War is Not a Process Issue

My friends Brian Beutler and Ezra Klein both lavish praise on Supreme Commander Harold Meyerson's column on the shape of the race. I agree with much of it, but I think this pearl of wisdom is fast become an overly entrenched bit of not-really-accurate CW:

For the Democrats, the contest is settling into a pattern set four decades ago: primary-season class conflict, in which one candidate appeals to a younger and more upscale electorate by talking about political reform and other chiefly noneconomic concerns, while another emphasizes pocketbook issues to the party's working-class voters. In primaries past, the upscale-reformer role has been embraced by Eugene McCarthy, Morris Udall, Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley and Howard Dean, while the part of the more populist bread-and-butter battler has been played by Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Richard Gephardt and John Edwards, among others. This year's upscale reformer, as Ronald Brownstein keenly noted in his Los Angeles Times column last month, is Barack Obama.

So far, Obama is observing all the upscale conventions. Unlike Edwards, Obama is not campaigning against financiers who profit from outsourcing American jobs or drug companies that drive the price of medications to unregulated heights. Rather, he campaigns against the compromises, the shallowness, the corruptions inherent in our political and legislative processes. To create universal health coverage, Edwards prescribes taxing the rich, while Obama prescribes an open discussion, free from the taint of campaign contributions, that ultimately may lead us to embrace Edwards's prescription -- or not.

That's not wrong per se, but it's odd to think of Eugene McCarthy and Howard Dean as primarily "reform" candidates, and I think it's wrong to see Barack Obama in that light as well. These are all candidates whose primary base is, yes, with the upscale liberal demographic and therefore they tend to embrace reform issues that are important to that demographic slice. The three candidates I've singled out -- along with George McGovern, the one candidate from this lineage to actually secure the nomination -- are all foreign policy candidates as well. Specifically, opponents of seriously misguided wars in Vietnam and Iraq. These weren't -- and aren't -- trivial questions.

John Edwards is a sufficiently appealing figure that I greatly sympathize with the impulse among folks of a labor-liberal orientation to just accept his apology, decide there are no foreign policy issues at play, and construct this as a clash between the elite reformer and the dynamic populist. In my view, though, I need to hear more from Edwards about this other than that he shouldn't have been duped by Bush's WMD claims.