Heterodox Views on Politics and Public Policy from Michael Blaine

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Help The Poor? Edwards Can't Be Bothered

Heading Back to the Better of the Two Americas

Erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards promoted an appealing rhetoric: The working poor in America should get a larger piece of the very large national economic pie. In the interests of equity and social harmony, this was the right stance to take, especially after years of government sponsorship of class warfare against society's most vulnerable members. Edwards, it appeared, had made a personal and moral commitment to creating a fairer America.

But as soon as it became clear he would not obtain his party's nomination, John Edwards quit. It reminded me of something I had almost forgotten: On election night 2004 I went to bed having heard vice-presidential candidate Edwards promise to explore every legal channel in Ohio in a bid to move that state's electoral votes into the Democratic column and potentially propel the putative opposition party into the White House. By the very next morning, though, the great American appeaser had capitulated and that was the end of the matter. His running mate John Kerry went back to his cushy job as a senator, and our nation got four more years of George W. Bush.

This time around, knowing full well he would end his presidential bid the next day, John Edwards found himself in a union hall in St. Paul, Minnesota, urging the gathering (along with potential donors) to stay in the election fight with him. I guess announcing the campaign's end at that time was inconvenient from the standpoint of publicity generation, but there should have been great compunction about leading supporters on for such self-serving reasons. Edwards took advantage of the union members, hiding his real intentions until one last opportunity to grandstand before the national press during prime cable news hours.

If Edwards really cared about poor Americans as he claims, he would stay in the race until the Democratic convention in August and broker a deal there on their behalf. But clearly this cause of the poor is not worth another few months of work for the former senator. When the going got tough, he folded. Meanwhile, 37 million poor Americans will remain that way, without an explicit champion on the national stage.

The disingenuous Edwards had this to say as he threw in the barely-perspired-upon towel: "But I want to say . . . . this son of a millworker's gonna be just fine." With that reassurance, America's working poor must have breathed a tremendous sigh of relief. The system actually works, at least for half-hearted politicians with millions of dollars to fall back on.

1 comment:

Richard Cretan said...

That Edwards couldn't sell populism to a party ostensibly of the little guy -- just as the little guy's fortunes go from poor to awful -- is a pretty telling sign.

The public doesn't get what's happening in the economy and the party is downplaying fears.

I agree with you--disappointing he lacked the nerve to go to the convention and broker a more populist platform. As the economy worsens, time favors his position.