Bird that Sings

February 4, 2008

Why We Will Miss John Edwards

Filed under: Politics — admin @ 11:24 am

John Edwards was a flawed candidate and the media made sure to tell us all about his flaws from the very beginning. He was vain and liked expensive haircuts. He was an opportunistic rich guy, who, even though he talked about poverty and class, was building the biggest house in North Carolina.

He was supposedly a late convert to his class based populism and had voted as a Southern moderate in the Senate. He was ambitious and wanted to run for President from the time he first campaigned for the Senate in North Carolina.

I don’t know John Edwards but I can see there’s probably some truth in these charges. Personally though, the reason I will miss John Edwards in this race is simply because now I don’t have anyone to vote for.

What was different about Edwards was that he was running against the system, whereas Hillary IS the system and Obama would like to be.
Edwards took strong stands early that became progressively stronger as the campaign wore on.

Edwards made clear that the Insurance companies were the reason we didn’t have Universal Health Care and that they would have to be beaten to get it. He asserted that the system in Washington was rigged by corporate power to protect corporate interests.

Edwards made clear that the interests of Wall Street were not the interests of Main Street; that fairness to the tax code had to be restored; that every trade deal had to put workers and wages first. Edwards proposed Public Financing of political campaigns. He asserted that the corporate lobbyists would have to be driven from the halls of the Capitol if we were to have a chance at real change, but noted that real change also demanded “corporate power be put at the service of democracy and not the other way around.”

Edwards proposed capping greenhouse gases and “ratcheting down the cap every year” if we were to have a chance at stopping global warming. He was honest enough to say upfront that sacrifice was going to be required from all of us if we were stop ecological disaster, but also that the bottom line on Wall Street was going to have to be weighed against a standard of sound environmental practice and policy.

These were pretty radical positions, but the way Hillary and Obama ended up mimicking many of them you wouldn’t have known that one candidate was running against the system and the other two were running to be in charge of it.

However this was supposed to be a change election. It was important for Hillary and Obama that Edwards not outflank them on the Left by too much lest he be identified as the REAL candidate of change. So rather than a verb, change became, in this election, first a noun, and then a commodity.

It was so disgusting to watch—and so effective—that we should probably count on this kind of Hillary-Obama newspeak becoming a feature of future Democratic primary campaigns from now on.

In fairness to Hillary-Obama, it is also possible that Edwards did not mean to get so far ahead of himself, that he would have preferred to situate himself closer to the political center. It is possible that Edwards was actually forced to the hard populist positions he ended up embracing by the soft center-left focus of the other two campaigns.

It is possible, but nevertheless the fact remains that Edwards went there and the other campaigns were dragged far beyond their consultant driven comfort zone because of it.
In leaving the race, Edwards maintained that we are at a transformational moment—that there is no going back. I think this is true though we can be sure that whoever the eventual nominee is will try to go back. On the real side we know that Hillary is a creature of the corporate status quo and Obama, like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter before him, has a genuine emotional need for compromise and consensus politics.

But I think events will outrun them. As Humphrey Bogart once said to Paul Henreid, “Well Mr. Laszlo, it seems like Destiny has taken a hand.”

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