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May 12, 2007

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Mark

Rob,

While I agree with you that Edwards' rejection of the "War on Terror" frame won't take root in the minds of Americans between now and November of 2008, I also don't think that's the real benefit of his stand. He's running to the left in a Democratic primary and playing to voters who've been waiting for someone to say that for the last five years--that's why he's doing it. The fact that he can help reframe the issue - and I agree with you that that's in the long term - is a bonus. He gets to be right on the politics and on the merits.

Although I think there's something to your framing of 2008 as a "wartime" election, I think the real models to look to are elections following unpopular incumbents. In those cases (1952 fits that model too), the party in power has trouble defining their brand without attaching themselves to the incumbent. (See also Humphrey, Hubert.)

The Democrats still need to do a better job differentiating themselves on Iraq. But the Republicans have to differentiate themselves from Bush and none of their candidates are doing that.

Rob

I agree with both of your points. The tactics of incumbency-identification are in effect (Republicans painting themselves as distinct from Bush on Iraq, loyal to him on other issues/Democrats painting them as propagations of the existing administration). In this sense, the historical precedent of 1952 and 1968 bodes well for Democrats. However, given our country’s record, I wonder if one can successfully campaign for ending a war without coupling it with a grand vision for American imperialism.

The one point on which you and I seem to disagree is that I don’t believe current events will be rhetorically reframed, even in the long term. There must be an end date to the War on Terror, but my prediction is that it will be determined by some sort of military or diplomatic victory, rather than by abandoning the rhetorical device.

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