Sunday, March 05, 2006

George Will is stuck in the 1930s

In his latest op-ed (here is a link from News and Observer: Edwards and poverty's character), George Will, writing in his typical "I-write-so-elegantly-you-will-never-detect-the-underlying-stupidity" mode, takes on John Edwards.

Was it a slow week, lack of inspiration, or was it a depeche from the RNC, only George knows, but it contains several points that need deconstruction. Briefly. No big effort. Will writes:
In a speech shortly after Katrina, he rightly stressed the correlation of family disintegration -- especially out-of-wedlock births -- with many social pathologies associated with poverty. He said, "It is wrong when all Americans see this happening and do nothing to stop it."
Why did Will single out only this point, the very last correlation that Edwards mentions in his speeches? Why not some other, or even all correlations? Why not some of the CAUSES that Edwards mentions? Why indeed? Because Will is a conservative. And although he uses the word "correlation" he implies causation, and the poor doing it to themselves is the only cause a conservaitive believes in. Hierarchy. If you are rich it is because you deserve it, because you are morally above those who are below you on the Dollar Ladder. It is your duty to step on their heads and push them down. Will continues:
Edwards has a 1930s paradigm of poverty: Poor people are like everyone else, they just lack certain goods and services (housing, transportation, training, etc.) that government knows how to deliver. Hence he calls for a higher minimum wage and job-creation programs.
George Will is intellectualy incapable of understanding what Edwards is really proposing, so he substitutes in its place the only liberal strawman he is capable of fathoming. Go to OAC and read for yourself the details of what Edwards is really trying to do. It has nothing to do with handouts (this is what Will is implying - he is skilfull with deceptive use of language, if not with actual thinking). It is a program to help poor help themselves, designed specifically because it is obvious that 1930s strategy has failed. It proposes to give the poor: a) education, so they can better understand the way the world works, so they can swim in it better, b) training, so they can develop their talents and interests in ways that they can use and sell on the market, 3) some help in surviving while the training lasts, and 4) a start-up capital so they can go on their own and do the best they can for themselves. It is a fundamentally free-market solution, as opposed to the conservative anti-free-market, top-down control by mega-companies (because they are the richest, thus led by the best and most moral, like Ken Lay...). Will reveals his true colors:
The new paradigm is of behavior-driven poverty that results from individuals' nonmaterial deficits. It results from a scarcity of certain habits and mores -- punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, etc. -- that are not developed in disorganized homes.
Yup, blame the poor. They must be poor because they are immoral and bad and mostly brown. And George Will is rich because he is smart and honest and a wonderfully moral person - in his own book! Give me a break.
When Democrats wonder what red states Hillary Clinton could turn blue in 2008, the wondering does not help Edwards, whose presence on the 2004 ticket did not sway his own state: In 2000, Bush beat Gore-Lieberman in North Carolina 56-43. In 2004, Bush beat Kerry-Edwards here 56-44. And Democrats know that Gore might now be in his second term if he had carried his home state.
First, that whole "carry his own state" canard is the red herring, a Republican talking point used to push Edwards (and Gore and others ) down. It does not matter at all. Kerry did not let Edwards campaign in the South, not even in North Carolina. Kerry quit campaigning in North Carolina a month before the election in spite of a close race at the time (it ended up not being so close because of his pulling out). Who's to tell what Edwards could have done if he was on top of the ticket and directing his campaign to the South (as he planned to do when he initially ran for President)?

Also, George Will is touting the party line here: Hillary will be the nominee of the Democrats. That is what RNC wants you to believe because they want her to be the Dems nominee because they know how to defeat her. Yeah right. I've been trying for months now to find a single Democrat who is not scared shitless of the very idea of Hillary running and will not do everything and anything to prevent her from getting the nomination.

In 2003/2004 blogs were just beginning to have an effect on the political process. Dean made a killing by being the first one. Edwards and Kerry, though late-comers to the game, used the blogs smarter and ended up on the ticket. Dinosaurs who did not "get it" lost in Iowa and dropped out By New Hampshire.

With the current explosion of blogs, the rising readership of the Liberal blogs, and the increased savvy of the candidates and their campaign managers, the money, power and backroom stabbing by the Clintonistas will not be able to overcome the grassroots activities of the Democrats campaigning against Hillary (and other boring candidates or DINOs like Biden, Lieberman, Bayh, Richardson and Warner).

The bloggers are "influentials" - people who are much better informed then the rest of the population and who, in political chats with their families and friends, supply the information to others, swaying their opinion. If each blogger (and blog-reader) on the Left manages to persuade ten uninformed citizens that Hillary is a potential disaster, Hillary will not win any primaries. It is far from a done deal. The Democratic base prefers Feingold, Obama, Edwards and Gore (if he'll run again), and of those, Edwards did the best job of keeping his online base active on a daily basis, with the continuation of his campaign blog as the One America Blog. He can spring into action within hours! Kerry had his chance - though many like him, most will not trust him to run a viable campaign in 2008. And I guess the war-criminal Wesley Clark will still have some support among the militant wing of the Democratic party.

Finally, Will ends like this:
Edwards says one lesson of 2004 is that presidential elections "are not issue-driven"; rather, they are character-driven and voters see issues as reflections of character. The issues "show people who you are." Perhaps.

But the idea that the candidate's persona is primary and that issues are secondary is a mistake made by some Democrats who yearn for another John Kennedy. He was a talented but quite traditional politician, whom many Democrats wrongly remember as proving that charisma trumps substantive politics. Edwards, who has been called Kennedy-esque, has a stake in that yearning.
What a load of bull! George Will is the most dishonest opinion writer right now - he is even more sneaky than David Brooks! Never EVER trust a Republican to tell you how to run a Democratic campaign! He does not have an interest in helping Democrats, quite contrary... Democrats lost because of their faulty belief that issues matter. All the research shows that issues are the LAST factor in determination of voters' choices - it is the personality and how it is sold.

Update: The Carpetbagger Report, Iddybud, Liberal Walrus, Ezra Klein on Tapped, Donkey Path, Sirotablog, Kevin Drum, Jim Buie, Exit Stage Left and The Third Estate have additional interesting points on this article. Also, I was unclear above when I said that 1930s anti-poverty programs failed - they actually did a lot of good, but did not do the 100%, so new approaches are obviously needed.

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