John Edwards Says Good-Bye to the Campaign Trail, For Now

by Molly Kenney

Former Senator John Edwards announced today from New Orleans that he is dropping out of the presidential race. With campaign donations on the rise and a new wave of pre-Super Tuesday publicity, the most populist candidate in decades seemed as if he was in it until the Democratic convention (despite the obstacles cited in "John Edwards, We Hardly Knew Ye"). In fact, after the South Carolina primary, Edwards said he was in it until the end, and now he is not.

In his departing speech, Edwards assured supporters that his passion — fighting poverty and ending what he called the "Two Americas" — would be carried on by Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Speaking of the workers who share his goal of economic justice, he said, “It's hard to speak out for change when you feel like your voice is not being heard.” Projecting, John? The media, and consequently most of America, may not have noticed him, but hopefully one media darling has.

It’s hard to believe that a man who persevered through his child’s death and his wife’s battle with cancer would give up on anything, but it’s easier to believe for a man in the middle of his second unsuccessful campaign. He and his team are smart enough to know, and have known for awhile, that he wasn’t going all the way and that he could dangerously divide the Democratic vote. So what stopped him now? The Kennedy family endorsement of Sen. Obama (D-IL) couldn’t have been the straw (despite the comparable physical enormity of Sen. Ted and a camel), and his campaign hasn’t disintegrated like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s has. I smell a deal, or at least, I hope for one.

In his announcement today, Edwards did not endorse Obama or Clinton, but he has been associating with Obama for quite some time. As early as the Iowa caucuses, Edwards and Obama were both pushing "change" and collaboratively fighting "the status quo:" Sen. Clinton. In debates and on the campaign trail, they have been relatively soft on each other but tough on Sen. Clinton (D-NY). Obama and Edwards can work together, and it looks like already they are working in unison. By leaving the race, Edwards could be taking one for the team and withholding his endorsement as game strategy.

But Obama has other options, if he wants a running mate, someone like Sen. James Webb (D-VA), who looks a lot like the white Southern man that the Democratic party wants. Webb is a Vietnam veteran, and garners media attention. Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) would help with the Latino vote and Obama's foreign policy weaknesses, but the media cared less about Richardson than they did Edwards. However, considering Edwards’ populist fire and legacy of two failed campaigns, Webb and Richardson might be safer options. But since when has making change meant playing it safe. If Obama’s call for change is as sincere and passionate as Edwards’ call for ending poverty and the class structure, then Obama should go after it with Edwards as his running mate.

With Edwards out of the race, here’s to compromised dreams. Here’s to Obama-Edwards 2008.

For more background on the election campaign, please see these archival posts:

(Photo of former Sen. John Edwards campaigning in New Hampshire in 2006 from Roger H. Goun of Brentwood, NH via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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Josh Hattem said...

Another victim of for-profit media pandering to America’s short attention span.

Edwards came from nothing and built a personal fortune—his message: everyone should be given the opportunity to do what I have done. This populist ideology contrasted with his wealth was castigated by pundits as hypocrisy. That a wealthy white man lending a hand to the underprivileged contradicts our expectations of human behavior does not intrinsically make that action hypocritical.

In fact it highlights one of the saddest realities of American politics. A lack of resources and social connection bars those most in need of help from obtaining that help through political participation, a line central to Edwards’ stump speech. Encapsulated in Edward’s tear-down-Washington rhetoric was the knowledge that, as it stands today, our political system will never allow an impoverished individual to be the standard-bearer for their brethren. It will take a wealthy citizen in a position of authority to grant those marginalized in our society the right to their own voice and correct this injustice.

Today, the race for the highest seat of authority lost that citizen of which it was so desperately in need. The citizen who is, as the son of Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his supporting letter to John Edwards, “driven by the certain knowledge that when people of good faith and strong principles commit to making things better, we can change hearts, we can change minds, and we can change lives.”

A Red Mind in a Blue State said...

What does the end of poverty look like?

John Edwards concluded his Presidential campaign yesterday, but not before securing pledges from Obama and Clinton that they would make the ending of poverty central to their presidential campaigns.

Regardless the road we choose to take, be it a conservative path or a liberal one-- at what point will we consider people out of poverty? Can somebody tell me. Not platitudes like "when every person is living in dignity and without fear" or some other claptrap. I can't measure that, and unless we figure out how to achieve some communistic land of perfection, where everyone is robotically equal, we will always have different strata in society. The poor will always be with us.

So, please somebody tell me-- What does the end of poverty look like?

mkenney said...

I don't think you can end inequality in a capitalist society, and I don't think John Edwards believes that either. But just because you can't completely solve a problem, you don't have to give up. There will always be racism in America because you can't change every person's mind, but that didn't make the Civil Rights Movement a waste of time.

Efforts to make to reduce inequality aren't communist. They're responsible, and can and should be bipartisan.

Jeff Siegel said...

The day Obama or Clinton talk about ending poverty is the day I listen to Rush Limbaugh.

Rick Rockwell said...

It is unclear if the conservative commentator who tried to diminish Edwards’ laudable campaign believes in the Reagan methods. Those would be trickle-down economics or as Daddy Bush once said: “Voodoo economics.” Perhaps more accurately: trickled-on economics.

However, Molly’s point is well taken: in a capitalistic system there will always be various strata but that doesn’t mean you can’t work to eliminate poverty.

How about a world where the rich kick in more of the share they owe society?

How about a country (if not a world) where children don’t go to bed hungry? Where people have sufficient clothing? Where people have adequate housing? Where people can receive basic medical care? Where people can get an equitable education? How about that for a start in eliminating poverty?

Also, let’s please note that conservatives miss the subtleties of politics. To them Hillary Clinton is a leftist, a communist, even. This is laughable. To promote a social safety net (which may not even be real socialism) is a far cry from communism. When the conservatives decide to stop using propagandistic scare tactics and wrong-headed labels for everything they disagree with, perhaps then we can have a real policy discussion to deal with the serious issues we all face.

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