Edwards is a rich former trial lawyer with a 28,000 square foot home and an unfortunate You Tube grooming incident who has dedicated the balance of his life to the eradication of poverty in America; a devoted husband and family man who is campaigning even while his wife, Elizabeth, is facing a truly grave illness; a man whose two-America theme and call for universal health coverage was eclipsed by the more positive one-America anthem of a man who would settle for nearly universal health coverage; a man who trails in the polls and is dismissed by a media and electorate used to horserace-thinking and unwilling to weigh the issues and positions of the candidates when the alternatives are polls and mud.
He is the first of the three remaining Democratic candidates to have proposed a universal health coverage plan, one that has been the model for each of the later proposals from Hillary and Barack. Now that Dennis "UFO" Kucinich has returned to his home planet, Edwards is the Democrat most clearly committed to a prompt and complete withdrawal from Iraq. He is the candidate who - unlike Hillary - has foregone corporate funding and therefore will be able to take on corporate power and corporate interests in order to advance the interests and needs of the American people. He is the candidate who - unlike Obama - understands that the dead hand of the American Hezbollah (party of God) must be pried forcefully from the levers of power if we are to significantly raise the minimum wage and provide health care to all Americans.
Just a few years ago, Edwards was a centrist in the Democratic party - a guy not unlike Bill Clinton in 1990 - and was not known as a champion of the poor working-class Americans that he claims to be today. Some of his votes as Senator go against the principles and values he espouses today. He explains this as a maturation in leadership - saying that he had compromised much in the political arena in order to have a chance to be elected. When he lost in 2004, he resolved to be more authentic, to give full voice to his values, and to work passionately for the causes he believes in.
Some people don't believe him.
They say his haircut was too expensive and his house is too big and he has too much money to be a tribune for poor folks. They don't much like lawyers and litigation, even if he was suing large companies to protect the interests of individuals who could not fight on equal terms without the help of a lawyer. You can't help sensing that some of these folks resent his money as much as they clearly envy his youthful good looks - they take so much pleasure in calling him "pretty" and some go so far as to question his manhood (Ann Coulter has nothing on some of these Democrats). Some offer only one criticism of Edwards - the poll-driven assessment that "he can't win, he's toast" Taken as a whole, the case against Edwards offered by these people is an indictment of the maturity of the American voter. How pathetic, how superficial.
The many people who claim he is a phony, that his concern for the poor is inauthentic, that his whole campaign is a sham, never deal with the obvious counter-argument to all that negativity. The man loves his wife and his family. His wife is dying of cancer and together they have decided that he should continue this campaign - that this work is the most important work of their lives. Somehow, people ignore this compelling evidence of personal commitment. Once again I am reminded that shallow minds abound in America.
For myself, three things are clear:
- We need a President who understands the tragic, immoral and ruinously expensive war in Iraq must come to an immediate end, and that we the American people want to reverse the course set by the idiot from Crawford. And we must have a President who will attend to the needs of our veterans and end the disgraceful Republican era of neglect.
- We must enact programs to provide all Americans with decent health care coverage and a minimum wage. The Bush tax cuts which mainly benefited the most wealthy must be reversed to pay for economic equity and security for those Americans who work and struggle to get by.
- We need a President who recognizes from Day One that the GOP who ran roughshod over the Democrats while they had power are not going to cooperate in some blissful bi-partisan agenda. Their idea of bi-partisan was established clearly over the past eight years. We need someone who can fight them and beat them. Someone who can make the case to the people and overcome resistance by getting the people behind him. Nobody makes the case for what he believes in as clearly and compellingly as Edwards. Obama has lofty rhetoric, to be sure, but Edwards is more skillful at persuading the common folks of the American jury.
I like Obama well enough, and he will be the perfect guy to come in after the knife fight is over and we have what we want - that is when you want a conciliator to take charge. Why would you want to call a truce while the other guy is holding all the prizes? Let's fix what's broken, roll back the Bush crimes, and then when the patient is stabilized, Dr Obama will be perfect. For now, though, we need a fighter, not a conciliator.
I like Hillary well enough. Next to Edwards, she is the best choice for the next four years. But she will lose the fight - at least some parts of it. She is smart, well-prepared, seasoned, and committed. But a lot of Americans find her off-putting. The Republicans will use that to undermine her and she will end up as her husband did, compromising and triangulating, and falling short of all our expectations and hopes.
Good luck today, John Edwards!