The following piece was published by HuffPost's OffTheBus.
John Edwards spoke last night in Hanover, New Hampshire, up against Obama at the same time and only six miles distant. Both spoke to packed houses. These crowds are multiples larger than turnouts at Republican candidate events at the same venues and times of day. Here in New Hampshire, Democrats are hungrier than Republicans for a win and are listening very intently for an alternative to Hillary.
In his last ditch effort to contrast himself from both Hillary and Obama, Edwards has recast himself as the newly awakened crusader populist against political and economic plutocracy.
Here is some sample Edwards phrasing: Corruption has infiltrated every part of our government. CEO's are getting golden parachutes; pensions are gutted. Washington awash is in corporate money. Lobbyists write the laws. How long will be allow these big companies to run this country? We cannot trade corporate Republicans for corporate Democrats. I love my party, but I love my country more. This is the great moral test of our generation; it begins with telling the truth. I have turned my head on this for far too long. My silence [on corruption and plutocracy] is a betrayal.
And against Hillary: Who is the presidential candidate (in either party) who has raised the most money from Washington lobbyists ... the defense industry .... the drug companies ... the insurance companies? My corruption message will resonate across the political spectrum. Democrats will not win if we are the party of the status quo.
Edwards is roughly right about the demographic seedbed for class on class rage. Yes, the income gap between rich and poor in America is widest since the Gilded Age. Americans are deep in credit card debt, rising fuel prices and shrinking home equity. But for Edwards, the applause came at the applause lines, but on a one to ten scale only two notches above dutiful.
Americans are pressed, but, at least among likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, they are far from subsisting on boiled turnips and chicken broth. For America's huge middle class, expectations are compressed, but not crushed. Americans see the wage-leveling effect or the global economy more as a force of nature, less as a plot to enrich multi-national bankers. Democrats do not see themselves as victims in breadlines.
I asked voters what they thought as they left the room. They listened, but with less than 60 days to the New Hampshire primary, a surprising number remain undecided. Not one was moved to anger by the reformulated Edwards. What almost worked for William Jennings Bryan and launched a massive wave of political reforms one hundred years ago did not work for Ralph Nader in 2000 and will not work for John Edwards in 2008.