Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Agent of Change?

By Shawn Healy

I just returned from the final sales pitch I will witness prior to attending tonight's caucuses. John Edwards visited his Cedar Rapids field office to thank supporters, encourage them to caucus and rope in undecideds, and speak before the local media once more. Edwards was joined by his wife Elizabeth (pictured above), and she did most of the speaking as the candidate was visibly worn down after enduring 36 consecutive hours of campaigning.
Despite being massively outspent by his two chief rivals, no one has worked the State of Iowa harder. Edwards has made Iowa a second home since finishing second to John Kerry here in 2004, visiting each of the state's 99 counties in the last year along (see above map). Edwards transformed his 2004 centrist rhetoric to that of an angry populist this time around. It was arguably a wise move, at least in a primary and caucus season dominated by the Democratic Party's liberal wing.
Edwards is running against the establishment and its candidate of choice, Hillary Clinton, and competing with Barack Obama for the title of "Agent of Change." Both Edwards and Obama proclaim candidacies that transcend their own ambitions and personnas. They are, in short, movements. They rail against corporate lobbyists and the old ways of Washington, and each argues that he alone is the only candidate in the race that can realize lasting change.
Clinton, as I suggested yesterday, has also attempted to embrace the change matra, portending to marry it with her experience pitch. Iowa voters will weigh in on the authenticity of all three pitches and those of the other 5 Democrats and 8 Republicans in the race in three hours.
Soon I will head to the local Democratic precinct closest to my hotel, and I'll attempt to scurry away thereafter to the Republican counterpart. Other than TV ads and talking heads, the campaign front has been fairly quiet today. If the Edwards office is indicative of the entire field, the campaigns are locked down making phone calls, canvassing homes, even arranging for babysitters so that supporters can caucus on their behalf this evening. The all know that time is now in short supply, and the candidates are about to finally take their corners for the prize fight that follows. Round one beckons!


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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