New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has officially removed his name from consideration for Vice-President. This seems to be a largely symbolic move at this point, since Richardson’s name, which was being thrown around a great deal six months ago, had gone more or less unmentioned for a while based (according to Washington types and some friends in New Mexico politics) in large part on a reputation for maritial infidelity. Richardson’s fall from the short list strikes me as an unfortunate development; while some of his politics (particularly fiscally) were somewhat more conservative than I’d like, he’s a tremendously popular Latino executive from the South with a reputation for a strident populist progressivism and a savvy and pragmatic political instinct. So given that John Lewis didn’t seem to be on the table this time around, I would likely have taken him over Gephardt or Edwards.
The latest chatter seems to be that a Vice-Presidential announcement (read: leak, followed by later announcement) will come in the middle of this coming week. If, as many have suggested, it comes down to Gephardt or Edwards, my vote’s for Edwards. While both men campaigned to the left of Kerry on trade and arguably on jobs, Edwards was immeasurably more effective in articulating and demanding a vision for working America. While both men, like Kerry, voted for Bush’s War, Gephardt as Minority Leader is personally responsible for orchestrating the party’s shameful surrender on the issue. It was perhaps the defining moment of Gephardt’s sad tenure of compromise to the Republican party as a Democratic leader; at risk of sounding trite, Gephardt gives off the impression of a fading star, Edwards a rising one.
In this race, as in the Presidential primary, everyone seems convinced that Gephardt is labor’s candidate except for those actually involved in the labor movement, perhaps in part because (near) everyone outside of the labor movement visualizes it as the Teamsters. But absent a real progressive, Edwards is my pick, is SEIU’s pick, and hopefully will be Kerry’s as well.
A couple thoughts on the Iowa caucuses, a topic on which much ink (real and virtual) has and no doubt and will be spilled:
As someone who, despite significant reservations, believes Dean would be the best of the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination, I was disappointed to see him come in third. As someone who believes with great conviction in the organizing model that Dean has employed, I was disappointed to see that it was not enough to win him the Caucus. That does little to take away from the tremendous progress the Dean campaign has made and the ways it which it’s destabilized some of the unfortunate Clintonian paradigms of building power in the Democratic party. I’d also argue that losing Iowa does less than many think to hurt Dean’s chances of seizing the endorsement. One of the ways the press has hurt Dean over the past months, besides applying a level of cynicism and scrutiny to him denied in coverage of, say, the sitting President, is by raising the bar for his importance impossibly high. It’ll be interesting to see whether Dean is as effective as Clinton at seizing on and drawing momentum from underdog status. Some have argued that losing Iowa is better for Dean because it leaves several “anti-Dean” candidates in the running going into New Hampshire and stymies efforts to coalesce behind one Dean alternative – I guess we’ll see how that plays out as well.
It’ll be interesting to see what Kerry makes of the new attention and the new media narrative offered to him. Specifically, I wonder to what he and his staff attribute his late surge. The role he takes over the next weeks may hint at who it is they he thinks is propelling his rebirth as a candidate.
Looks like the zenith of Dick Gephardt’s political career has passed. The interesting story here may be his failure to marshall stronger support from the labor movement – instead of garnering the endorsement by the AFL-CIO as a body some expected, he saw the two largest unions in the body go to Dean. I think the Cold War AFL-CIO (there’s a reason they used to call it the AFL-CIA) model suggested to some by his support for the war in Iraq, and the tension it created, speaks to shifts in the American labor movement.
Dick Gephardt responded to Bush’s immigration plan today with a call for “comprehensive immigration reform that is fair to undocumented immigrants” rather than half-way measures. Here’s hoping other Democrats – including the others running for President – respond in kind.