I basically agree with Matt's post from Tuesday that the Democratic field of Presidential candidates is not addressing, or even really mentioning, some of the most crippling problems we face as a country: American Empire / national security state, and the war on drugs / cradle to prison superhighway. In looking for a candidate to support, those are two enormous issues that I would like to see addressed. That no one, except maybe Kucinich, is talking about those problems is a real disappointment in the Democratic field. As such, while I will support and work for no matter who wins the nomination, I also won't delude myself that that candidate will accomplish what I think needs to be done to fix the country. At the same time, I have also listed what I see as the positive qualities in several of the candidates., and how I will be dissatisfied with the nominee since we can't find them all in a single package.
Further, I have also explained in the past that I was seeking to evaluate the three leading contenders for the Democratic nomination on a core list of seven policy issues that, collectively, would tackle the underlying causes that led us to war in places like Iraq. On those issues I think Obama and Edwards are about as good as each other, and both better than Clinton. However, throw in health care, and I have to conclude that Edwards is my policy favorite among the top three.
In terms of electability, I understand that Edwards will be handicapped in the general election by accepting matching funds, while Obama and Clinton will not be. However, Edwards starts ahead of Obama and Clinton in terms of general election polling, so I think this front is basically a wash. Clinton might be slightly ahead of Obama in this category, given current polling, and Obama might be slightly ahead of Edwards, given the financial situation, but the margins are narrow and difficult to determine based only on polls and financial figures. Besides, I think that all three look good electorally unless McCain is nominated on the other side, in which case it will be difficult no matter who is nominated. Obama versus McCain might be a problem area, but I actually don't see a path for that matchup to occur. If Obama does well in Iowa, then McCain won't win New Hampshire, and thus won't win the nomination. If Obama does not do well in Iowa, then McCain might win New Hampshire, but it won't matter because Obama won't win the nomination. We might get Obama or McCain, but we won't get Obama and McCain.
Also, electability is why I am only looking at the top three Democrats right now. At this late date, I don't see how anyone except Clinton, Obama or Edwards can win the primary. I also don't see how an endorsement of anyone else can promote progressive power in such a short time span.
In My Gut
Apart from policy and electability, I have long sought a candidate who would be able to forge the rising, younger, progressive, non-white and / or non-Christian coalition about which I have written, and a candidate who will work with, and use the language of, new progressive media. The former is clearly Obama, at least in terms of potential, as I have written on numerous occasions for quite a long time now. The latter is clearly John Edwards, considering his campaign's frequent use of the word progressive, adopting terms like neocon, not firing campaign bloggers when they were attacked by right wing media, and talking about fighting corporate interests. (Again, I am only looking at the top three here.) Clinton understand the threat of the conservative movement, and even coined the term "vast right-wing conspiracy," but during the campaign Edwards has been more vocal in the type of language I seek.
So, do I go with a figure who could potentially catalyze the type of coalition I seek, or with the candidate who stands with, and uses the language of, new progressive media? As I discussed a couple weeks ago, this is a difficult choice, and not one I with which I will ever be fully satisfied. However, in the end, I once again side with Edwards. Basically, this is because I don't think Obama is trying, or is even wants, to put together the non-white and / or non-Christian coalition I am talking about. While I want both goals, I feel as though improving the rhetorical position of progressivism is more achievable in this cycle, and I feel as though John Edwards is better at that than Obama and Clinton.
I hope that this post comprehensively explains my decision-making process in voting for Edwards, and why it isn't a clear enough, or satisfying enough, choice that I am willing to take it to the level of activism in the primary. Granted, I have conducted some activism, since I donated to two Presidential campaigns this cycle, Edwards and Richardson, and since I appeared in a television commercial for Bill Richardson.
The nature or level of this endorsement probably won't satisfy anyone, including Edwards supporters. I should also note that my order or support hasn't changed at all in about two years. During 2006, Feingold was my first choice, and Edwards was consistently my second choice. An Edwards-Feingold, Edwards-Spitzer, or Edwards-Sherrod Brown ticket would work for me. I don't really worry that waiting this long reduces my influence on the process, because I'm happy with the impact I made on residual forces in the campaign. There is only so much one person can focus on in a campaign, and if I had to do it all over again, I would still focus mainly on policy and progressivism in general. For me, those are always more important than any single candidate. Besides, I honestly was undecided during most of the campaign, variously moving between Dodd, Edwards, Obama, Richardson and unsure, not to mention frequent changes in my second place choices (which, at different times, briefly included Clinton and Kucinich). If a blogger loses his or her honestly, then she or he loses everything.
I don't begrudge people who are undecided, generally dissatisfied with the field, and / or who support different candidates. If Al Gore had run, I probably would have supported him. If Feingold had run, I probably would have moved to Wisconsin. If Dodd or Richardson had gotten more traction, this entire equation might have changed. If it comes down to Clinton vs. Obama, I think I will cheer for Obama. On the morning of January 3rd, I'll put up the one and only Open Left poll on the Democratic nomination.
It was a difficult decision to make. In the comments, feel free to offer alternative rationales.