Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More Distinctions and Differences

Matt responds to my earlier campaign-related post here. While I think Matt has a point that paying attention to a candidates' campaign can be instructive in determining how that candidate will govern, it all comes down to how much weight to put on certain aspects of that campaign process. Even then, Matt concedes, that "...these kind[s] of things can change as somebody governs." Which is true (if understated), with George Bush's humble foreign policy platform (as well as compassionate conservatism) being only the most recent examples. Radical reversals are not all that common (though, as mentioned above, not unheard of either). But some degree of variation is inevitable, and occurs in every election cycle without fail.

I would further quibble with the examples that Matt cites (i.e., that if Edwards campaigns on a platform of economic populism, he'll likely govern that way), and in general, referencing a candidate's "platform." First, this post was not addressing larger policy proposals that would comprise "platform" planks such as major philosophical leanings (economic populism) or detailed policy proposals (health care plans). By all means, if health care is an important issue to you, and you prefer one candidate's plan to another's, that's a good reason to favor one over the other. Personally, I think Hillary did a fine job in this regard as well.

What this post meant to focus on were minor rhetorical differences in some of the speeches/responses given by the candidates - rhetorical differences that were born out of campaign expediency and, as such, should not be viewed as overly determinative of how those candidates would actually govern. Especially when considering that their actual policy proposals tend to be less distinguishable.

That being said, I think that Matt is absolutely correct that is vital to pressure the leading candidates into adopting the sanest policies possible - both in terms of rhetorical attachment and actual detailed proposals. In this, Yglesias has been doing as fine a job as any, and I don't mean to suggest that he should stop (nor do I presume that he would listen if I did). Although a bit more slack on the rope might be in order considering that Hillary is clearly trying to push toward the middle in order to build as broad a base of support for the general election as possible (and insuring that a Democrat wins the White House should be all of our overriding goals). At least, stick to the actual policy differences when tugging on that rope, rather than exaggerating minor political maneuvering or giving preferred candidates the benefit of the doubt while seeing through a jaundiced eye with almost every move Hillary makes.

Perhaps Obama or Edwards would be better than Clinton (on certain issues I agree, and others not), but we certainly don't want to undermine her such that should she win the nomination (likely) there would be an audible groan from the more progressive wing, and a repeat of Gore-like voter rejection/apathy. Speaking of which, I tend to think that Gore would have governed in a much smarter, more progressive way than his 2000 campaign might have let on - especially if you listened to the Coke/Pepsi faux choice that many Democrats and Naderites claimed was available.

Just sayin.

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