RE: EDWARDS AND...

RE: EDWARDS AND POVERTY. I find disagreeing with Mark Schmitt about matters of social policy to be almost absurdly discomfiting, but his post on John Edwards and poverty genuinely surprised me. Mark has got to be the first liberal in years who wants to restore race's primacy in the political discussion over poverty. I thought severing that linkage was 60 percent of the justification for welfare reform! Indeed, the most interesting part of Edwards is his ability to universalize the rhetoric of poverty into a story that includes, and even features, the white working class, while still upholding policies of broad applicability. This is a guy, after all, who just offered up a white paper on racially integrating the nation's schools.

Mark's post appears to me to conflate two separate issues. The first is whether Edwards draws much support from the actually impoverished. The answer to that appears to be no -- and one could imagine a variety of hypotheses for why that might be so. I think it's hard to argue, though, that the poor in this country always -- or even ever -- support the candidate most likely to focus on their plight. The second is whether his focus on poverty ignores race. And on that, I'm baffled by Mark's answer. He says, for instance, "in his announcement speech in New Orleans, [Edwards] never mentioned race, even though the lack of political power of the Ninth Ward's African-Americans was more fundamental to their abandonment than their lack of income."

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