John Edwards was the only first-tier candidate actually talking about real change, about the only key, fundamental, important change that would make all the other specific changes possible. That change is the reversal of the corporate take-over of our economy and our society.
He explained how it worked, how it took away our voice, our choices, our resources, our democracy. The more he explained, the less the average voter wanted to hear. People would rather hear quibbling over immigrant drivers licenses and forced purchase of for-profit health-insurance policies, opine on personalities or gender, discuss old loyalties vs new excitement, strategize for electability.
I think Edwards failed because most people don’t really want change. Not real change, that will rearrange the deck and maybe require something from them. Read this piece by Michael Kinsley . I think mainly people with nothing to lose — or people with very enlightened long-view self-interest — want to reform the corporate hold on the country. Most people fall for the “jobs will be lost” scare, or just want their stock prices to go up.
There is no reason to think that because he is a fresh face, or because he’s black, or because he’s taking Deval lessons in hope/believe/together rhetoric, Obama will do anything different from Hillary. His talk of bipartisanship, unity, working together to get things done all smack of “triangulation” and “reasonable compromise.” Paul Krugman says it well. And Obama’s reference to Ronald Reagan as a man of ideas (and the his little “I didn’t inhale” moment: “Hey, I just said it was great that he was a fount of ideas, I didn’t say they were good ideas!”) was straightforward pandering to the great middle masses, a veiled implication that he’s not wedded to any of those, you know, “liberal” principles. He occasionally mentions inequality, but says nothing about what it would take to remedy it; it certainly isn’t going to be addressed by any “stimulus package” of a few dollars and some food stamps, dwarfed by giant business tax breaks.
No one but Edwards (and of course, Kucinich, who was marginalized at the outset because he really says what needs to be said, like, we need single-payer government health insurance) got close. As Krugman explains, Edwards was on the right track. But Obama said, “if I were starting over from scratch, sure, I’d make a single-payer health care system, but since everything’s already in place….” Well, he would be starting over, and mostly what’s in place is the powerful insurance industry.
Polls have shown that a majority of Americans would welcome a single-payer system. Where’s the bold new candidate, ready for change we can believe in?
Democrats have waited, counted the moments, to have this opportunity. Looking at the campaign picture, I fear they (we) will squander it. Instead of finally reframing the debate, they are ingratiating themselves as centrists. Edwards didn’t fail; the party failed.