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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, December 28, 2006


A question for Senator Edwards

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, December 28, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
Congratulations on your announcement. For what it is worth, absent the entry of Al Gore into the race, you are the most appealing candidate for the Democratic nomination.

I personally believe that you have the potential to influence the 2008 race in as much a transformative fashion as did Howard Dean. In fact, that belief is what drives my question and challenge to you, Senator.

Dean's campaign transformed the narrative by unabashedly standing up for core Democratic values, establishing the right to dissent, and calling a spade a spade with respect to Iraq. On many issues he spoke out and was roundly vilified by the right, with (it must be noted) very little support from the other presidential contenders - including yourself. For example, Dean stated that the capture of Saddam made our country no safer. As time went on, however, these comments from Dean came to be prophetic and prescient indeed. Dean was, in a nutshell, unafraid o say the obvious even though doing so caused him immense damage. In so doing he made it possible for the other candidates, and you and Senator Kerry after winning the nomination, to speak the same truths.

In other words, Dean moved the Overton Window single-handedly. He did so at cost of his ambition, and to a very large part the victory in the 2006 midterms arose because of his sacrifice.

Now, you in many ways have inherited the mantle of Howard Dean's netroots passion. You speak of running a grassroots campaign, rather than an Establishment one; you are embracing the collaborative and viral technology of the web (such as YouTube and blogs). Given the passage of time, and technology, you wield as much potential power as Dean did over the very process of the presidential election itself. With that in mind, I ask you this:

Will you also be willing to transform the narrative?

By this I mean, will you be more than a collection of positions on the issues, a grreat stump speech, and some whizbang tech? Will you use the platform you are building to challenge the status quo of politics itself?

On the domestic front, the great issue of the day is surely national healthcare. On the foreign policy front, the great issue is in fostering liberal values . But these issues are always approached as salad-bar items. What we need is a grand narrative - the very definition of our philosophy as liberals. The reclamation of the word liberal itself.

In a nutshell, I am asking whether you will be the first candidate to stand up and say, "I am a liberal" - and then define and defend that term in the public sphere?

My personal view is that being liberal is an affirmation of liberty from oppression. The libertarian sees only government and religious oppression, the true liberal recognizes that oppression may also be economic, or social. The true liberal is in many ways an evangelist because they believe that all human beings seek to be free of oppression - and that oppression is the surest and continuing obstacle to human happiness and - most importantly - freedom to realize the true potential within. As such, they must seek the spread of liberty at home and abroad. How that liberty is best spread is the true debate that liberals must undertake, a question of means, not of ends.

My challenge to you, Senator, is to take up the defense of that word, liberal, To define it, to make your entire campaign be about embracing it and inviting fellow Americans to embrace it with you. To explain liberalism, to start with the core values and principles, then address the issues of the day within that framework. To always return to the principles of being liberal, so that the meaning of what it is never becomes obscured. And that we never lose sight of it as we seek for solutions in the modern era.

Liberalism is timeless, it is universal, and the Democratic candidate for the President of the United States must espouse it. If you are vilified for it, then that is a cross you must bear, for the greater good. Will you take this burden?

(cross-posted to the diary at DailyKos by Senator Edwards after his announcement of candidacy in New Orleans).


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.