More On Edwards

Despite the Florida vote last night, the big news for the Democratic party today is undoubtedly John Edwards’ departure from the campaign trail.  One thing that strikes me is the send off he is receiving from the netroots.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shocked; Edwards has always enjoyed a strong amount of support amongst the blogosphere, but there are still some pretty moving pieces out there some from bloggers I both like and respect (which I understand can seem strange given my compative support for one of his now former opponents).  Christy Hardin Smith, Kevin Hayden, and Melissa McEwan all have up touching post mortems for the fiery populist that do bear reading.

I personally have always remained somewhat ambivalent, and at times antagonistic (though in a good natured sort of way) towards the man, but I’ve never counted him as a foe to the party, nor to progressives.  His message was definitely one that I could get behind, and his advocation for the underpriveleged was laudable.

The most memorable part of his message that resonates deep within the heart of so many Democrats and progressives was that of two Americas, that lamentable aspect of our nation that has been exacerbated by the rise of corporatism and the unfortunate faith too many of our leaders seem to have in supply side economics and unfettered capitalism.

Yes, Edwards wasn’t just a progressive, but a liberal, and I can respect that.  Indeed, had things gone differently and he actually managed to win the nomination, I would not only be able to vote for him, I could do so without holding my nose.

But I never found myself caught up in the same zeal regarding him that so many others found.  There were two things that really just bothered me about him.

The first was his approach to politics, that combatitive populism that seemed to echo down from the late sixties and beyond.  The partisan warrior badge he wore on his sleeve was exactly what captured the hearts and imaginations of so many, and at the same time simply seemed to turn me off.

The fact is, and I’ve said this quite a few times before, I don’t think we’re going the right way anymore by so caustically approaching the battlefield of ideas.  I don’t think that is the style that is best suited to the structure of our government, nor the heart of it.  One thing that has driven America from the very start has been that inspiring American ingenuity, and on a fundamental level, partisan warfare only seems to hinder that.

America at its best takes ideas from all sides, mulls them over, compromises where they can, and tosses out all the garbage.  Ideological warfare, on the other hand, seems much more prone to declare one thing right, the other thing wrong, and fight about it ad infinitum to the point where all ideas, good or bad, are essentially thrown away, with the only thing that survives being rank mediocrity.

To this degree, I found myself in agreement with Edwards on most things, yet I felt unsure about him being the best choice to run this country.

My other problem with Edwards has always been this strange used car salesman vibe I got from him.

Just as there are two Americas, there are two Edwards.  The policy wonk Edwards was phenomenal, and even now I think if he would have toned down his rhetoric and turned up his policy talk, he might have fared better.  This because his rhetoric for me, though true it may be, though in line with my own beliefs it may be, always rang somewhat hollow.

I unfortunately grew desensitized to the same story about the same gentleman who couldn’t speak for fifty years until he had a medical procedure performed to fix his cleft palet.  For some reason, and maybe it’s just because he repeated the story a few too many times, I didn’t feel anything when he spoke about growing up poor.

This stuff, I recognize, is personal, and in the aftermath of his exit from the race, I do not hold any of it against him.  For the most part, I give him credit for standing up strong on progressive issues.

But it was also my enduring lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy that has led me to focus more on the horse race aspect of his dropping out.  Who does it help, who does it hurt?  I’m more prone to take the Carpetbagger’s approach, analyzing from every imaginable angle how this will reshape the political landscape in the run up to Super Tuesday, and indeed, it is important to do.

But something occured to me that made me want to just take a moment and reflect upon his campaign a little bit.  This epiphany came in taking into stock Elizabeth Edwards.

One of the striking things about Edwards leaving the race is how sudden and unexpected the news had come.  Not that everyone else wasn’t saying it shouldn’t happen.  No, for some time now a lot of us have been scratching our heads trying to figure out why he would stay in at a time when it seemed almost impossible given his low poll standings and limited funds, but none of us seemed to second guess the assertion that Edwards would hang on at least until after Super Tuesday.

Indeed, just a couple of days ago, Edwards had put in a major ad buy.  Further, Florida could not have come as any kind of a shock to the campaign, and given the pledge not to campaign there (and the fact that Edwards chose to actually honor it… ahem), it wasn’t as though they had any business praying for some sort of last minute miracle.

Thus, bailing out after Florida simply didn’t make any sense.

All of this raised a doubt in me, one that said there is a possibility that Edwards isn’t leaving the trail for political reasons.  As a result, I am even now afraid that perhaps the true motivation is Elizabeth Edwards; has she gotten worse?

I don’t know, and I really don’t want to start any rumors to that effect.  I just know that with the possibility hanging in the air, I felt a need to express my concern and best wishes.

Mr. Edwards did run a good campaign.  He was aggressive, but he never dipped down into the politics of personal destruction.  He campaigned on strong progressive values, and he gave a great many people reason to hope for a better America, and that in and of itself is an admirable quality.

I lament his leaving the trail, despite whatever political advantages it may or may not grant my own chosen candidate, and I wish the Edwards family the very best in whatever challenge life throws their way next.

Good luck.

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