Favorite

The authenticity primary 

A recent Rasmussen poll raises some interesting questions about how voters perceive politicians. According to the poll, 33 percent of Democrats see Hillary Clinton as liberal — more than those who classify Barack Obama (31 percent) or John Edwards (21 percent) in the same way. Sixty-six percent identify Edwards as moderate or conservative.

If you've been paying attention to the candidates' positions, those numbers are surprising. Excluding the politically unviable Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, Edwards is the Democrat who has positioned himself furthest to the left.

On the two major issues that will shape this year's election — Iraq and health care — the Democrats' positions on the war don't mean much in the primary. Each promises to end it, but any candidate who claims to know exactly how to do that is being disingenuous. On health care, Edwards and Clinton both promise changes that will require coverage for every American.

Outside these issues, the candidates have to be judged on how they are focusing their campaigns. Clinton's campaign has no discernible theme. Obama's rhetoric of a politics of hope might be inspiring, but it doesn't suggest anything specific. Edwards, on the other hand, has clearly geared his campaign toward poverty, an issue that's far left of the political mainstream.

So why do so many people think that Edwards is a moderate? One answer is that he has an authenticity problem. Voters don't associate a wealthy, white, Southern lawyer with advocacy for the country's largely black underclass. As the thinking goes, since Hillary is a woman and Obama is black, they must be more liberal than Edwards.

Votes based on image aren't necessarily unreasonable. As Garance Franke-Ruta has pointed out in the American Prospect, a female or black president would lend a sense of social empowerment to members of historically underrepresented groups.

Nevertheless, image votes favor the idea of authenticity at the expense of policy. Although Edwards speaks to the impoverished more directly than Obama, and although his presidency promises to be more beneficial to them, many poor people better identify with Obama because of his race.

Edwards' platform is politically risky for a reason besides his image: the election process is loaded against it. Although money is the name of the game, spending millions on a campaign doesn't square with helping the poor.

Each of the candidate has faced questions about donors — Clinton because of gifts from Norman Hsu, Obama because he has promised to wipe out the influence of lobbyists while accepting money from former lobbyists and spouses of lobbyists. But any candidate who pledges to stamp out poverty will have his financial activities subjected to especially intense scrutiny, particularly if he's a millionaire.

Edwards has endured some criticism for his work with Fortress Investment Group, a hedge fund that has established offshore tax shelters and invested in subprime mortgage lenders. Along with his general wealth, the connection has inspired some to rip Edwards as a hypocrite.

Certainly, Edwards should have been more careful not to work with a company that forecloses on poor homeowners, but that shouldn't negate the work he's been doing to bring attention to the poor. Engagement with high-finance is imperative for anyone who wants to be relevant in presidential politics. The system is enough to make a hypocrite out of anyone who takes a stand on class.

John C. Williams is associate editor of the Times. Max Brantley is on vacation.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Fritz Brantley

  • The incredible shrinking Huckabee

    Plus: COPS!
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • The Week That Was, Dec. 20

    The UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS. After our deadline last week, they landed a football coach, the collegiately successful — but personality-challenged — Bobby Petrino. Petrino fled a losing record with the Atlanta Falcons, who hurled insults at him in his wake.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • Mike’s humble roots

    James H. Wallis in 1935 wrote a cynical primer for office seekers, which he dedicated to Niccolo Machiavelli. The important first step, he said, was for parents to arrange for the ambitious child to be born in a log cabin or, that failing, the next worst
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • More »

More by John Williams

Readers also liked…

  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • That modern mercantile: The bARn

    The bARn Mercantile — "the general store for the not so general," its slogan says — will open in the space formerly occupied by Ten Thousand Villages at 301A President Clinton Ave.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Vote no on school tax

    I have never voted against a school tax in my life, but I will be voting against the debt service millage extension for the Little Rock School District.
    • May 4, 2017
  • Intracity tourism

    The issues that tug at my heartstrings are neighborhood stigma and neighborhood segregation, which are so prevalent in Little Rock. In my opinion, the solution to those problems is "intracity tourism."
    • Apr 27, 2017
  • Not justice

    The strongest, most enduring calls for the death penalty come from those who feel deeply the moral righteousness of "eye-for-an-eye" justice, or retribution. From the depths of pain and the heights of moral offense comes the cry, "The suffering you cause is the suffering you shall receive!" From the true moral insight that punishment should fit the crime, cool logic concludes, "Killers should be killed." Yet I say: retribution yes; death penalty no.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Event Calendar

« »

May

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Not leaders

    As soon as I saw the Notre Dame graduates walking out of their own commencement ceremony as Vice President Mike Pence began to speak, I thought, "Oh no, here we go again."

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • Yes, Lyon's thinks it is Fox Network that promotes the lies that the West has…

    • on May 26, 2017
  • Re: Virgil, quick come see

    • When you going to correct your re writing of history? Lets see some real historical…

    • on May 26, 2017
  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • "Indeed, in certain situations I have had tall men either incline their head to me…

    • on May 26, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation