Monday, July 2, 2007

John Edwards and the populist label

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Andy sent me a New York Times Sunday Magazine piece on John Edwards.
He broke the "long, long, long article" down with three brief excerpts:

Excerpt #1:

When I asked Edwards if he blamed large corporations
or the wealthiest Americans for inequality, he
appeared briefly confused by the question. "No — no,"
Edwards repeated, shaking his head. "I just don't
think blaming helps, to be honest with you. What's the

In fact, the more you talk to Edwards, the more
apparent it is that the populist label doesn't quite
fit. While he talks incessantly about economic
injustice, Edwards isn't proposing anything (beyond an
oil-company windfall tax, which Hillary Clinton has
also embraced) that would strike a serious blow
against multinational corporations or the top tier of
American earners. Even in his rhetoric, Edwards seems
to deliberately avoid stoking resentments or pitting
one class against another the way a true populist
would, unless you count taking a few easy shots at

"Edwards is not in any way attacking the rich or
corporations." says Robert Reich, with a note of
disappointment. "He's not explaining one fundamental
fact of modern economic life, which is that the very
rich have all the money."

Excerpt #2:

The decision that most complicates Edwards's political
message, though, is his affiliation with Fortress
Investments, the hedge fund where he worked in 2006.
Strictly speaking, hedge funds aren't especially
nefarious enterprises in American life, but as a
symbolic matter, they represent exactly the kind of
exclusionary wealth that has led, more than anything
else, to the gross inequality that Edwards deplores.
(More than symbolically, Fortress has invested in
exactly the kind of subprime-mortgage dealers that
Edwards has repeatedly castigated for preying on the

Excerpt #3:

It doesn't help when Edwards tries so hard to
establish his affinity for the common man that it
makes you wince. When the Fortress story first
surfaced, for instance, he told The Associated Press
that he joined the hedge fund partly because he wanted
to learn more about the way markets affected
inequality. This is rather like saying you hired a
stripper in order to better understand the
exploitation of women. Another cringe-worthy example:
In April, The A.P. asked the announced candidates in
both parties what their dream job would be if they
weren't in politics. It was meant to be an amusing
exercise. Barack Obama said he'd be an architect. Bill
Richardson said he'd play center field for the
Yankees. Rudolph W. Giuliani said he'd be a sports
announcer. What was Edwards's dream job — the
alternate life he lay awake fantasizing about, had he
not become a millionaire lawyer and politician?

"Mill supervisor."

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