Slouching Toward Caucus Day, part 3
Re-branding John Edwards
The Reasonable Reporter has written little about John Edwards. That’s because, embarrassingly enough, the Reasonable Reporter has found the Edwards campaign difficult to grasp.
After the candidate’s appearance at the Grand Sierra on Wednesday, the light went on. If Hillary is Coke, and Obama is Pepsi, then John Edwards is Old Labor Cola. It’s been a successful brand for decades, but the product needs a boost. Or a line extension. Perhaps Old Labor Cola should branch out with an energy drink.
Edwards stood on the stage at the Grand Sierra backed by what appeared to be members of the Communication Workers of America. The Communication Workers include workers at AT&T and Cingular. Although the endorsement rap from CWA’s president resembled the rap from any other union president, “communication workers” sounds hip. It has currency. CWA could have been the energy drink.
Upon accepting their endorsement, Edwards referred to CWA as the “backbone of our information age economy.” So why didn’t he use a thumbs-up from a hip sector like communication to build on the stories about textile mills? (And by the way, what the hell is a textile mill? Textile mills are virtually alien to the experience of young Americans. Certainly to young Western Americans. Edwards’ father may as well have worked as a blacksmith.)
The improved story would begin with Edwards’ father, who suffered a demoralizing job loss after having trained the man who would ultimately become the executive in charge of the textile mill where senior Edwards had worked for years. His job was eliminated. Some theater of the mind might be in order. Descriptions of sheets of fabric being mechanically folded onto bolts… the product was destined to cover the couches in American living rooms where millions of families enjoyed their lives together.
Ah, but on to the future. Textile mills have been ceded by the American economy to the offshore places where companies now take their manufacturing business. We lost that one. But we are the United States of America, and we are the leaders in telecommunications, and our telecom workers are the most sophisticated in the world, and they will carry on the union tradition. (Applause.)
The CWA endorsement would have been the perfect vehicle to moderize the Old Labor Cola brand, and position Edwards as the best bet to lead labor into a prosperous and progressive American future. (Wild applause.) Properly employed, this approach could have reinvented Edwards as the most cutting-edge of the Democrats.
As to the confusing element of the campaign. Edwards tends to blur the lines between the middle class and the truly impoverished. The narrative portrays America as a place that’s hostile to the working man. While Obama is focused on hope, and Hillary points out that families are struggling with energy prices and college tuition, and certainly both have exploited the foreclosure crisis, Edwards stirs authentic fear. He taps perhaps too deeply into the darkest and most fearful corners of our survival angst.
We haven’t heard lately about the mother forced to decide which child to send to school on a bitterly cold day because her children own a single coat among them. Nonetheless, it’s desperate straits rather than every day struggles that dominate the message. Darker than Obama’s hope, and less comforting than overachieving Hillary Clinton who’s been crafting her policies, she says, for 35 years.Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized