Badger State Battlegound, also Edwards meets Obama and Clinton

It's struck me that the critical contest in the Democratic race may be the Wisconsin race on February 19th, not the one on March 4th in Ohio and Texas as everyone seems to be assuming.  After Tuesday, Barack Obama is going to be the clear front runner in delegates, votes and money.

Wisconsin will be the first state that will vote after semi-official front runnerhood is conferred on Obama by the press. (Hawaii votes then too, but it's one of Obama's home states and hardly considered a 'bell weather').  In any case, while there are some points in Obama's favor there given the penetration of Chicago's media market into the southern part of the state, it's also the kind of blue collar state Hillary should be able to make inroads. The most recent poll taken there, shows Clinton in the lead 50% to 41%, granted it was ARG, but still.

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Badger State Battleground

It's struck me that the critical contest in the Democratic race may be the Wisconsin race on February 19th, not the one on March 4th in Ohio and Texas as everyone seems to be assuming.  After Tuesday, Barack Obama is going to be the clear front runner in delegates, votes and money.

Wisconsin will be the first state that will vote after semi-official front runnerhood is conferred on Obama by the press. (Hawaii votes then too, but it's one of Obama's home states and hardly considered a 'bell weather').  In any case, while there are some points in Obama's favor there given the penetration of Chicago's media market into the southern part of the state, it's also the kind of blue collar state Hillary should be able to make inroads. The most recent poll taken there, shows Clinton in the lead 50% to 41%, granted it was ARG, but still.

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Fighting For Us Vs Squabbling with Each Other

I'll admit for a day or two I was a little shelled by the results in Nevada.  Things didn't go so well in Nevada for my candidate, John Edwards. But then something went terribly, terribly right in Myrtle Beach last night.  Edwards reminded me why I support him and, indeed, why I spend time involved with politics at all.  It's not because of horse race intricacies or keeping score on political pot shots.  Reacting to the increasingly personal and largely irrelevant back and forth between Clinton and Obama, John Edwards brought the debate back to what a Democratic debate should be about::

"This kind of squabbling -- how many children is this going to get health care? How many people are going to get education because of this? How many kids are going to get to go to college because of this?" Edwards said to cheers from the crowd.

"I respect both of my fellow candidates, but we have got to understand this is not about us personally."

Throughout the debate, Edwards was the candidate bringing the discussion back to people's real concerns and the real fight that needs to be waged in this country.

Before the debate some in the media were redoubling their efforts to drive Edwards out the race and erase what he and his supporters stand for from the election. We can't let it happen, and Edwards made it a bit tougher for them with performance in Myrtle Beach. I am not going to blow too much sunshine up anyone's patootie, it's a long long climb for Edwards to reach the nomination.  But with Obama and Clinton feud getting nastier and less edifying each round, I feel myself in no rush to pick a bandwagon.  Apparently I am not alone, as this reporting from Nevada shows:

In the precinct 7054 meeting, the Obama camp sent a cadre of supporters over to the unaffiliated participants. They repeated the familiar talking points of the national campaign, calling Obama "the candidate who can change Washington to work for the middle class," adding that Obama was "the only candidate who could restore hope for the American people."

Clinton supporters waited and listened closely to the Obama pitch. When their opportunity came, two older women told a group of four unaffiliated women that "Clinton would represent our interests because she is a woman," arguing that Clinton "understands us; Obama can't."

The intense contest for the Edwards voters turned many of them off. A majority of the Edwards supporters decided to sit out the contest and not caucus for either Clinton or Obama. This result was dumbfounding for many of the Obama supporters who were shocked that the Edwards supporters would not join their camp.

Edwards campaign precinct captain Mike Prior said that he convinced the Edwards camp to decline to vote in the second round because their refusal to support either Clinton or Obama would serve as a protest vote. Prior said that he was "for Edwards from the beginning," and was proud of Edwards' role in the primary process because "Edwards set the agenda and forced the other candidates to respond." Prior had not lost faith in his candidate even after the Edwards defeat. "He is a fighter. That's better that someone who can give a good speech or shuffle papers any day," Prior said.

Maybe it's only a coincidence or the calendar, but when Edwards has been pushed aside, the issues and focus on policies and real people have been pushed aside too. And the political discourse has has degraded rapidly.  When Edwards is in the fight, the fight becomes about people and health care, and poverty and the environment.  When he's cut out, it's about whose corporate law clients were shadier.

And that's why we can't give up.  As the campaign has gone on, Edwards has lead on all of the issues, if not in the polls. From health care, to trade, to poverty, to rejecting the Global War on Terror, or pushing back on a new war with Iran John Edwards has lead and the others have followed, though often, not as closely as I'd like.  

Of course, as many of you know, Martin Luther King III made a point on the holiday to celebrate his father's legacy to note much the same thing:

I appreciate that on the major issues of health care, the environment, and the economy, you have framed the issues for what they are - a struggle for justice. And, you have almost single-handedly made poverty an issue in this election.

You know as well as anyone that the 37 million people living in poverty have no voice in our system. They don't have lobbyists in Washington and they don't get to go to lunch with members of Congress. Speaking up for them is not politically convenient. But, it is the right thing to do.

I am disturbed by how little attention the topic of economic justice has received during this campaign. I want to challenge all candidates to follow your lead, and speak up loudly and forcefully on the issue of economic justice in America.

From our conversation yesterday, I know this is personal for you.  I know you know what it means to come from nothing.  I know you know what it means to get the opportunities you need to build a better life. And, I know you know that injustice is alive and well in America, because millions of people will never get the same opportunities you had.

I believe that now, more than ever, we need a leader who wakes up every morning with the knowledge of that injustice in the forefront of their minds, and who knows that when we commit ourselves to a cause as a nation, we can make major strides in our own lifetimes.  My father was not driven by an illusory vision of a perfect society.  He was driven by the certain knowledge that when people of good faith and strong principles commit to making things better, we can change hearts, we can change minds, and we can change lives.

So, I urge you: keep going.  Ignore the pundits, who think this is a horserace, not a fight for justice. My dad was a fighter.   As a friend and a believer in my father's words that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, I say to you: keep going.  Keep fighting.  My father would be proud.

(Emphasis Added)

As a Kos diary said yesterday, Don't Mourn Organize. Because more far more than any candidate in this race John Edwards has given voice to the cause I believe in and given voice to the people who have to little a voice in our country. What most of us are for isn't just the candidate, but the cause and the voice that he represents.  

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Why We Need the Edwards Brand of 'Change'

After seven years of Bush incompetence and malfeasance, with 70 percent of the country believing we are on the wrong track, every politician says they're for  'change.' But, of course, 'change' doesn't mean the same thing for every candidate.  Nowadays even Mitt Romney, the plutocrat's plutocrat, is unironically trying to sell himself as the 'change' candidate. (Self awareness is not a Romney strong suit).

When a word like 'change' becomes a political mantra like this, the word can be used as much to hide intent as to reveal. And that is problem for all of us who really want to bring the kind of 'change' that revalues work and makes the system in Washington work for the middle class.

We all know that for too long the income and wealth divide in America has been allowed to grow.  Wages have stagnated and economic insecurity as spread throughout the middle class while wealth has been concentrated at the top. But, the fact is, change is coming no matter the election results, and, in the short term, much of it may not be good. As the New York Times editorial board noted on Sunday:

As one economic pillar after another began to buckle in 2007 -- lending, home sales and house prices, factory orders, holiday shopping -- economists kept saying that recession was avoidable as long as employment held up. A job means a paycheck, a paycheck means spending, and spending means hope for the economy.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that employment in December had buckled as well. Over all, a meager 18,000 jobs were created. Even worse, hiring in the private sector contracted by 13,000 jobs, a harbinger of recession. The figures are subject to change, but job growth has been slowing since June, making a big upward correction unlikely. The unemployment rate, which is not subject to revision, also jumped in December, rising to 5 percent. As recently as last March, unemployment was only 4.4 percent. Such a big swing in such a short time also suggests a recession.

(Emphasis Added)

As in foreign policy and climate change there's likely to be a lag effect as the next President is forced to deal with the on-going damage of George Bush's dismal legacy in the economy for some time.

So it's incumbent on us as voters to look deep into the exact 'change' proposed and for the candidates to be clear what it is they mean.  John Edwards couldn't be clearer about the 'change' he is proposing. As Ezra Klein's insightful take on Edwards's post Iowa speech shows:
 .  

The talking heads on MSNBC just spent a few minutes puzzling over John Edwards' concession speech. "It had no concession," they fretted. It didn't talk at all about the horserace, or the vote totals. Instead, Edwards spoke of the downtrodden, the uninsured, the insecure, the exploited, the oppressed, the wronged, the scared, the hungry, the homeless, and the poor. It was a fitting speech. It was not about the candidate or the race, but about the ideas, and the individuals they are supposed to help. In that way, it was Edwards' candidacy distilled to its core: A search for justice, a cry for equality, a demand for empowerment.

(Emphasis Added)

If there is a downturn coming, those traits are certainly the ones I would want in our President.  Because, despite all of the harm Bush and corrupt system he presides over has caused there is real cause for optimism with a President like John Edwards.  

There's a sort of office joke about hitting your head against your desk because it feels so good when you stop.  Many of the structural economic problems we face are a bit like that, only it's the Republicans and the entrenched interests that are pushing your head into the desk.  Either way, it's going to feel so much better when we stop it; when we realign our tax policy, when we free ourselves from worrying about health coverage, and when we reform our trade policies.

As John Edwards put it in the WMUR debate, where he pledged that his tax and trade policy will always start from the perspective of how it will affect working Americans:

Given the times were in and the system we're facing Edwards is forthrightly proposing exactly the 'change' we need and the fight we need to take on to get it.  He's crystal clear about what it is he intends to do, which is important with phonies like Mitt Romney parroting the 'change' line. Not only do the false change messengers clutter the meaning, but 'change' built on  vague themes will not last first contact with the swamps of Washington. Luckily, that's not a problem John Edwards will have.

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DMR, Shmee-MR, Back to Work

Media respect and pollster love aside I thought I'd take a look at the actual reliability of the Des Moines register poll.

So I took the results for the last three competitive caucus polls compared to the actual results, helpfully provided by Politico, and did some simple calculations.

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Edwards Will Unite the American People, Not DC Interests

There's a lot of cross talk on 'unity' vs 'fighting' out there.  People claim that Obama with his talk of reconciliation and big tables is the 'uniter', while John Edwards with his populist stances against corporate special interests is just a 'fighter.' But that confuses a couple of different concepts, so let's be clear. It all depends on who one want to unite.

John Edwards is talking about uniting the American people behind his attempt to take on the entrenched corporate interests in an 'America Rising' for working people. Having the American people largely united on issues is a good thing.  Having the interests and players in Washington, or stakeholders, as they say, united together is usually a bad thing. As Matt Stoller demonstrates here:

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An Edwards Christmas Carol

It's a bit of a challenge writing a campaign diary on Christmas.  Vituperative attacks on one's opponents seem a bit out of place, while a treacly sweet Christmas piece is not likely to persuade anyone, nor is it my style.

So I decided to, um, borrow a bit from a well known source.

Ghost of Edwards Christmas Past

By now, many of you may have heard that John Edwards is the Son of a Millworker, whose parents had to borrow money to bring him home from the hospital. While I don't think it's the strongest argument for Edwards, in age where a 'very serious person' like Fareed Zakaria can argue 'identity trumps knowledge and experience,' it is certainly worth a visit:

The desire to get ahead--to win--is no small thing for Edwards. He was raised in the depressed town of Robbins, N.C., where his father, Wallace, worked in a now long-gone textile mill. It's a biographical detail the candidate mentions so often in speeches and campaign ads that it can sometimes border on self-parody. Yet his father's story is what Edwards's campaign, and political career, is all about. His dad worked his way up in the mill and was promoted to supervisor. But without a college degree, there was only so far he could rise. "He heard his mother and I talk about it at the dinner table, so he knew what I was faced with," his father tells NEWSWEEK. Money was scarce. Wallace was determined that John and his younger brother and sister, Wesley Blake and Kathy, would attend college. He set an example of self-improvement. He took classes offered by the mill, and tuned in to the education channel on TV early each morning when the station aired lessons in statistics and probability.

Of course, John Edwards took those lessons of growing up in humble circumstances and striving to get ahead to become a very successful lawyer  battling on behalf of ordinary folks injured by corporate negligence. Some of whom have joined Edwards on the campaign trail this year to testify to Edwards's compassion, fight and skill.

Ghost of Edwards Christmas Present

This Christmas finds John Edwards leading a populist campaign in the top tier the Democratic nomination.  As the New York Times wrote in a great contrast with plutocratic phony Mitt Romney, Edwards is applying those lessons from his humble Christmases past in a bold populist campaign:

"I think most Americans think that the economic disparity that exists in America today is worse than they can remember in a long time," Mr. Edwards said. "Every step of my life has reinforced the notion that -- unless there's some obstacle that you can't do anything about -- that if you work hard enough in America, you can do anything. I think, though, that those obstacles are too high and too difficult for most people."

To restore what he considers the right balance, Mr. Edwards would go further than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama on several economic issues. Mr. Edwards would try to repeal the Bush tax cuts for everyone making at least $200,000 -- not $250,000 -- and he would do so as soon as he took office, not waiting until they expire in 2011. He also favors a law forbidding banks from giving subprime mortgages, which have higher average interest rates, to people who could qualify for loans with lower rates.

(Emphasis Added)

This Christmas, in Iowa, New Hampshire and around the nation Edwards is applying his call to be Patriotic About Something other War to our duty to global warming and our duties to our fellow Americans, as he does in his 'Seasons' ad, transcript below.

Full Transcript of "Season:"

One out of every four homeless people on our streets is a veteran.

Thirty-seven million Americans live in poverty.

Who speaks for them? We do.

This is the season of miracles, of faith and love.

So let us promise together: you will never be forgotten again.

We see you, we hear you, and we will speak for you.

In America, the chance to build a better life is a promise made to each of us, and the obligation to keep it rests with us all.

Ghost of Edwards Christmas Future

We should be so lucky to get the Christmas, OK, November Future, outlined in the New York Times on Sunday, Mitt Romney vs. John Edwards.  Pitting our sunny populist verse their robotic plutocrat.  Luckily any Edwards November Future, against the nasty Giuliani, the somnolent Thompson, the clueless Huckabee or the war-mongering McCain, would be as nearly good for us, both in prospects for victory and contrasts in policy.

If Democratic primary voters propel John Edwards to the nomination and his likely victory in the fall, the Ghosts of Edwards Christmases Future will show us some very bright Christmases indeed.  

Future Christmases with a President of United States committed to ending poverty in this country.  

A Future Christmas with President Edwards passing landmark anti-global warming auction cap ad trade systems.

Future Christmases with a President committed to rebuilding economic opportunity to working Americans and restoring One America.

Future Christmases with a President who stands up for working people and their unions.

Future Christmases with Elizabeth Edwards as our First Lady.

Future Christmases where the President of the United States works to give a voice to the voiceless.

And, of course, a Christmas in the not too distant future after a President Edwards has passed universal health care, with a public option, for everyone in the country.  Tiny Tim,  with his pre-existing condition and his working class parents included.

Merry Christmas- AJ

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All Politics Is Local

"All Politics is Local" is one of those sayings the political press never tires of repeating, but ignores most its implications anyway. Case in point, the plentiful and prominent coverage of Edwards endorsement by Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, but no one seems to cover actual local officials endorsements. The press did finally take two seconds of notice the Obama endorsement by the Mayor of Des Moines, since that's the city most of the East Coast press stay in while doing there Iowa safari. So it also seemed like a good time to highlight John Edwards' announcement last week of a list of 52 Iowa County-wide elected officials endorsing Edwards.

But, far more important than the list is the "New Partnership" program Edwards proposed along with the release of endorsements. The "New Partnership" pledges five steps to address the failures of the federal government in its relationship to local governments. As I assume many of you know based on your own community, local governments across the country are struggling to fund basic services, cities have barely recovered from the first Bush recession according the National League of Cities, and this is before the next possible Bush recession comes.

I am not going to argue that the struggles of local governments are as critical as Global Warming, Iraq, or Universal Health Care. Then again the local governments' funding problems are orders of magnitude more critical to American's daily lives than Social Security reform, and, of course, receives not even a fraction of attention in media.

Local governments are the day to day face of government for most Americans and provide the services people rely on the most. More than that, the struggles of our local governments are largely a reflection of the struggles of our communities and the disdainful treatment of the locals by the feds reflects the disdain the DC system has for everyone outside of it. So I think the issue and Edwards' response is well worth highlighting.

Interestingly, Edwards 'New Partnership' starts off his pledge to pass Universal Health Care:

Passing Universal Health Care and Relieving the Burden on County Health Departments: Counties in Iowa and across the nation face skyrocketing health care costs, including rising costs for employee health care as well as uncompensated care in county hospitals and public clinics as a result of the 47 million Americans without health insurance. Edwards' plan to require insurance for all Americans will eliminate uncompensated care. His plan will also save money for local governments - including school districts - by bringing down costs and improving quality through steps like better preventive and chronic care, electronic medical records, and encouraging proven treatments.

(Emphasis Added)

It's a point far too often lost in debate, but double digit health care inflation is killing local governments, as it is US businesses. Local governments are also the ones often left holding the bag when the 47 million uninsured Americans are forced to get emergency care.

There's some other vital stuff in the Edwards pledge too, particularly:

Full Funding for Special Education: For decades, Washington has failed to meet its promise to pay 40 percent of the cost of special education. It fails to provide even half that amount, placing an enormous burden on school districts and property taxpayers to make up the difference. As president, Edwards will introduce a budget that puts the federal government on track to meet its full and fair share of special education funding.

Funding for Special Education, or the lack thereof, is one of those perennial snubs Washington gives to communities across the country that has both real and symbolic importance. I hope the Democratic congress will actually move on this issue before the next election, but it'll take a President committed to it to get to full funding and to stay there.

Edwards also includes his plan to revitalize rural economies, new proposals to lower local government procurement costs, and pledges basically more and better transportation spending. All these are very good points, some of them, such as Universal Health Care, obviously weren't proposed just to make things better for city and county governments. But, looking at them from that perspective is great way to both highlight the proposals' importance and help connect these issues to people's communities and lives.

As a bit of unsolicited advice, I hope support for local governments is something Edwards continues to hightlight. It's a great under-the-radar way to differentiate himself from his rivals, provide a substantive outsider message and these unsexy issues issues have real traction for people, as anyone who watched the Massachusetts Governor's race could verify. In fact, there are a number of other Edwards proposals that could already be added to the New Partnership program such as his great Cities Rising program, highlighted here yesterday. The federal government's responsibilities to our communities have been disregarded in the borrow and spend Bush era, just like just about every other federal responsibility, and candidates could do much worse to keep that frame in mind whenever they talk about issues.

Part of the MyDD campaign volunteer blogger series- AJ

[editor's note, by MassEyesandEars] Cleaned up typographical errors

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37 Million Americans in Hunger and the MSM Doesn't Effing Care

I had the opportunity as a blogger yesterday to sit in  on a conference call by John Edwards about his plan to address hunger and food insecurity in America, which just last week was reported to have affected 37 million Americans including 13 million children.  John Edwards conducted the conference call himself, not some one from the Edwards campaign mind you, an indication of the priority the candidate puts on this issue.

I found the six point program, which was ably laid out by TomP yesterday, forward thinking and impressive.  And I'll get to my take on the plan in a bit, but what most struck me was the absolute and total apathy by the soul dead wretches in the media.  Given an opportunity to ask questions about a serious plan to address pain and suffering of 37 million Americans, they had not one question about it.

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John Edwards and the democratic Wing of the Democratic Party

By now most people not living under under a boulder know that John Edwards is considered an "economic populist." Unfortunately, the term is often ill defined, other than a sense of being on the side of working people and vague recollections about a Cross of Gold speech. For Edwards substantively "economic populism" means that he is committed to universal health care, to effectively eliminate poverty in thirty years, and supports Smart trade agreements that benefit workers here and with our trading partners instead of just corporations.  

Beyond the specific policies John Edwards's value system is one that comes unapologetically from his small town working class background.  But, mill working fathers and passionate speeches aside, what is too often missed about the John Edwards brand of populism, is his insistence on the marriage of economic and political empowerment.

The way Edwards combines promoting a fair economic shake for everyone with de-rigging the political system has appealed to me since he started doing it during his last run.  Now, after eight years of top down politics and top down economics from the Bush administration, John Edwards's brand of small "d" democratic Populism is exactly what is needed.

His democratic Populism takes shape in a number of proposals, most famous is his career long refusal to take PAC or lobbyist money and his call for the entire Democratic Party to join him.  More devilishly, there is his plan to force Congress to justify their own government funded health care if they refuse to enact universal health care for the rest of the nation.  A plan Jake Tapper, with no apparent sense of irony, called cruel because it may deny coverage to Congresspeople with health problems in their families (Note to Tapper:millions of Americans face that 'cruel' reality everyday, something that, strangely, never seemed to concern Tapper a wink before). If the plan can make a card carrying member of the MSM care about some one's health care, it must have merit, even if it is just for the beltway elites. Baby steps, people, baby steps.

One of Edwards's more exciting democratic Populism proposals is his One Democracy initiative and its Citizen's Congress proposal praised here by Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Government Professor Tina Nabatchi:

Most of us have no formal way to participate in decision making about the issues of highest public concern Iraq, taxes, health care, jobs, global warming, the environment, education, Social Security; the list can go on and on. No wonder the CBS News/New York Times poll found that only 10 percent of Americans believe they have a say in what the government does a "good deal" of the time!

Finally, however, one of the presidential candidates is taking on this problem. Last month, John Edwards unveiled a government reform proposal that seeks to re-engage Americans with politics and government. His One Democracy initiative calls for the participation of ordinary Americans in politics through a Citizen Congress a program in which millions of Americans nationwide would participate in deliberations about critical policy issues, identify the challenges and trade- offs facing our country, and offer advisory opinions to leaders.

Edwards' plan has the potential to strengthen our national democracy and reverse the trend of disengagement among American citizens by offering them a new voice. It could help the public identify common priorities (not the priorities of special interests and business), foster common ground and consensus, and develop solutions for the common good. In doing so, it could create a broad public constituency to stand behind and support our leaders' political actions, however difficult they might be. Mobilizing and engaging citizens in this way could help build the political will we so desperately need to act on serious matters of public policy.

(Emphasis Added)

The Citizens Congress is the flip side of campaign finance reform and public financing, which Edwards also supports. While the finance schemes are badly needed to limit the power and influence of corporations and special interests, the Citizens Congress is designed to increase the power and influence of ordinary citizens.

Beyond the specific reform proposals, this spirit of empowering people politically and economically infuses almost all of John Edwards policies, take his answer to TechCrunch on Net Neutrality:

In May, I - like thousands of citizens - wrote a letter to the FCC urging them to guarantee net neutrality. I believe that if we do not guarantee net neutrality, the Internet could go the way of network television and commercial radio - with just a few loud corporate voices and no room for the grassroots and small entrepreneurs. Our country is already divided enough between the haves and have-nots. Where we go to school, where (and if) we get health care, whether we can retire with dignity - we have big divides in all of these areas in this country.

While we work to create One America, we should not allow the Internet to be divided or corporate censorship to take root. That would make the other important work we have to do that much harder.

(Emphasis Added)

In a way that no other politician seems to, Edwards gets that the unfairness of our political system is linked to the unfairness of our economic system.  In a way that no other politician seems to, Edwards is committed and prepared to change both. And it is that combination of economic Populism with democratic Populism is what makes Edwards such a potentially transformational leader.

-AJ

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