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
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
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."