Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Edwards Shows his Upbringing

I reveled in the snatch of Southernism from the well-mannered Johnny Reid Edwards during the South Carolina debate Monday. While those two Yankee kids from Chicago, Hillary and Barack, ran on like people with no upbringing, he waited his turn and made strong points.

Those were strong in content and judging by the audience reaction, in emotional resonance. His call for civility and attention to discourse got cheers.

His comportment differed so radically from that of the other two candidates, it illustrates two key points:
  • The cultures are very different; Yankees in the main don't have manners.
  • His atavistic niceness reinforces his looming defeat; he's too nice to play on the national level.
Specifically, check just less than two minutes of the transcript with moderator Wolf Blitzer addressing him after Obama and Clinton ranted on way off topic for a long time slandering each other:
BLITZER: Hold on one second. Hold on.
Senator Edwards -- Senator Edwards has been remarkably patient during this exchange. And I want him -- I don't know if you want to get involved in this, Senator Edwards.
EDWARDS: What I want to say first is, are there three people in this debate, not two?
EDWARDS: And I also want to know -- I also want to know on behalf of voters here in South Carolina, this kind of squabbling, how many children is this going to get health care? How many people are going to get an education from this? How many kids are going to be able to go to college because of this?
EDWARDS: We have got to understand -- you know, and I respect both of my fellow candidates -- but we have got to understand this is not about us personally. It is about...
... what we are trying to do for this country and what we believe in.
Of course, he was right and in many ways superior to the other two. However, Southern manners make daily life more enjoyable but are not likely to cut it in a Presidential run.

So, what were his Southern differences? (Look at Johnny Reid above. Doesn't he just look nice? Well, he is.))

Southerners are taught, usually by Mama, to be respectful in discourse. Even if they disagree with what you're saying and even if they dislike you, they listen. The well-bred Southerner will not talk over you or interrupt you.

In contrast, the prep school and Ivy types learn to jump right in to make their points. Shouting down someone and repeating their arguments many times are a style. Silence someone to win.

In Myrtle Beach, the other two also got all the coverage by insulting each other. They took small details, like a single Senate vote, and made broad generalization. Then they mischaracterized the other's statements. That doesn't make you right. It makes you loud and repetitive...and just plain rude.

That's not the Southern way. That just isn't polite. It reflects badly on those who raised you.

All of that written, Hillary and Barack surely scored many more points with voters. Johnny would be much more pleasant to live around, but he won't be living in the White House.

Comic/pundit/pseudo-VP candidate/Doritos eater Stephen Colbert parried with such points in interviews with GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. As a South Carolina native, Colbert admits to understanding Southern habits and behaviors much better than Yankees do.

As far as I know, he hasn't told Johnny to stop being so nice if he wants to stay in the race.

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1 comment:

Lazy Independent said...

Deep in my heart, I still believe the strongest ticket for the Democrats is the one they SHOULD have run in the last election: two charming southern boys with great hair -- Al Gore and John Edwards. Notwithstanding their "historic" candidacies, I think Hillary and Barack would both be better off remaining in the Senate, where they can politely call each other names to their heart's content all day long. But that's clearly not the way the Democrats want to play it this year, so I'm just going to sit back and wait for all the smoke to clear, and vote for the survivor in November. And pray that unlike the last two elections, the Democrats don't self-destruct once again.