Edwards is an Untrustworthy Opportunist

I’ve gotten a lot more cynical since 2003, when my primary candidate of choice was Dean, followed by Edwards. Now that Edwards has declared his candidacy, I can’t help it but think the only anti-poverty programs he’ll actually pass are those that everyone already supports – universal health care, maybe a further increase in the minimum wage, and an official statement saying the government thinks poverty is bad.

The one highlight is Edwards’ admission that cutting taxes is not necessarily a good idea.

And those middle class tax cuts he campaigned on in 2004? “At this point, it’s hard to see how to do that,” Edwards said in an interview after his campaign kickoff in New Orleans.

I’m glad that after six years of skyrocketing deficits that are destroying the US dollar and with it the global economy, Edwards is realizing that tax cuts aren’t an especially responsible policy. I have nothing against revenue-neutral or revenue-positive policies that merely shift the tax burden upward, but Edwards isn’t the sort of politician who could get Congress to approve any tax increase, except maybe a poll tax on foreigners.

Ezra reports from New Orleans, where Edwards kickstarted his bid. He noted that a) the speech’s theme was about grassroots action, b) Edwards used explicit antiracist imagery, and c) Edwards didn’t talk much about poverty. While I can’t find much fault with b) and c), a) worries me; Edwards may be the Dean of 2008 – a pretend progressive who is able to avoid coming off as a Kerryesque flip-flopper by being more long-term in his opportunism, like McCain.

In addition, I fully respect candidates’ right to choose their own trademark issues, but I also reserve the right to get excited about them based on what they emphasize. The main problems that have emerged in the US since Bush took office are the deficit, Iraq, privacy, and health care. Global warming, education, immigration, and choice are lingering problems, while the gay rights movement has been a success story next to which Martin Luther King’s movement seems sluggish.

Candidates who don’t mention any civil liberties issue can’t help it but come off as people who’ll sell abortion out in a second and do nothing for immigrants and gays. Digby has an excellent post about how the Democrats are trying to appeal to Evangelists by adopting more socially conservative positions; against that background, I reserve the right not to trust candidates who deemphasize reproductive rights in their campaigns.

Dean was an untrustworthy opportunist, too. But at least he publicly stated that restrictions on abortion were futile, telling an anecdote about a 12-year-old girl who was impregnated presumably by her father. At the end, abortion was one of the few issues he was solid on. Edwards isn’t even solid on that.

7 Responses to Edwards is an Untrustworthy Opportunist

  1. Tyler DiPietro says:

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t think we’re going to see anything approaching a progressive agenda from a Democratic presidential candidate anytime soon. Russ Feingold has declined to run, leaving a bunch of cookie-cutter opportunists to pick from (O-Bomb-A, Hillary, etc.).

    And to tell the honest to non-God truth, I’m a bit queasy, especially after the last six years, to hand carte-blanch to one political party. The Republicans ran in 1994 on a platform of shrinking government, cutting taxes, and limiting spending. What they ended up delivering were the biggest increases in discretionary spending since LBJ, rampant corruption, and what could at best be called tax-shifts that benefited few. Even if the Democrats talk a progressive game, the history of politics shows that that is no guarantee of delivering. I may be forced to vote Republican in the coming election just to keep government divided.

  2. Bushbaptist says:

    Well now it’s great to see that politicians are the same the world over!
    Edwards is a dipstick with charisma and Kerry is a dipstick without.

  3. SLC says:

    As usual, liberals like Mr. Dipietro fail to see the big picture. The issue is very simple, do you want a Bill Clinton picking Ginsburg and Breyer for the supreme court or a Bush picking Alito and Roberts. Does anybody think that Edwards or Obama or Hilary or Richardson or Vilsack would pick a piece of filth like Alito as a supreme court nominee?

  4. Tyler DiPietro says:

    As usual, liberals like Mr. Dipietro fail to see the big picture. The issue is very simple, do you want a Bill Clinton picking Ginsburg and Breyer for the supreme court or a Bush picking Alito and Roberts. Does anybody think that Edwards or Obama or Hilary or Richardson or Vilsack would pick a piece of filth like Alito as a supreme court nominee?

    Big picture thinking can be more myopic than you seem to think. The supreme court isn’t the only thing you have to worry about; with one party in control of the legislative and executive branches a lot of damage can be done with or without it, witness the last six years of Republican carte-blanch. How can we trust the Democrats not to do the same?

    I think divided government is a better option, whether one is liberal or conservative.

  5. Alon Levy says:

    Does anybody think that Edwards or Obama or Hilary or Richardson or Vilsack would pick a piece of filth like Alito as a supreme court nominee?

    It becomes an increasingly likely possibility. In the 1970s, opposition to the death penalty was part of the liberal Democratic agenda in the US, and indeed Supreme Court justices who supported capital punishment, like Stevens, were seen as moderate or conservative. Although Stevens has moved left since he was appointed, the court has moved right; Ginsburg and Breyer are less liberal than Brennan and Marshall. Is it that inconceivable that in 5 years, eager to placate the Evangelical bloc, a Democratic President will nominate someone whose views on abortion are the same as Alito’s, but who is perhaps more liberal on economic issues like regulatory power, or even non-religious social issues like police power?

  6. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Another possibility in the mix is that Republicans, seeing the Democrats run head over heels to court the evangelical vote, may instead move to court social liberals and establish a voting bloc in the northeast and the west coast by pushing moderates. Moderates have traditionally been a large part of the Republican constituency, and only recently have the Republicans pushed all the way right on both social and economic issues.

    Given the choice a Lincoln Chafee or an Olympia Snowe and an economic populist Democrat who is also a nutball on social issues, I would have no trouble choosing the former.

  7. Alon Levy says:

    Another possibility in the mix is that Republicans, seeing the Democrats run head over heels to court the evangelical vote, may instead move to court social liberals and establish a voting bloc in the northeast and the west coast by pushing moderates.

    It’s unlikely. The Republican Party has a radical mentality, which means it’ll respond to defeat by moving even further right. The 2006 defeat was about Bush rather than about the conservative agenda, so the Republicans will likely try running on the agenda in 2008 at least. They might even win, if they have a Presidential candidate popular enough to have coattails.

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