Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Watching Edwards

I feel a glimmer of what I felt for Howard Dean. I hear common sense values and progressive values, I hear this at 15:12:

"I have a really simple view about this. We are a country of immigrants. I do not want to live in a United States of America made of up first class citizens and second class workers. That is not America. That is not who we are.

So when I am president, we're gonna have comprehensive immigration reform. And we're gonna ensure that every single person living in the United States of America has a completely achievable path to American citizenship, so they don't live in the shadows, so they can become American citizens, so they can be part of America, instead of being treated as second class workers, as second class human beings. There are no second class human beings in the United States of America when I am president."

Damn. Color me impressed. Yes, this is Edwards at his finest, playing to a crowd that is eating out of his hands, but it's the stuff that I've been waiting to hear come out of Obama's mouth given his family's immigration story. It's what I heard from Obama in 2004 and haven't heard as much since.

It's what would make me fall out of my seat if Hillary delivered it like this, without the loopholes and the qualms and the carefully constructed language like a house of cards. I've seen her speak effectively on immigration issues, and with passion and strength, but not always to the benefit of pro-immigrant rights advocates.

And later this: "If you can join the Republican party by signing your name to a card, any worker in America should be able to join a union by doing exactly the same thing. That's democracy in the workplace, that's what we believe in."

His hiring of top labor hands and his work in befriending labor presidents and in working for the average Joe shines through in this speech. So it's not quite Dean's "What I want to know" speech in San Diego with its rousing conclusion of "You have the power!" but it's good enough, for now.

The other thing is that although I am very impressed by this speech, it's not the same as what Dean was trying to do in building an open source movement - the language is not the same - it's still about empowering people, but more nakedly in the service of a political campaign. Perhaps this is because Edwards was trained as a lawyer and mostly lawyers feel empowered to speak on behalf of others whereas organizers work to train people to speak for themselves. Obama was a lawyer, but he was an organizer first. And Hillary studied Alinsky methods, which are present to the watchful observer in her top down style.

More thoughts on this, and other differences between Obama/Edwards/Clinton campaigns and ways of thinking and organizing later.



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