Jeffrey Feldman On First Democratic Debate
An excerpt on Feldman's evaluation of John Edwards:
John Edwards: American PrinciplePlease go to Frameshop to read the rest of Feldman's excellent piece.
For me, the decisive moment in the debate came about 60 minutes into the discussion when Edwards answered a question about foreign policy issues other than Iraq. After a brief comment about Russia becoming "autocratic" under Putin, Edwards then lifted the discussion up to a broad frame about America's role in the world:
What we have to ask ourselves is: How does America change the underlying dynamic of what's happening in the world? For us to be able to do that, the world has to see America as a force for good again.
After that comment, Edwards proposed a series of big initiatives that would demonstrate "America's commitment to humanity," such as: investment abroad in education, sanitation and economic development. The point was profound and demonstrated, in just a few sentences, the fundamental difference between a progressive, Liberal worldview and an authoritarian, Conservative worldview. In that broad logic provided by Edwards, we could feel what it would be like to finally breathe again--to be freed from the stranglehold of Bush's monstrous conception of a "global war on terror," through which America becomes a constant bully beating a one way path to global disdain and paranoid isolation.
Given that the debate was largely about Iraq--that the election will be, largely, about Iraq--Edwards ability to articulate that vision set him apart. No other candidate struck that fundamental progressive tone or asked a basic question about the underlying moral principles through which we make decisions, build power, and exercise authority.
As such, Edwards was the only candidate who painted a picture of how the world would change if he became president. All other candidate's answers seemed small by comparison, cautious, overly concerned with a context defined by political battles.