Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

02 February 2008

An Open Appeal to Edwards Voters


Three big things happened this week. John Edwards bowed out. Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama. And the last Democratic debate before Super Tuesday featured only two candidates, Barack and Hillary.

The most important event was your favorite’s departure. You disappointed Edwards supporters will pick the winner. Your second choice will be our Democratic nominee and our next president.

What made John Edwards your first choice? He’s an honest man who wants open government. He burns with passion to fight poverty and restore the middle class. He knows that rampant political corruption is the source of the poverty and inequality that we see all around us, and he wants to contain it. He wants to get out of Iraq as quickly as safely possible, with no ifs, ands or buts. And his righteous anger expressed your mood after eight years of George W. Bush’s and Karl Rove’s divisiveness, greed, mean-spiritedness and plain stupidity.

If those are your reasons for supporting Edwards, who is his natural heir?

Who is the more honest and open of the two remaining candidates? Who will level with you, even with bad news?

Hillary says her vote for war in Iraq was a vote of sincere conviction. Do you believe that? If her vote was based on knowledge and conviction, why didn’t she bother to read the National Intelligence Estimate, parts of which contradicted the conventional wisdom that Saddam had WMD? Could it be that she had already made up her mind for political reasons? And why didn’t she support the Levin Amendment, which would have forced President Bush to give the arms inspectors and diplomacy more time? Is she the straight-talking leader who can be Edwards’ heir?

What about openness? Hillary held the key meetings that created her failed 1993 health-care proposal in secret. She doesn’t even want to talk in public about Al Qaeda in Pakistan. That, she thinks, is a matter for experts and the elite. Barack Obama wants to put his discussions with the drug and insurance industries on C-SPAN, so everyone can see them. He was the first candidate to question our coddling of Musharraf and our policy in Pakistan, and he did so openly. Who will have more open and transparent government?

Both Hillary and Barack are “cooler” candidates than Edwards. They show little or no public anger. Their outrage and indignation are internal.

But who feels that indignation more? Is it Hillary, who was born and raised in a well-to-do upper middle class family and (except for Bill’s philandering) has never personally faced the slightest trace of hardship? Or is it Barack, who was born into a struggling middle-class family, spent most of his youth without his father, and organized displaced workers and their families in Chicago for over three years? Who better understands your pain?

John Edwards knows what set the middle class back. The lobbyists and moneybags have taken over Congress. That’s why we don’t have universal health care or a rational energy policy. The drug, insurance, oil and coal companies have a stranglehold on our political system, and they like that system just fine. That’s why Edwards wouldn’t take a dime of lobbyist or Political Action Committee money.

Barack Obama is not quite as pure as Edwards was. But he doesn’t take lobbyist money and he knows how corrupt our system is. His campaign gets its money from small individual contributions, over 650,000 of them by now. Hillary Clinton’s campaign depends on money from lobbyists and corporate contribution “bundlers.” She says lobbyists represent “real Americans.” Is that your view?

As for Iraq, whom do you want as president? The man who opposed the war from the beginning? Or the woman who voted for it without reading the crucial report and didn’t even begin to oppose it until Iraq’s streets exploded in overwhelming violence?

Here’s what Obama wrote and spoke in October 2002, five months before our invasion:
    “I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda.”
Isn’t that exactly what happened? Wasn’t Obama 100% right and years ahead of any other presidential candidate?

Now, let’s be frank. There are also darker reasons why some of you may have supported Edwards. He shares your anger and your rage. And he’s 100% white, while Obama is only half white.

Anger feels good. It’s certainly appropriate to Bush’s and Rove’s rape of our country and our middle class. But how much good does it really do?

Take health care, for example. Who is standing in the way of affordable health care for all Americans who want it? The folks who’ve held us back are the executives, major stockholders, lawyers and PR people for a few dozen drug and insurance companies, plus the politicians who pander to them.

All in all, these human obstacles number in the thousands, at most. Can they stand against 300 million Americans who know what’s right and proper? If we let anger rule us and fight among ourselves, maybe. If we unite, never.

Who wins a boxing match? Is it the guy who’s all anger and bluster, who throws roundhouse punches full of rage until he’s exhausted? Or is it the guy who knows how to box, who keeps his cool and throws punches that hit home?

Politically speaking, Obama knows how to box. He learned how organizing the mean streets of Chicago. He knows that uniting people—not dividing them or making them angry—is the best way to fight corruption, greed and incompetence.

The middle class is the backbone of this country and the overwhelming majority of us. If we can unite, the walls of greed, indifference and injustice will fall like the Walls of Jericho. But the trumpet will not be anger. It will be unity. And who can bring us together better than Barack Obama, who has worked hard to unite us since 2004?

That raises the touchy subject of race. Several times, John Edwards said he didn’t want votes based on race or gender prejudice. He’s an honest man, and he meant it.

Why did John Edwards discourage prejudiced voting, when every vote counts? He knows, just as Obama knows, that only unity can win and change our country.

The greedy and selfish know how to win. They always have. Their tricks are as old as Caesar. Divide us, and they can have their way. They pit white against black, black against brown, men against women, residents against immigrants, and the middle class against the poor.

There is only one way to unite us, and so many ways to divide us. If they can do that, maybe no one will notice as they steal us blind, deprive us of health insurance, sells out our national heritage for Mideast oil, and make us fight and pay for a war we never wanted for no valid reason. As long as they can divide us, they can keep us down. When will we wise up?

One way the corrupt and greedy divide us is lies. You all should know the truth about Barack Obama. Yes, his father was a black Kenyan of Islamic descent, and yes, his middle name is Hussein. But no, he is not a Muslim and never has been. He has never sworn anything, far less his oath of office, on the Koran. He is a Christian who goes regularly to a church in Chicago.

Obama was brought up by his white grandparents and his white mother, who forced him to get up at 4:00 a.m. to study. Both his parents had Ph.D.s. He was President of the Harvard Law Review, our nation’s oldest and most prestigious legal journal. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, one of the top three universities in that field. If he becomes president, he will have the most distinguished academic record of any U.S. president since Woodrow Wilson almost a century ago. He is a once-in-a-century leader, and he is 100% American.

So despite his unusual background—maybe because of it—Barack Obama is the natural second choice of you Edwards voters.

Why doesn’t Edwards himself say so? Most likely, because he wants a position in the Cabinet, whoever wins. Can you imagine John Edwards as Attorney General? We wouldn’t have to worry about our Department of Justice turning into a department of corrupt politics then.

Everything Edwards stands for points to Obama as his rightful heir. If you honor his passion and his commitments, you’ll vote for Obama next Tuesday. Then we’ll see the real change that Edwards fought so hard for and that we so desperately need.

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