Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Good bye & Good Luck

On my way to the office this morning, I got the news that John Edwards was exiting the campaign. As the Huffington Post reported, John Edwards To Drop Out Of Race:

Democrat John Edwards bowed out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday, saying it was time to step aside 'so that history can blaze its path' in a campaign now left to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

'With our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November,' said Edwards, ending his second campaign in the same hurricane-ravaged city where he began it more than a year ago.

Edwards said Clinton and Obama had both pledged that 'they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency.'

'This is the cause of my life and I now have their commitment to engage in this cause,' he said before a small group of supporters. He was joined by his wife Elizabeth and his three children, Cate, Emma Claire and Jack.
I have to admit that I was sad to hear the news. Not that it mattered, since I'm in a "don't count" state (Pennsylvania), but I was an Edwards fan. I think he was the most liberal of all of the candidates -- and I don't buy the "he can't relate to poor people because he's rich." Since when did we lose our capacity to empathize with others just because they are different? That's a Republican trait, not a universal tendency (can you say Roosevelt? Kennedy?). I also believe that the media was a major factor contributing to the fact that his message didn't get out. He was basically ignored and minimized throughout the campaign. We talk about issues of voter fraud, but the manipulation of the electoral process by the media likewise impacts the outcome of the election -- without a ballot ever being cast. See also, Ted Rall's take on the media, Who's Afraid of John Edwards?.

Of course, I do feel that both Clinton and Obama are more than qualified to be President and I could be happy supporting either one, so all is not lost. I attended an event several year's ago during which Hillary Clinton was the featured speaker and I must say that I was impressed by her poise and intelligence. Hillary gets pilloried more than she deserves. Also, Obama's inspirational message may be what the country needs at this low point, coming after the long reign of the Bush Administration. Yet, I still think that we may have missed out with losing Edwards.

As did Edwards, I'd like to end on a positive note, looking at the benefit we got from Edwards being in the race. As Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic notes, Why John Edwards Won:
As anybody who attended his town meetings could attest, he may have been the most effective campaigner of all—capable of establishing an instant connection with audiences, then sweeping them up with a moving, coherent story about what was wrong with America and how he proposed to fix it. Edwards was also, I would argue, a more versatile campaigner than his rivals. He was terrific working the grassroots, much like Obama, but also excelled in the debates, just as Clinton has. As his advisers were constantly reminding reporters—most memorably, through this priceless video—focus groups frequently named Edwards the overwhelming 'winner' in those televised exchanges. Alas, a media preoccupied with the Clinton-Obama rivalry rarely seemed to notice.

Still, if Edwards wants to blame somebody for his defeat, he shouldn't look at the media. He should look at himself. And I mean that in the best sense possible. Edwards' biggest problem may have been that he was too compelling—so compelling that his rivals effectively adopted his agenda. From the beginning, Edwards was positioning himself as the champion of Americans struggling to get ahead financially. And rather than simply offer populist rhetoric, he backed it with a serious, comprehensive set of policies.

* * * *

When Edwards announces the end of his campaign today, he will do so where he began it: in New Orleans, which two years after Hurricane Katrina remains shamefully neglected. It's an altogether fitting setting, because it's a reminder that his campaign was always about the people whose interests and values he championed.

John Edwards ends his presidential candidacy today. His campaign, happily, goes on.

(Transcript available at Crooks and Liars)

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