A Short History of Recent U.S. Presidential Politics - Part 5: Bill Edwards v. Hillary Gore
In previous posts [see Part 1, 2, 3 and 4] I discussed historical analogies comparing the 2000 and 2008 Presidential campaigns. In this post, I want to highlight two similarities between Bill Bradley's campaign against Al Gore and John Edwards' campaign against Hillary Clinton.
The first similarity is rather interesting. You may recall this recent incident (emphasis mine, throughout this post):
So how is John Edwards feeling about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York these days? So bad, apparently, that in an interview last week he twice refused to say whether he would endorse her should she win the Democratic presidential nomination.
It is a standard political question, which often comes with a standard answer. And it is highly unusual for a candidate to decline to answer whether he would ultimately support the party’s nominee.
Between campaign appearances last week, as he rode through eastern Iowa in his campaign van, Mr. Edwards declined to answer whether he would support Mrs. Clinton.
“I’m not willing to talk about that at this point,” he said, waiting silently until the next question was asked.
Naturally, some of his ardent supporters (see this comment thread, for example) were supportive of his inclination to not endorse Sen. Clinton if she were to be the Democratic nominee. Edwards subsequently said that:
I fully expect to support the Democratic nominee, and I fully expect to be the Democratic nominee.
As it turns out, Bradley himself was not that different from Edwards on this:
Mr. Bradley said that Mr. Gore had his "full support." But there was implicit criticism of the vice president in his choice of words. While promising to campaign for Mr. Gore, Mr. Bradley declined twice to say that he would "endorse" the vice president.
You may recall what I said in Part 1, that there were some Bradley supporters who hated Gore with a passion - even more than they hated Bush:
As we enter the next phase of the 2008 Presidential campaign, this is a good time to start observing how history has a habit of repeating itself. Looking back at the 2000 Presidential campaign, here's a key aspect of the history perfectly encapsulated in this comment in a discussion on a recent Vanity Fair article about the Goring of Al Gore in the 2000 election (bold text is my emphasis, throughout this post):
I remember a friend of mine, who was admittedly pretty young back in 2000, saying during the campaign that she couldn't really see many differences between Gore and Bush. I don't want you to get the impression that I have vacuous friends - the point I'm making is that people casually, peripherally informed about the race prior to the election were mostly getting (from the media) differences in style and tone from the two candidates, rather than differences in position. This attitude was very widespread, both among people I knew personally (and myself) and in some parts of the media. Both Bush and Gore were "political machine" candidates; neither of them seemed to bring anything new and different to the table.
A lot of people were very disillusioned at how the primaries had gone; I knew people who didn't even vote in 2000 because they had really gotten behind one of the other candidates (mostly McCain or Bradley) and just felt like they'd been cheated into picking one side of the other of the same establishment coin. (I knew quite a few Bradley supporters who hated Gore more venomously than most Republicans did at the time.)
Ironically, for all the talk of how Gore and Bush were boring and didn't have a single new idea between them, Bush probably brought the most 'new ideas' to the table. They were just, you know, bad ideas.
The other strong similarity between Edwards and Bradley is that both of them made the link to "special interests" a big part of their attack against their main opponent.
This was one of the main lines of attack that Bill Bradley used against Al Gore:
Bradley... accused the vice president of being a captive to special interests...
As Bradley said:
I'm raising money from ordinary citizens, not from special interest PAC's.
In a raw populist appeal, Democrat John Edwards on Saturday accused presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton of defending a lobbyist-driven political system that is "rigged against regular Americans" and killed her plan for universal health care.
The former North Carolina senator accepted a major union endorsement while insisting that no Democratic candidate legitimately can promise to change America without swearing off special interest money from federal lobbyists.
Another textbook campaign at work?