Monday, August 08, 2005

Road to the White House

I've included a new section of links to the websites of prospective 2008 Democratic presidential hopefuls, just below the main links. In most cases, these sites are for the candidate's political action committee (PAC). I am indebted to the good folks at Swing Street Project for information related to Evan Bayh, Russ Feingold and Joe Biden. Obviously this is only a partial list of those who have websites or PACs already established. I don't know whether HRC, Bill Richardson, Mark Warner or Tom Vilsack, to name a few, have formal efforts started but will add them if and when they become available.

John Edwards was C-Span's focus this past weekend, highlighting a recent trip to New Hampshire. Most of the show featured Edwards shaking hands and posing for pictures among Democratic Party activists, so there wasn't a whole lot of focus on the substance of Edwards' message. Edwards did, however, talk about his anti-poverty efforts and the center he founded and heads at UNC Chapel Hill. Edwards stressed the need to make poverty a moral issue.

I'm not sure how his message will play long-term. It has the advantage of giving his campaign an organizing principle, a reason to be. This is not inconsequential given the difficulty Democrats seem to be having deciding on a message and approach. But it remains to be seen where he goes with it. The most relevant angle I think would be making the issue of poverty an issue of fairness and to link the issue with corporate control of government. In other words, Edwards needs to point out the causal agents of poverty, to make visible an enemy, if that is in fact how he understands the problem. I am less optimistic about using poverty as strictly an issue for which greater "opportunity" needs to be provided or one in which greater income transfer programs need to be designed. While the latter strategy may be less controversial, it may prove either too general to attract a following or too easy to be attacked for any tax implications.

MyDD linked to Wes Clark's site and a letter the retired general penned to the Wall Street Journal, taking the conservative paper to task for criticizing him and other Democrats who the paper claimed, had not done their part to offer an alternative to President Bush's Iraq and terrorism policies. Clark wrote a sharp letter in response, defending himself and the Democratic Party. It would be nice if other (DLC) candidates would make it a priority to defend the Democratic Party as well, when it deserves defending. Although not a lifelong Democrat, Clark is showing an early organizational push and a combativeness that I hope rubs off on some of the others.

Several of the sites try to strike the theme of togetherness, we're all in this together, want to unite the country, etc. I understand that candidates feel a need to say these things, and some past presidents have at least paid lip service to this approach, to make it appear they can rise above the partisan divide. But I don't think presidents such as Nixon and Reagan relied on this strategy, so I don't think it's something Democrats should feel a false need to maintain. It's a nice appeal, but I don't think anyone is ever going to unite the country. Better to recognize our country's pluralism and try to appeal to as many people as possible. But setting the campaign's goal as uniting the country, uniting, not dividing, etc, may prove difficult to accomplish and lend itself to criticism later on.

Joe Biden is the only candidate highlighting the issue of individual rights as part of his platform, that and the necessity for an independent judiciary as the means to secure that. I think this is a sleeper issue, a baton that I'd like to see other Democrats carry as well.

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