Follow Who? Where?
By: Mark W Adams

So Ara put it to me this way...

In any election, the candidate who can clearly say "follow me" and give the best reasons why, wins. Some would call this "providing a narrative." Or more specifically, it comes down to providing a narrative that gives meaning to people's lives.

Others would call this the "inspiration factor."

But whatever you call it, it is the core of leadership.

And people vote for leaders, not policies or parties.

So, based on that -- who is best positioned to get elected?
Jesus Obiwan, I dunno.

(Typical Ara, so maddeningly consistent, and right.)

I know it sure ain't John McCain. No way.

(I can't wait to see my son tonight, and ask him why his candidate imploded so spectacularly.)

I know it ain't Gore unless he decides to actually, you know, run.

With the top three Dems, I think the subconscious race/gender thing is more in play than anyone will admit.

Edwards is trying to prove he's not the usual white Christian male that is the natural GOP demographic (see Chris Bowers' and Matt Stollers new blog, Open Left, specifically this post by Bowers on Toward A Pluralist Strategy) -- so he's running wonkishly left. Hillary and Obama are doing the opposite, running to the right to prove that they aren't simply the minority candidates and won't alienate those old white Christians that have been voting for the GOP since the '64 Civil Rights movement.

Since I'm going to follow the leader who is the most liberal yet practical enough to be viable, centrists like Obama and Hillary hold no appeal for me. The most liberal, Kucinich (and maybe Gravel) are simply not viable and in no way practical (two sides of the same coin -- you need to be practical to be viable and visa versa) and Richardson -- who's positions and experience I really, really like -- just never figured out how to effectively get his name out there -- thus marketing has something to do with viability.

But that's me. Hillary and Obama are playing the follow-me game by being vague enough to get people to support them as the ideal of what they think the candidate is and what they stand for. Edwards ain't playing that game -- and is freer to do so since he's not in the Senate and not beholden to any specific group and doesn't take PAC money. It's a happy coincidence that Edwards is promoting an agenda, a very specific agenda, that I happen to agree with.

On health care, he wants universal coverage that is more inclusive and implemented sooner than the other two. On the war, he's led in calling for defunding of the surge and recall of our troops. The other two only recently discovered that you don't have to vote for continual funding of the war and it's in Congress's power to end the war.

The list goes on
. He led on boycotting the debates on FOX. He decided to run a carbon-neutral campaign before the other two. He called for Gonzales and Rove to resign. He's not nuanced in any way -- but very specific. He, much like RFK, was up to his neck in the beltway consultant DLC centric triangulation game, and rejected it. That's one of the reasons he was able to call the "War on Terror" exactly what it is -- a bumper-sticker. Hillary about lost it when he said that, but instead of rejecting the right-wing frame, she embraced it -- to pander to who? The GOP base?

Follow Hillary? Where? Into the arms of Joe Lieberaman? Follow Obama? Where? Seriously, where? I have no idea where he's going and neither do you -- and neither (it seems) does he. I know where I don't want to go, and only Ron Paul is leading the GOP away from the abyss of more of the same stupidity. Hillary is flirting with those folks and I won't go there. Obama seems to agree with Hillary more than he'd like to admit, and doesn't seem to be going in the same direction as Edwards (at least he's not in any hurry to go there). I fear that if I "follow him," I'll end up going in circles.

I see John Kerry pounding the podium in the Senate to end the war, freed of the straight-jacket of a presidential campaign, but not Hillary or Obama. Compared to Edwards, who's been accused of not being confrontational enough, Clinton and Obama have been downright meek. John Edwards has been even more vocal about transforming our politics to more closely resemble reality on so many issues in so many ways. I scramble to keep up with him. The problem (if you consider it a problem) with Edwards' leadership is you have to really hustle to respond to his call to "follow me."

I do know where he's leading in no uncertain terms. He's lighting the way with a lasar beam.