Alex Blaze

John Edwards, electability, and LGBT supporters

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 01, 2007 10:23 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: John Edwards, John Kerry, presidential election

John Edwards released a list of LGBT supporters late yesterday along with a letter from them explaining their support. Bilerico contributor Sean Kosofsky is on that list and posted about why he's supporting John Edwards.

One of the listserves I'm on got into a discussion of whether his supporters should have used an electability argument - i.e. that John Edwards can beat Republican candidates more easily than the other Democratcs can - to support Edwards. Here's my contribution:

If Hillary or Obama or anyone else actually does get the nomination, and any of them, to me, is preferable to any of the Republicans, then the media narrative that "X can't win because s/he doesn't have appeal in red states" will have been strengthened. When they say that that Edwards is the most electable in red states, the letter's definitely implying that Hillary, etc, aren't. And once the media then gets into that narrative, you try and break them out of it.

I'm just saying that's what I think will happen with that message. I'm not going to argue that anyone here has any responsibility to carry the water for the Democratic Party when it comes to message.

I generally don't like such arguments anyway, for a few reasons. They tend to focus on the meta of democracy at the expense of substance, e.g. Edwards is doing better in certain polls, so he's the better candidate. I know that those who signed the letter also like him on substance, but using it as an argument makes American democracy seem like a sham, where good ideas are subservient to framework issues, where policy takes a backseat to a vague idea of "electability", which can be code for all sorts of things, but rarely "S/he will improve the country most."

Second, we don't know who's the most electable now. The letter cites a pollster who says that match-ups in certain key states right now work out better with Edwards. Hopefully, the Democratic candidate will engage people between now and Nov. 2008 and try to win them over. I'm also hoping to see someone try to transform politics from a poll, poll, poll horse race into something more participatory and meaningful, which would necessarily mean avoiding the pageantry of being presentably electable to a sound-bite obsessed media. That would mean challenging people instead of just pandering to whatever the media define as their least common denominator. But maybe that's me being too hopeful.

Third, all of the top five Democrats are electable over any of the Republicans. Arguing that one is more so is just laziness - after the primary it's up to us to help that person if we want to see her/him in the White House.

Last, I'm concerned with what "electable" means in this specific case. Is it just me, or does it sound like the argument just picked the richest (in terms of campaign cash), white, male candidate? Personally, I think that Hillary would probably run the smartest campaign. Edwards lost to Kerry (effin' Kerry!) in the 2004 primary, co-lost to Bush/Cheney, and is losing in general numbers now. He can't even stop and think that buying a $400 haircut on campaign cash might create a feeding frenzy for the Right. I'm definitely not a Hillary supporter, but I think that she's the most intelligent, least gaffe-able, most ruthless, and most media-experienced of the bunch. But the "red state" language of the letter seems to imply something else, that those rubes out in flyover country aren't going to vote for a woman (or, in Obama's case, a black man), and, man, we'd hate to lost again, so why take a risk with someone we think dem Red Staters aren't enlightened enough (like us) to vote for?

I know that the response is "The numbers speak for themselves", but the truth is that they change, people's minds are changing, and a good candidate will actively attempt to change people's minds, as well as, I hope, the way the game is played.

Just to disclose fully, I'm not leaning towards any of the top Democrats right now, and I know that I'll end up voting for whichever stooge the Democrats put up for the general election.

~Alex

That was the first thing I thought after reading that letter: John Edwards is now the most electable? Seriously? One of the best arguments for voting for him is that other people might a year from now?

Especially considering the recent history of the "electability" argument. Any Dean supporter from 2004 can tell you how a seemingly bad soundbite mixed with an Iowa paper's editorial board's view of who was electable can scrap the current favorite quickly in favor of a candidate with a record not ideologically pure enough on the biggest issue he was campaigning on with about as much personality as a knock-off cheese loaf. And we can see how correct the "Kerry is the most electable" argument turned out to be.

Oh well, the argument's not going to die without me.


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I'm not sure I like the idea of just putting someone forward who we think can get elected, rather than base our judgment on principles and who is the best for the job (not saying that he isn't, I just hate the elect ability argument).

It's all smacks a bit of "I don't care what we accomplish as long as we win." And that never works in the end…

Common Sense | November 1, 2007 11:17 AM

The polls tell us that Edwards is the most electable because he's a white guy running against a black man and a white woman.

Remember, the blue states believe that the red states are much less enlightened than they. So, the black candidate and the woman candidate could never get elected in those dubious crimson states. The obvious solution is to laud the gentile white southern man.

I'm totally with you on this Alex. I think all the Democratic candidates have their strenths and weaknesses, even Richardson-- though I'll be honest, I think it's all but over for Biden and Dodd and probably Kucinich as well.

And while I see your point about Edwards being the "rich white male" the thing that concerns me most about him is his religious ideology and the fact that he falls back on his "faith" in terms of some of the issues and ends up waffling.

We saw in the Democratic debate earlier this week that the "D" candidates are just as eager to make this an issue of "Hillary Can't Get Elected" as the "R" candidates are.

Here's the problem with it on the Democratic side, though. When/If Clinton is nominated, the GOP candidate has Democratically created snippets of Obama and Edwards piling up on her early in the race. Statements insinuating that a Democratic candidate cannot get elected will come back to haunt the ENTIRE Democratic party down the road.

Regardless of who most Democrats are supporting at this stage, I think there's a consensus that, whoever the Dem nominee is, they'll support that person in the general election. The danger, though, is that their early focus on electability - rather than policy - has potential negatives in that general election.

That's irresponsible, and anyone who wants a Democratic president in 2008 should stop handing the GOP ammunition now.

Here's the problem with it on the Democratic side, though. When/If Clinton is nominated, the GOP candidate has Democratically created snippets of Obama and Edwards piling up on her early in the race. Statements insinuating that a Democratic candidate cannot get elected will come back to haunt the ENTIRE Democratic party down the road.

True...

I watched part of the debate from September 26th (it was what came up on the video when I went to watch the debate it on the NY Times site) and even then it seemed like: "Let's get Hillary." Even Gravel smacked her a couple of times (to be fair he smacked Obama too. God, I miss Mike)