. . . until the New Hampshire primary.
I'm still don't know whom to support in the Democratic primary. However, I've been taking a closer look at Edwards recently. I'm impressed by the policy specifics his campaign offers. For example, Edwards seems to be the only candidate (correct me if I'm wrong here) with a specific agenda designed to help rural America. One part of his policies there is
Creating the New Energy Economy in Rural America: Renewable sources of energy -- including ethanol, biodiesel, wind, and solar -- can make the U.S. independent of foreign oil, cut global warming pollution, and create new industries and hundreds of thousands of jobs in rural America. Edwards will establish the New Energy Economy Fund to jumpstart renewable energies. He will create new markets for ethanol by requiring all new cars to run on both gasoline and E85 ethanol, requiring 25 percent of chain gas stations to carry E85, supporting E20 and E30 fuels, and working with U.S. automakers to make efficient and alternative-fuel cars. He will support locally owned biorefineries with start-up capital. He will also require 25 percent of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2025.
I've said before that I think that energy policy could be the unifying theme for a successful Democratic candidate in 2008. It's interesting to see Edwards apply this idea in a policy sector that is too often ignored by other candidates. I also liked this:
Investing in Rural Broadband: Once a world leader in broadband access, the U.S. is now 21st in the world, trailing Estonia. Rural households are only about half as likely to have a broadband connection even though digital inclusion is one of the quickest and surest ways to attract businesses. Edwards will establish a national broadband map to identify gaps in availability, price, and speed and require telephone and cable companies not to discriminate against rural communities in building their broadband networks. [ITU, 2006; CWA, 2006; Pew, 2006]
Those two prescriptions for rural American recovery appeal to very different sectors of the rural population--which is why Edwards' packaging them together makes so much sense. The former--growing the renewable, alternative energy infrastructure in rural America--presents a path for people who have lived in the "flyover states" for generations to once again contribute something vital and profitable to the country at large. In other words, Edwards' plan not only provides longtime rural Americans with a chance to make more money, it also gives them a chance to be as relevant to national and international affairs as they were for much of the country's first 175 years.
The second proposal--broadband for the boonies!--takes advantage of the fact that the internet economy is untethered from geography. When two hippies in a basement can start up a profitable and innovative web-based firm, it doesn't much matter if that basement is in New York City or Nebraska. As Chris Bowers (who is just on fire lately) has written:
[T]he progressive movement is also part of a social movement. It is connected to the growing dominance of "creative class" values within much of American culture, and to the rise of a new structure of the public sphere based not on mass membership institutions but upon self-starting, micro-targeted social networking. Contemporary progressivism has become more than just about our political beliefs, but also about the way we conduct many other aspects of our daily lives. In fact, it is pretty safe to argue that is the increasing prominence of progressive values in our everyday lives--how we work, how we meet new people, how we shop, and how we re-create ourselves on a regular basis--that jumpstarted the political side of the progressive movement, rather than the other way around.
There is no reason why this "creative class" and the values they hold can't be part of rural America. In fact, a number of members of that class would be only too glad to get out of the congested, expensive cities and move to smaller towns. Enhancing the prospect of social networking--both directly through the internet and through the face-to-face connections the net can nurture--may help bring members of this class back to the states in the middle and stem the depopulation of large areas of the west and midwest.
Back now to Edwards. If he can find the grammar to make people believe that he can bring about these kinds of transformations, he should be the frontrunner by election day.