Saturday, November 10, 2007


To John Edwards' credit, he has moved closer to popular concerns as his campaign has been superseded by Clinton and Obama, adopting positions that would otherwise be the domain of Kucinich alone. Edwards has accepted public financing and has made "a New Deal-style suite of programs" the centerpiece of his campaign, including free schooling from pre-kindergarten to college. Significantly, he was the first of the front-runners to lay out a coherent universal healthcare plan, long before his two leading opponents; and to the extent that his plan does not invite insurance or pharmaceutical lobbyists "to the table," it is superior to the later offerings.

It is unlikely that Edwards' positioning on these issues derives from any deeply-held principles, but, as with his late acceptance of public financing (he accepted it after he was out-financed anyway), is instead a calibrated response to political realities "on the ground." In effect, everyone is being outplayed by Clinton on the right, and with the Clinton/Obama amalgam firmly entrenched in the center, Edward's best chance has been to move left in a populist bid to appeal to voters on economic issues that typically alienate the US aristocracy. Edwards was not getting enough money from the possessing classes to compete with Clinton and Obama, anyway; subsequently, he was left with little incentive to run a campaign tailored to their concerns. If Edwards is to win the nomination, he will have to create the kind of upset in Iowa and Ohio that he has clearly committed himself to in the second half of his campaign. The fact that he is polling comparably to Clinton in these states is an indication of the kind of audiences he has there, and a testament to the logic of the strategy he has adopted.

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