Edwards update

Todd Morman of Monkey Media Watch is displeased with my criticism of him and others for breaking up the John Edwards fund-raiser. He seems to endorse someone else’s remark that he might have been “hyperventilating a little,” but is upset that I used his account to accuse “unnamed liberals” of “massive hypocrisy.”

First, to set the record straight. I didn’t accuse “unnamed liberals” of anything, or accuse anyone of hypocrisy. I tried to make a point –and Morman’s fury suggests that I succeeded — about how and and others on the left would have reacted if it had been Republicans who decided to disrupt a fundraiser for a Presidential candidate by shoving and making noise in ways that made people afraid. In that context, I pointed out — as I and others certainly would have pointed out in that hypothetical case — that shoving and making noise in ways that made people afraid were the very same tactics used by Republican goons to shut down the Florida vote count. I didn’t say that shutting down the fundraiser was as bad as shutting down the Florida vote count. It wasn’t, because the stakes were so much lower: a vote count is much more important than a fund-raiser. What I did say is that it worked on the same principle: that the right to protest includes the right to disrupt.

But as to whether the protest did in fact break up the meeting by means of intimidation, I’ll let you be the judge, based on Morman’s own description:

The event, held at the Raleigh headquarters of the N.C. Democratic Party, was effectively disrupted by a crowd of about 200-300 using little more than drums and chanting (ok, and some shoving).


For some reason, a large group of protesters was trying to stop police from closing the driveway’s main entrance gate. Much shoving and yelling ensued, none of it pretty.


While the police were able to keep the crowd off the Democrats’ property, the escalating noise and confusion clearly rattled the folks inside, who were staring out the windows in growing numbers. Donors began to leave, confronting angry chants as they walked out.


After twenty minutes of this, a wedge of police officers suddenly burst onto the scene at the back of the building. I didn’t realize at the time that North Carolina’s Democratic Presidential hopeful was in the middle of the flying V that zoomed past me, inches in front of my nose. I quickly learned it was indeed John Edwards who’d just been rushed past angry Democrats into the back entrance of his state party’s headquarters. Not exactly a positive sign of Edwards’ North Carolina support.

Now it’s entirely possible that Morman’s account, and the parallel account in Indymedia, were largely fictitious, and that nothing more happened than an ordinary protest where people gathered together and waved signs to let other people know they weren’t happy about something. (Though Morman doesn’t retract his earlier gloating assertion that Edwards had to enter the meeting under police guard.) If so, my post wrongly criticized the other people at the demo, and they’re entitled to an apology.

But if the events happened as Morman said they happened. I repeat that what was done ought to be viewed as intolerable. Fundraising is, alas, a necessary part of politics. If you can break up fundraisers, you can stop a campaign cold. If the left establishes the precedent that doing so is fair play, we will regret it, sooner rather than later.

[Earlier post here.]

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com