Inspiring Edwards exits early
As former Democratic senator John Edwards of North Carolina and Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH.) have left the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the field is cleared for a showdown between the two long-time frontrunners. Unfortunately, both men ended their second bids for the Democratic nod without ever receiving due consideration in the obscenely money-soaked primary race.
Edwards was by far the more telegenic and less idiosyncratic candidate. Like Kucinich, he never willingly shelved his single-minded, anti-corporate rhetoric. Edwards was devoid of much of the collateral baggage that made it so easy for the media to declare Kucinich unelectable, however. News outlets struggled to raise objections about his house or his exorbitant cosmetic budget, but he stayed relentlessly on message. In the Democratic debate on Jan. 21, Edwards struggled to make his voice heard over the personal exchanges between Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. “How many children is this going to get health care?” he asked. “How many people are going to get an education from this? How many kids are going to be able to go to college because of this?”
Not only did Edwards quixotically push to inject issues into the campaign through the white noise of identity politics, he was usually right. He had the courage to say what almost no one admits about the American polity: Most of our problems are caused at least in part by corporate power. Divorcing Washington from the dominating influence of banking interests, oil companies, arms manufacturers and so on, would not by any means be a panacea, but it would definitely stanch the flow of disastrous policy decisions like those emanating from the current White House. If such a political shift had been achieved eight years ago, it is safe to say that the United States would not be in Iraq right now, and that the dangerously unregulated banking industry would not be hemorrhaging in the wake of the sub-prime mortgage collapse. In short, the 2008 race would not be about fixing the mistakes of the Bush administration but about dealing with the issues Edwards cares about-ending poverty, providing education and fighting global warming.
The demise of the Edwards candidacy is primarily the result of the fact that, inevitably, he did not have the support of the Democratic Party establishment. He did not have a chance to repeat the mistakes made by the Kerry/Edwards ticket four years ago; given equal time with the other candidates, he might have failed again for the same reasons. But because the very interests he rails against have so much input in the selection process, his effort was almost inevitably a non-starter.
The two-horse race for the nomination has not been left unchanged by Edwards. Both remaining candidates have amply praised him; they understand that the former senator’s supporters could easily tip the scales in such a close contest. Both will attempt to triangulate into a position acceptable to Edwards supporters without adopting the most strident facets of his rhetoric. Poverty, health care and global warming remain at least on the periphery of the political discourse, and for that the nation has John Edwards to thank. The word “change” has devolved into a fetish, and even the staunchest status-quo Republicans have latched on to it like a catchphrase from Seinfeld. There is very little chance that any of the surviving candidates will do much to uproot the powers that be, but at least some of the issues championed by Edwards have survived the dissolution of his presidential endeavor.
By the time this issue of Collegian goes to print, the glut of primaries on Super Tuesday may have decided the Democratic nominee. It is some consolation that Edwards’s platform will live on in a diluted and more corporate-friendly form.
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