Edwards bows out: sustaining hope in a dirty world
It was only a matter of time.
John Edwards Drops Out of Presidential Race
— Former Senator’s Campaign Adviser: ‘It Just Became Clear It Wasn’t Going to Happen’
Former Senator John Edwards, D-N.C., will drop out of the Democratic presidential race on Wednesday.
“It just became clear it wasn’t going to happen,” a senior Edwards adviser tells ABC News’ Rick Klein.
Edwards, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2004 before joining Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., as his vice presidential candidate, had placed poorly in several early contests, lagging behind rivals Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
The former senator will end his bid during a speech on poverty in New Orleans, where he began his White House campaign in December 2006. His family â€” including wife Elizabeth, who is battling a recurrence of cancer and has been absent from the campaign trail since New Hampshire â€” is expected to be present.
My hopes were never high, and as 2008’s squeakiest third wheel falls by the wayside I find that I’m more than a little ambivalent.
On the one hand, Edwards was the only “serious” contender willing to talk about our nation’s profoundly troubling class divide. Like me, he grew up working class in the South, which meant that you fought tooth and nail for every scrap of opportunity you got. He was born with little and nobody gave him anything, which made the cynical classist attacks on him from people born with everything a little hard to stomach. That mansion? At least he earned it. The million-dollar haircut? How much do you spend on grooming and wardrobe a month, Sen. Blueblood? Now that it’s done and I’m feeling no need for diplomacy, let me share two words with you: blow me.
Aside from voting for No Child Left
Untested Behind, he was pretty much right on education. Issues2000.org notes the following about his stances on ed in America:
- Should have universal pre-Kindergarten for all 4-year-olds. (Oct 2007)
- Make community colleges & public universities free. (Sep 2007)
- Think of education as a birth-to-death experience in America. (Sep 2007)
- Teach in public school that we embrace same-sex parents. (Aug 2007)
- Sent all four kids to public schools. (Jul 2007)
- Appoint judges with backbone to desegregate schools. (Jul 2007)
- College for Everyone: tuition paid, for 10 hrs/week work. (Jun 2007)
- Invest in rural community colleges as practical job training. (Apr 2007)
- College for Everyone pilot: $300,000 to 80 N.C. students. (Apr 2007)
- Create “Second Chance” schools to get dropouts back on track. (Apr 2007)
As you may know, I see education as our biggest national challenge, so a lot of this sat well with me. Just for fun, I encourage you to read through the entire Issues2000 record on Edwards. And realize that there’s nobody left fighting this fight.
On the other hand, I’m more than aware of the fact that Edwards was a candidate whose words didn’t always square with his record, and who was simply wrong on a number of issues that I think matter. He voted for the Iraq war, although he later said it was his biggest professional mistake. He voted for the Bankruptcy Reform Act, although he admitted he was wrong to do so last month. And his words on campaign finance were arguably purer than his actions, although it’s true that if you don’t play the game you can’t win it, I guess.
So one interpretation is that John Edwards is a man who says one thing and does another. The other possibility is that he’s a man who learns from his mistakes and is willing to do what he can to reform the system – while accepting that the battle has to be won from the inside. I’m not the starry-eyed type, especially when it comes to politics, but considering the alternatives, I think I’d take my chances on the latter.
What’s left: Barack Obama, a man with a powerful message of change that resonates powerfully with the booming young voter demographic. And Hillary Clinton, who represents the perpetuation of America’s new two-family dynastic system of neo-imperial leadership. Looking at Obama’s “ideas,” it’s still too early to say how far his change extends beyond “not George Bush,” and as much as I’d love our nation to be more unified, the sad fact is that we’re deeply in the clutches of forces that need squelching, not reconciling. Hillary? Well, she doesn’t look like a threat to the status quo at all, does she? I mean, of all the candidates running this cycle, what two could you place on the November ballot who’d represent less actual choice than Clinton and newly-crowned GOP frontrunner John McCain?
Unless something dramatic happens, we’re never going to get a shot in a general election to vote for a perfect candidate (or anything remotely like it). We’re stuck in Lesser Evilland. In this ugly context, I find that my ambivalence is giving way to sadness. Warts and all, John Edwards struck me as the best hope still standing.
All I can do now is pray that I’m wrong.