“This kind of squabbling — how many children is this going to get health care? How many people are going to get education because of this? How many kids are going to get to go to college because of this?” Edwards said to cheers from the crowd.
“I respect both of my fellow candidates, but we have got to understand this is not about us personally.”
Throughout the debate, Edwards was the candidate bringing the discussion back to people’s real concerns and the real fight that needs to be waged in this country.
Before the debate some in the media were redoubling their efforts to drive Edwards out the race and erase what he and his supporters stand for from the election. We can’t let it happen, and Edwards made it a bit tougher for them with performance in Myrtle Beach. I am not going to blow too much sunshine up anyone’s patootie, it’s a long long climb for Edwards to reach the nomination. But with Obama and Clinton feud getting nastier and less edifying each round, I feel myself in no rush to pick a bandwagon. Apparently I am not alone, as this reporting from Nevada shows:
In the precinct 7054 meeting, the Obama camp sent a cadre of supporters over to the unaffiliated participants. They repeated the familiar talking points of the national campaign, calling Obama “the candidate who can change Washington to work for the middle class,” adding that Obama was “the only candidate who could restore hope for the American people.”
Clinton supporters waited and listened closely to the Obama pitch. When their opportunity came, two older women told a group of four unaffiliated women that “Clinton would represent our interests because she is a woman,” arguing that Clinton “understands us; Obama can’t.”
The intense contest for the Edwards voters turned many of them off. A majority of the Edwards supporters decided to sit out the contest and not caucus for either Clinton or Obama. This result was dumbfounding for many of the Obama supporters who were shocked that the Edwards supporters would not join their camp.
Edwards campaign precinct captain Mike Prior said that he convinced the Edwards camp to decline to vote in the second round because their refusal to support either Clinton or Obama would serve as a protest vote. Prior said that he was “for Edwards from the beginning,” and was proud of Edwards’ role in the primary process because “Edwards set the agenda and forced the other candidates to respond.” Prior had not lost faith in his candidate even after the Edwards defeat. “He is a fighter. That’s better that someone who can give a good speech or shuffle papers any day,” Prior said.
Maybe it’s only a coincidence or the calendar, but when Edwards has been pushed aside, the issues and focus on policies and real people have been pushed aside too. And the political discourse has has degraded rapidly. When Edwards is in the fight, the fight becomes about people and health care, and poverty and the environment. When he’s cut out, it’s about whose corporate law clients were shadier.
And that’s why we can’t give up. As the campaign has gone on, Edwards has lead on all of the issues, if not in the polls. From health care, to trade, to poverty, to rejecting the Global War on Terror, or pushing back on a new war with Iran John Edwards has lead and the others have followed, though often, not as closely as I’d like.
Of course, as many of you know, Martin Luther King III made a point on the holiday to celebrate his father’s legacy to note much the same thing:
I appreciate that on the major issues of health care, the environment, and the economy, you have framed the issues for what they are – a struggle for justice. And, you have almost single-handedly made poverty an issue in this election.
You know as well as anyone that the 37 million people living in poverty have no voice in our system. They don’t have lobbyists in Washington and they don’t get to go to lunch with members of Congress. Speaking up for them is not politically convenient. But, it is the right thing to do.
I am disturbed by how little attention the topic of economic justice has received during this campaign. I want to challenge all candidates to follow your lead, and speak up loudly and forcefully on the issue of economic justice in America.
From our conversation yesterday, I know this is personal for you. I know you know what it means to come from nothing. I know you know what it means to get the opportunities you need to build a better life. And, I know you know that injustice is alive and well in America, because millions of people will never get the same opportunities you had.
I believe that now, more than ever, we need a leader who wakes up every morning with the knowledge of that injustice in the forefront of their minds, and who knows that when we commit ourselves to a cause as a nation, we can make major strides in our own lifetimes. My father was not driven by an illusory vision of a perfect society. He was 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.
So, I urge you: keep going. Ignore the pundits, who think this is a horserace, not a fight for justice. My dad was a fighter. As a friend and a believer in my father’s words that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, I say to you: keep going. Keep fighting. My father would be proud.
As a Kos diary said yesterday, Don’t Mourn Organize. Because more far more than any candidate in this race John Edwards has given voice to the cause I believe in and given voice to the people who have to little a voice in our country. What most of us are for isn’t just the candidate, but the cause and the voice that he represents.
Cross Posted at MYDD