor obviously aren't real national security assets, but politically I think they help, even the dullness, which normally hurts him.

It would be too easy to paint Edwards as the wrong man for the times, while Kerry can project an atmosphere of seriousness, courage, and guts that will convince at least some of the electorate. In this I think the hoi polloi of the primary electorate showed better judgment than liberal elites inside the Beltway who were overly impressed by the fact that substantively Edwards is good on security. If you could win votes with substance well, then, we'd have ourselves a very different world.

The reality is that 2004 just didn't put forward a really ideal Democratic contender, though you had lots of guys with good elements. If you could somehow merge Kerry's (or Clark's) biography and Edwards' skills together, you'd have had a damn good candidate, and an Kerry-Edwards ticket is a reasonable approximation of that. And of course in 2000 the GOP nominated an inexperienced, regionally inappropriate dude with no national security cred whatsoever who was dumb to boot, and they got away with it. I've got to think, though, that on some level the smarter conservatives out there wish that they'd nominated someone a little more competent and a little less driven by blind dynastic ambition. All-in-all, the Democrats are in pretty good shape, even if Kerry's not blessed with particularly impressive political skills.

July 6, 2004 | Permalink

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» A Response to Epistemology from TriCoastal Commission
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Comments

Electorally speaking, this is as much a battle of incompetents as the last election, and as any consistently profitable handicapper will tell you, successfully wagering on the outcome of a contest between two incompetents, or even two mediocrities, is a very difficult task. Talent and skill follow form much more consistently.

Posted by: Will Allen | Jul 6, 2004 2:20:47 PM

The biggest downside to ahving Edwards at the top of thicket would have been his inability to raise $ during the primary season. Since Kerry opted out of the Federal matching program, he's been able to raise and spend staggering sums of money and defend himself against the Bush team's onslaught. Edwards would have been broke and unable to respond after March.

Posted by: danielj | Jul 6, 2004 2:21:19 PM

For what it's worth, "the hoi polloi" is redundant. Sorry... it's a pet peeve. Oddly enough, I just noticed this morning that Mark Kleiman uses it correctly here:

http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/terrorism_and_its_control_/2004/06/security_and_privilege.php

Posted by: anony-mouse | Jul 6, 2004 2:23:58 PM

"I think an Edwards Administration would do fine on foreign policy"

I really don't know much about the team Edwards had around him, or who his contacts and advisors were. I do remember Edwards having some adnirable black support.

It is a fine ticket. Send the kid to flyover country, and keep him there talking his populist jobs stuff. Let Kerry be the "attack dog", talking incompetence in Iraq and WoT. The guy at the top has to be perceived as macho and tough, for that is where Repubs will attack. Fine. Bring it on.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 6, 2004 2:47:04 PM

Edwards seems to have more natural charisma but is it 'certain' that he is the better politician? We should have some sort of contest to find out. Maybe they could try to raise money, garner party support and then get people to vote for them. I guess we'll never know how that would turn out.

Posted by: ppm | Jul 6, 2004 2:48:35 PM

Matthew,

What makes you mind reader? Why are you so certain you know what makes Bush tick or why he ran for high office? Could it be that he like many politicians is a mix of high-mindedness--a desire to foster the common good and serve the public good--and a bit of vanity and pride? Why must you so uncharitably assume the worst of Bush and conservatives?

I follow your blog in part because you write well and you are obviously a very smart and well-educated guy. But your nastiness is a reminder of so much of what is wrong with politics. Don't think I or others on the right are immune to this.

Furthermore, I wonder if the Bush-hatred on the left blinds you and other liberals, just as the Clinton-hatred on the right blinded those on the right. Certainly the comparison isn't perfect as Clinton was more popular but Bush is not reviled to the degree liberals think he is. Nor do liberals realize how different their coastal values are from those of the Heartland. If the Democrats lose this election (and I am making no predictions) I think it will again be in part because of the secular elites who populate the party's ruling class. I wish the Democrats still had men like Governor Bob Casey and others. And frankly were someone like Robert Casey to run for President, he would I believe win in an electoral landslide.

Posted by: Conor Dugan | Jul 6, 2004 2:58:50 PM

"Since Kerry opted out of the Federal matching program, he's been able to raise and spend staggering sums of money and defend himself against the Bush team's onslaught."

Question, since the topic of money has been raised: Could Kerry opt out of the federal matching program for the general election, as well? I recall there was some worry a few weeks back about the longer time period Kerry's federal cash would have to last him (because of the earlier convention). Is there some legal impediment to foregoing the federal cash, and, if not, wouldn't he be better off, given his obvious ability to raise mountains of money, relying on his own campaign's resources rather than tax dollars?

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Jul 6, 2004 3:03:05 PM

ppm: You're making a good point, but there's a strong response to it -- the fact that Kerry triumphed in a primary election campaign that was driven primarily by a desire to get rid of GWB. If we believe the pundits and pollsters, a lot of people voted for Kerry not because *they* liked him, but because they *thought* that *others* -- general election voters -- would like him. (See, for example, http://slate.msn.com/id/2095311/ )

The primaries can't be considered a contest for who is a "better (i.e. more electable) politician" when the voters are themselves choosing the person they think is going to be the most electable in the general election. And if primary voters are using previous primary results as their criterion for electability, well, then you may have on your hands a "bubble" ( http://www.tnr.com/etc.mhtml?pid=1342 ).

Posted by: Alex R | Jul 6, 2004 3:08:17 PM

"I've got to think, though, that on some level the smarter conservatives out there wish that they'd nominated someone a little more competent and a little less driven by blind dynastic ambition."

John McCain, anyone?

Posted by: right | Jul 6, 2004 3:08:26 PM

Just FYI, "the hoi polloi" contains a redundancy: hoi is a definite article, so you don't need the "the."

Posted by: grytpype | Jul 6, 2004 3:09:36 PM

Connor, for the record, if you look carefully at the polling data, you'll discover that, as a matter of fact, there is a lot of revulsion at george bush in the country; as for the notion that the heartland is some completely different part of america, distinct from the elitest coasts, please, give it a rest. There are wild-eyed radicals in Kansas and right-wing mouthpieces in Maine; left populists in South Dakota and right populists in Orange County. It's a big country, with 280M people and 110M households, and there's tremendous variety. Simplistic sterotyping of "heartland" vs. "coast" is no more meaningful than any other simplistic stereotyping.

Alex R, you beat me to the punch. The primary voters had a chance and, by large numbers, they chose to select Kerry. He may not be the most charismatic politician out there, but he's not a bad politician in any sense of the term.

I think what Matthew is really getting at is that it's too bad that Bill Clintons don't come down the pike all that often: in '00, if you combined the best attributes of Gore and Bush, they still didn't equal Clinton; in '04, if you combine the best attributes of kerry and edwards, they still don't equal clinton. But clinton isn't in the race, and a kerry-edwards team is a very viable, politically legitimate offering against bush-cheney.

In short, the primary voters, and the Kerry team, both seem to have selected wisely....

Posted by: howard | Jul 6, 2004 3:20:59 PM

Howard,

Show me the poll which states that there is a broad-based "hate" for Bush. I don't think it exists.

And I stick by my characterization of the elite coasts versus the heartland. Certainly, right-wingers are to be found in Maine as left-wingers can be found in Kansas. But they are both out of place in their respective places. I am not talking about the exceptions but the rule. Having lived on the East Coast and being from the Midwest my own anecdotal experience confirms this.

Posted by: Conor Dugan | Jul 6, 2004 3:24:52 PM

The real beauty of this pick is that once this ticket triumphs in November, the guy waiting in the wings is not going to have Gore-like troubles when it comes time to get elected.

Posted by: Matt Davis | Jul 6, 2004 3:27:13 PM

Hey, I hate Bush. I love this stuff.

Posted by: asdf | Jul 6, 2004 3:40:59 PM

Bush obviously has to go. Allowing ideological prejudices to hurt the security of the USA is bad enough, but the smug condescension of inferior minds is grating.

If Bush criticizes the bona fides of Edwards regarding international issues, the obvious answer is: at least the Kerry/Edwards ticket isn't backward like Bush/Cheney. Bush and Edwards have been involved in international relations for about the same time, and it is hard to argue that Bush's bungling of post 9/11 foreign policy makes him wiser. Cheney, on the other hand, has real experience. If that is what is needed at this critical time, why don't the Republicans invert their ticket?

Posted by: epistemology | Jul 6, 2004 3:45:09 PM

It's entirely appropriate that the Democratic Party reward its single most important special interest group, the plaintiffs' bar, with the vice presidential nomination. The ascendancy of the plaintiffs' lawywers over unions, Hollywood, blacks and the other components of the Democratic coalition is now complete.

Posted by: DBL | Jul 6, 2004 3:48:04 PM

Conor Dugan:

Bush pledged to change the tone in Washington, and he did, for the worse. With Cheney telling Senators to go fuck themselves and Bush trying to split the nation with his gay bashing, why look for the mote in the other party's eye when there is a beam in yours? We call this hypocrisy. Had your post alluded to the hateful tone of Republicans in this administration (not pretending this bile was left behind when Clinton left office) we could take your statement as something other than self-interested propaganda.

Posted by: epistemology | Jul 6, 2004 3:52:51 PM

Except for the plutocrats like DBL and their familiars, we are all plaintiffs in America. In my experience (more than 25 years as a family physician) the people who whine loudest about lawyers are the ones who are quickest to hire one. How do you think Bush got to be president? He spent 3 times as much as Gore on lawyers after the 2000 election. America rules the world, we are a country built on respect for the law. Naturally we have the most lawyers. God bless the trial lawyers.

Posted by: epistemology | Jul 6, 2004 3:59:34 PM

Give me specific examples of hateful tone in this administration. Bush cuddled up with the likes of Kennedy and others at the beginning of his presidency. It didn't get him anywhere. If changing the tone in Washington includes selling out your ideas then, yes, you are right, President Bush has not changed the tone. But you point to no specific example of hate on the part of Bush or others.

How has Bush bashed gays? Because he supports a constitutional amendment on marriage? Give me a specific example of where he has directed personal venom against homosexuals.

And do you really think Cheney's frustration was hate. Could it not have been the natural reaction of someone whose integrity has been impugned? Senator Leahy is a major-league politician who has lied and dissembled. Specific examples come to mind: his machinations with regards to judges and his comments on the detention of non-citizen combatants.

Note that my previous post alluded to my own and other Republicans failings in this regard.

Posted by: Conor Dugan | Jul 6, 2004 4:26:48 PM

Alex R.,
Personally I think the Kerry bubble was a backlash from the rank and file who were uncomfortable with the Dean bubble. And when Dean left there was a smaller backlash creating an Edwards bubblet.

But even if the primary results were caused by mass hysteria, Kerry deserves some political credit for inducing it.

Posted by: ppm | Jul 6, 2004 4:38:15 PM

Good Lord. I read a post like Conor Dugan's about the misunderstood and maligned Bush/Cheney who are disappointed pussycats, never with ill intent toward anyone, and the mouth drops open. I could refer him to andrew sullivan, who uses words like "despicable" to refer to someone he previously supported. Conor wants links and quotes and cites.

But I am long weary of having to post a jpg to argue that the sky is blue instead od pink, or google Nasa to justify my saying the sun really does rise in the east.

Fuck off, troll.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 6, 2004 5:07:13 PM

"And do you really think Cheney's frustration was hate. Could it not have been the natural reaction of someone whose integrity has been impugned?"

What fucking integrity are you talking about?
The so-called experience and competency that Cheney brings is something we don't need. I'll take my chances with Big John and Johnny Sunshine.

Posted by: ChiBob | Jul 6, 2004 5:33:52 PM

"I wonder if the Bush-hatred on the left blinds you and other liberals, just as the Clinton-hatred on the right blinded those on the right."

GONG! I don't have a snappy name for this imbecile meme yet, but Conor has to stand in the corner with a duncecap on his head for the rest of the day. Or maybe forever.

Posted by: Zizka | Jul 6, 2004 6:05:04 PM

"Edwards seems to have more natural charisma but is it 'certain' that he is the better politician?"

James Carville said Edwards was the best stump speaker he's ever seen, including Bill Clinton. Carville, I believe, also said that Clinto was a better politician, but some liberals, like Eric Alterman, said that Edwards was simply better altogether. (Think of it this way: Edwards is sort of like Clinton without the sex scandals or the wife who, fairly or unfairly, could get him into trouble.) And remember that Carville is one of Clinton's personal friends.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 6, 2004 6:20:21 PM

"a little less driven by blind dynastic ambition."

"John McCain, anyone?"

LOL, you don't know much about McCain, or his family history, do you? Note that both McCain's father and grandfather were 4-star admirals, and that McCain's father was serving as CINCPAC when the future senator was captured. The McCain family is no stranger to dynastic ambition . . .

Posted by: rea | Jul 6, 2004 6:21:40 PM

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