Rooseveltian Rhetoric

by Henry on July 10, 2004

I’ve spent the last couple of days at the annual meeting of “SASE”:, the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. Cass Sunstein gave one of the keynote speeches – a summary of his “much”: “blogged”: book on Roosevelt’s ‘Second Bill of Rights.’ There was one interesting aside in his talk. While talking about Roosevelt’s talent for speaking plainly and directly to the interests of ordinary Americans, Sunstein claimed that Roosevelt’s modern rhetorical heir was John Edwards. I’m not entirely convinced – I’ve an inherent suspicion of anyone whom the _Economist_ keeps on talking up. Still, even if Edwards proves to be a disappointment in office (insofar as Vice-Presidents are ever successes), he’s already made an important contribution to US public discourse. By finding a language to express the class divisions in US society – and avoiding, somehow, the usual, tired accusations of ‘class warfare’ – he’s done us all a real service.



djw 07.10.04 at 11:12 pm

Interesting. I’d never think of claiming that, but I suppose I can see it. In addition to the political brilliance of “Two Americas,” Edwards actually talked about poverty–not just the struggles of the middle class. This has been tragically absent from our political discourse since welfare reform. I’ve got high hopes for Edwards as well.


Simon Kinahan 07.10.04 at 11:46 pm

The Economist appears to be deeply suspicious of Edwards. They think he is too protectionist. The only “talking up” in this week’s paper concerned Kerry’s (sensible, in my view and theirs) tactics in choosing Edwards, given the alternatives.


mandarin 07.11.04 at 12:29 am

Unsurprising that Edwards’s catch phrase should appeal to you, Henry:

[I don’t know how to make this an actual link; perhaps someone can – grudgingly? – help.]


Conrad Barwa 07.11.04 at 1:01 am

I’ve an inherent suspicion of anyone whom the Economist keeps on talking up

Sensible, being talked up by this source is rarely a good sign in most cases.


derrida derider 07.11.04 at 1:12 am

Yeah, he’s ideologically unsound on trade but Edwards would have been a much more formidable oponent to Bush than Kerry is; the Dems chose the wrong person.

Formatting in comments, including links, uses HTML codes – they’re simple, but I can’t display them here because putting the code characters in gets interpreted as HTML by the blogging software. But this cheat sheet is pretty good at explaining.


Henry 07.11.04 at 2:47 am

Yeah – the Economist is sounding a little less bullish now – but last year during the run-up to the primaries it was boosting him nearly every week in articles. Of course, it could just be that one of their US staffers liked him – or even that they decided on balance that he was the best candidate. Who knows.


Matt Weiner 07.11.04 at 3:57 am

“The two Americas” is surely descended from Sybil, or the Two Nations, by (future, I think) Tory Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Sadly, the phrase “class warfare” still is used–G.W. Bush in a speech in York Pennsylvania said: ” Angry talk, and class warfare rhetoric, and economic isolationism won’t get anybody hired.” His attack on angry talk is on a par with his statement that “the American President must speak clearly and mean what he says.”


h. e. baber 07.11.04 at 4:30 am

It’s surely descended from the title of Michael Harrington’s book, The Other America from the 60’s.


h. e. baber 07.11.04 at 5:12 am

Edwards actually talked about poverty—not just the struggles of the middle class. This has been tragically absent from our political discourse

The trouble is that “poverty” doesn’t fly in American political discourse because it’s construed as the state of the “undeserving poor”–code for racial minorities. Virtually all white Americans who aren’t actually sleeping on grates believe that they’re Haves rather than Have Nots and imagine that class warfare will pit welfare queens, drug dealers and their latte-guzzling liberal allies against them and Republican plutocrats.

If Edwards can convince Americans whose household income less than, say, $50,000 a year that they’re Have Nots rather than Haves Democrats have a winning ticket.


Matt Weiner 07.11.04 at 5:19 am

H.E., that’s surely as good an account as mine. Herewith, a story that should make everyone happy.
Disraeli wrote “Sybil, or the Two Nations.” Cannon was struck by this phrase and converted it to “Two Americas.” Harrington picked up “The Other America” from Cannon’s speech. Then Andrew Hacker turned “The Other America” back into “two Americas” and thence “Two nations” to describe black and white America. Edwards wanted to make the point that Republican policies hurt poor white people as much as they hurt black people, so he turned it back into two Americas. voila.
OK, that’s as much as I’m willing to do in my armchair. (ps Mandarin, how did you come up with that citation? You must know your Socialist Workers’ Party texts very well.)


q 07.11.04 at 5:58 am

“class warfare”, “terror warfare” – warfare is a good blockhead-word. It all depends if you define problems as cancers to be cut out, or bruises to be healed.

Instead why not try a systematic approach based on sound engineering principles, educating the basic productive units and decentralising decision making to the people who have to overcome problems everyday.

“We don’t even know what skills may be needed in the years ahead. That is why we must train our young people in the fundamental fields of knowledge, and equip them to understand and cope with change. That is why we must give them the critical qualities of mind and durable qualities of character that will serve them in circumstances we cannot now even predict.”
John Gardner, in “Excellence”


Karlo 07.11.04 at 8:14 am

I agree that Edwards is to be praised for bringing up the class divide. The “two Americas” is, after all, not some abstract concept, but rather a very concrete and visible reality that can be observed by driving a couple miles across class lines in a big city or by looking at generally accepted economic statistics. It’s odd to see the majority of Americans so afraid to acknowledge the great gap in wealth (and by extension, political power) in this country.


Giles 07.11.04 at 3:22 pm

The Economist only talked him up in comparison to the rest of the choice.

Still the problem with Edwards is that if he he so able to connect with ordinary americans, why was he so unable to connect with democrats in the primaries?


Matt Weiner 07.11.04 at 5:15 pm

He did come in second, Giles. Same position GW Bush finished in the 2000 generals.


peter ramus 07.11.04 at 5:59 pm


I do enjoy a podiumpounding oration. Thanks for that.

As to your request:

Like so many things, HTML takes longer to explain than to do. For your purposes the anchor tag needs to have the entire web address spelled out in it, something which isn’t clearly stated in the otherwise helpful page pointed to by derrida derider above.

Not simply, as given by the folks at,

<a href=”some.htm”>this</a>

but rather

<a href=””>this</a>

See? The whole darn address.

Three step review:

1.Wrap the desired address in brackets, with a href= preceeding it. Don’t forget the quote marks around the address. They’re not optional.

2.Next, type the word or phrase (in your case it would be, say, Cannon’s Two Americas).

3.Then, close the tag by wrapping ⁄a in brackets.

Done: Cannon’s Two Americas.

Practice this. Commenting software often breaks down under the burden of excessively long web addresses because there are no line breaks in addresses and some files are nested way, way down in the server’s hierarchical structure.

If this seems too much of a bother, there’s also this extremely helpful site.

To each according to his needs . . .


raj 07.12.04 at 10:49 am

“Socio-Economics”? Is that anything like “Socio-biology”? Ummm.

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