June 23, 2006
John Edwards and the Fight Against Poverty
There's no question what's going to be the theme of his presidential campaign. It's a noble cause, and it's worth following since Edwards is one of the three or four Democrats who are most likely to win their party's presidential nomination in 2008. Is this a platform that can lead him 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.? I'm not at all sure about that. But it will be interesting to see how this plays out, and maybe some real good can come from it.
Posted by armand at June 23, 2006 09:53 AM
| Posted to Politics
Y'know, I actually think this might be a winning formula. It plays very elegantly to those who are sick of Bush and Bushism at some level, which at this point is a large majority of the electorate.
Some of his ideas may be good (althought raising the minimum wage by a third would throw a monkey wrench into those rosy growth forecasts), but he ignores that so many people get a payoff from seeing the poor and looking down on them. A whole lot of people get a lot of self stroking in our work ethic society from the fact that they "work" and others don't. This is so interwoven into our culture that people who've been out of work for a year have a very high rate of suicide (completed), comparable to disorders related to unstable mood or impulse control. It helps almost all people maintain an illusion of control to assign responsibility, and it's something people love to do when they connect with someone out of a job. Basing a campaign on convincing most people to give up that control (or at least its illusion) by getting away from blaming people for their personal circumstances is unlikely to succeed.
Morris: your tendency to draw generalized conclusions about society at large from your own personal issues is, once again, duly noted.
"and it's something people love to do when they connect with someone out of a job" - egads - you do have the most peculiar take on human nature and the most stunningly offensive (and yet rather grotequely self-assured) tendency to impugn the character of giant numbers of people you've never met
are there some who like to belittle "others"? - sure, but most research i've seen suggests they are more likely to vote on the right - and there are a million "others" that would seem more likely to get the passions of these nastily insecure people riled up when it comes to voting - you know people with these issues are more likely to want to punish the Mexicans (or the people they think are Mexicans), or the French (ditto), or blacks (ditto), or gays (ditto) - well, you see where i'm going there
basically i think the idea that large numbers of people wouldn't vote for edwards because he thinks our society should work to better the lot of the weakest among us, and those dealt the worst hands from the start, well, i find that a bizarre notion - yes, he might lose the david duke vote, and yes, he might not energize people on this issue, but i really don't see large groups of people actively rallying against him because he (shudder, gasp) wants to improve the lot of the unemployed
and i'd almost think given your point about suicides (and your general tendency to think that every human cell should always be preserved forever and ever amen) you'd think adopting this plan (or parts of it) is something we should pursue
but leaving your peculiar analysis and getting back to the general idea - the more i think about this the more i think it could be spun in ways that are definite winners on a host of issues that democrats usually do well on and matter to democratic primary voters - and i could actually see it really energizing people in the way that obama's communitarian, social responsibility-heavy convention speech did in 2004 - and that was the most affecting campaign speech i've seen in many years - there are some great themes here about why government matters, pulling the society together, curtailing abuses by the privileged, advancing the economic prospects of all (the American dream) - yeah, this definitely could be a winner
which isn't to say that it is - but it could be - and he remains one of the 3 or 4 democratic candidates i could see myself getting behind in the next presidential race
are there some who like to belittle "others"? - sure, but most research i've seen suggests they are more likely to vote on the right
I dunno, Rahm Emanuel was famous for this (in certain circles) once upon a time, and I'm sure I could produce another hundred examples given another cup of coffee.
If you've seriously seen research that correlates a tendency to belittle others with a tendency to vote rightward I'd like a cite.
I'm just thinking of the general psych work on authoritarianism which was really popular back in the mid-20th century (Adorno and the folks that responded to that - and I suppose you could even throw in some more philosophilcal stuff like some bits of Arendt). The movements they studied involved a politics that was pretty clearly aimed at protecting a better in-group from a demeaned (or worse) out-group.
And the big current movement which seems to reflect some of the tendencies Morris is talking about is the ultra-hardline anti-immigrant stuff, which whether you are talking about Pat Buchanan and Tom Tancredo or similar politicians in Europe, well, then tend to be on the Right.
Are there leftys who do it too? Sure. Of course. But I said "some" and "more likely". And in terms of the politics that's more about keeping one or more sects of people "down" (as opposed to say, a politics that's merely about how to distribute wealth and spending) most of those movements that I can think of are associated with the Right.
Adorno has been pretty much tossed with a lot of other culture-based explanations of politics, as much of it had its roots in explaining either a) why the Germans were evil or b) why all those brown people couldn't get their shit together and just develop already. At least in the comparative politics set.
I've said it before, but David Neiwert has the best and most consistent exploration of the growth of groups engaged in "demeaning out-groups."
Adorno has been tossed by a lot of people in psych too of course.
But back to how this all relates to my post - I really don't see large groups of people or a major media campaign going strongly negative on Edwards over this b/c it will improve the lot of the poor. I just don't see that. The question mark though seems to me to be can he energize people on this issue? It's possible of course, but I'm far from certain. But it does present a number of possbilities for the use of the kind of framing, language and symbolism (religious rhetoric! Katrina photos!) that could play very well in a national camapaign.