Sunday, February 3, 2008

John Edwards' Hidden Problem

Approximately a month ago, I changed my political party. Being an independent upon registering as a voter, I registered as a Democrat in 2003 because I wanted to vote for the presidential candidate whose campaign I was directing in Suffolk County, Dennis Kucinich. That came and went, and I never changed back. I'd always been intending to, but never found it that important. But after seeing this campaign, and these two people of privilege who've come out ahead of the pack, while pushing more deserving candidates to the side, combined with their Republican-lite stance on most issues, I'd finally had enough and changed back to being an independent.

But, I do have to say, if John Edwards had managed to stay in this race, I think I would have regretted my decision. It will soon be Super Tuesday here, and only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary in New York. So, I would have regretted not being able to vote for Edwards. But he dropped out last week, so now I don't have to worry about it.

While I campaigned for Kucinich in 2004, and find him a good man, he'd become a vanity candidate in my opinion, and so I didn't really have any concerns about not supporting him or voting for him. He'd get his one percent or whatever, and I'd be disappointed if I'd wasted my vote or my time. He has also since dropped out. But Edwards was such a breath of fresh air. He talked about class and poverty, and a lot of other issues that affected most Americans, and he meant it. He didn't seem to just be giving lip service to us. And he took a big risk by running a campaign centered on poverty. That's a large part of why I found him sincere. And, most importantly, he was "electable." I hate that media buzzword, but it was true. He was telegenic, well-spoken, and good-looking.

But it goes back to that issue of his running a campaign based on class. That's a dangerous position to take, and always fatal. People talk about this being a historic, monumental election. A black man and a woman are the Democratic Party's two top, and remaining, candidates for President. But take a closer look. One went to Harvard, the other went to Yale. Hillary is of course, wife of former President Clinton, who had a Republican presidency. And as for Obama, he's been more centered towards campaigning for president than serving his constituents as Senator of Illinois , which he's held for what, 2 years? All I hear from both candidates is fluff about "hope", "change", "experience", etc. No substance or specifics about what either will do if he or she were president. And if Hillary wins, and faces McCain in the general, the most important issue for a lot of Americans, Iraq, is off the table.

The only top-tier candidate who has spoken on substantive issues, and more importantly, backed them up, was Edwards. He should be right there with the other two, to this very day. And he is not, due to a large effort to marginalize him, mainly by the media but also by other Democrats. That I have no doubt.

This is a fantastic piece
by Sam Smith of Undernews on what happened to Edwards, and the sabotage of him and other like-minded candidates by the Democratic majority. I will add one more thing before I finish. A few years ago, there was a book written called "What's the Matter with Kansas?" It was about how voters in Kansas, many of whom were poor and lower-class, consistently voted against their interests by electing Republicans, who were said to often work against the interests of the very Kansans who voted for them. I think this can be said for the Democrats as well in this election.

Awhile back, when I was working as an activist and starting an organization, a good friend of mine who was very progressive said that she'd certainly vote for Hillary if she ran, which was a certainty even then. Despite the fact that Hillary pretty much worked against my friend's interests in every way possible (she voted for invading Iraq, the bankruptcy bill, free trade, Patriot Act, etc.), she was still planning to vote for her on the basis that she was a woman. I know there are a lot of women who'll vote for Hillary for that alone, and a lot of people of color who'll vote for Obama on that same factor, and I think it's a shame. Gender and race aside, you know the only reason those two are in the final lap right now is because they're sticking to the vague generalities while not talking about wealth and outsourcing and consumer debt.

A political reporter from Rolling Stone was on Bill Maher's show this week, and he was covering the LA debate between Obama and Clinton. He was looking down on Obama and Hillary supporters yelling chants at each other, and holding up signs boasting of "hope" and "change." He then said, "some of these people will be here four years from now, again yelling for change because whoever wins is going to disappoint them." If only we had more cynicism from the electoral press corps.


Rich said...

I share your disappointment with Edwards leaving the race. I wanted him to be the Democratic nominee. But even more important than that is making sure a Democrat -- now either Obama or Clinton -- get into office. As much as I dislike Clinton's ties to the corporate and D.C. establishment and Obama's superficiality around policies he'd push as president, either will be a profoundly superior choice to whomever the GOP puts up. In fact, for any kind of progressive agenda to be moved forward in the next term, the Democrats must take the White House and expand their control of Congress. Obama or Clinton are not ideal -- does such a person exist? -- but all progressives (independent or not) need to get behind the Demo's nominee next fall. If for no one else, do it for me. I don't want to have to move to Canada to escape President McCain.

Jeff said...


Thanks for posting. But I do think getting behind the Democratic candidate depends a lot on where you are. I live in New York, so there's no question that whoever runs on the Democratic ticket in November will take the state. So thankfully, I don't have to force myself to hold my nose and get behind a candidate who I really don't believe in.

Also, I don't necessairly think an election of Hillary or Obama will ensure any kind of progressive agenda. We gave Democrats Congress in '06, as an effective mandate showing that we wanted them to stand up to Bush, and they've let us down every step of the way. They say things like "no blank check" on Iraq, and then give him exactly what he wants, and often more than that.

So, if you live in a swing state, I say sure, it's worthwhile supporting one of the two. They are certainly better than McCain. But my heart just isn't into it, and I can sit out without risking anything. I'm not even up to voting for Nader or any other protest vote.