The Edwards Endorsement

I have been slow to weigh in on whether an Edwards endorsement of Hillary Clinton would amount to gross hypocrisy on an epic level or not; I didn’t want my opinion to be one solely based in the realm of irrationality and emotion.

However, as stories such as this one hint that Edwards, despite popular belief that he would naturally endorse Obama, is coming awfully close to supporting Hillary has given me cause to reevaluate both my silence and my slowly evolving opinions on the matter.

Parts of the question are pretty easy.  For many of those Edwards supporters who have since his retirement from the campaign trail chosen to join the Obama campaign, he will of course be seen as something of a traitor.  By contrast, those Edwards supporters who have since switched their allegiance to Clinton will undoubtedly feel the endorsement is justified.

And of course this all hinges about how former Edwards supporters felt about both candidates during Edwards time in the race and afterwards.

Would original Hillary supporters think this endorsement an act of betrayal?  Certainly not, and they would see it as a reaffirmation that Mrs. Clinton is rightfully the best person to represent the party in the General Election, and they will time and again remind us how similar their two health care systems are.

Curiously enough, I don’t think a lot of Hillary supporters would feel betrayed if Edwards endorsed Obama primarily because due to his tone through much of the campaign that’s what most people were thinking he was going to do anyway.

On the other side of the fence, Obama supporters would equally welcome Edwards endorsement, perhaps not referencing health care so much, but talking about how both men represent the winds of change within the party.

Yet, I also do feel that a broad number of original Obama supporters would feel betrayed if Edwards swung the other way.

But would they be right?  Am I willing to call Edwards a hypocrite because he chose to back a different horse?

In this debate, David Corn makes what, to me, has been perhaps the most solid argument I’ve seen.  After bringing up charges Edwards has weathered before regarding the potential hypocrisy of being so well off and yet claiming to be a champion for the poor, he writes:

Wellstone once told me that you always have allow for redemption within politics. And perhaps Edwards’ conversion was genuine. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt? His message was powerful and well-delivered–even if not embraced by a plurality of Democratic voters. But if Edwards wants to prove he was truly speaking his heart and mind, he has no choice when it comes to endorsing one of the remaining Democratic contenders. He cannot support Hillary Clinton.

During the campaign, as he called for ending poverty, Edwards pointed to Clinton as part of the problem. Let’s roll the tape on a speech he gave in New Hampshire last summer:

The system in Washington is rigged and our government is broken. It’s rigged by greedy corporate powers to protect corporate profits. It’s rigged by the very wealthy to ensure they become even wealthier. At the end of the day, it’s rigged by all those who benefit from the established order of things….

Politicians who care more about their careers than their constituents go along to get elected. They make easy promises to voters instead of challenging them to take responsibility for our country. And then they compromise even those promises to keep the lobbyists happy and the contributions coming…

It’s a game that never ends, but every American knows — it’s time to end the game. And it’s time for the Democratic Party — the party of the people — to end it. The choice for our party could not be more clear. We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats, just swapping the Washington insiders of one party for the Washington insiders of the other. The American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for sale, the Lincoln Bedroom is not for rent, and lobbyist money can no longer influence policy in the House or the Senate.

There is no way to read that passage as not a direct assault on Clinton. Edwards was calling her out as a “corporate Democrat” willing to benefit from the crooked politics of Washington. The reference to the renting of the Lincoln Bedroom was a sharp punctuation mark. (During the Bill Clinton presidency, big donors to his campaign were rewarded with overnights in the White House.)

This was not a solo blast. Campaigning in Iowa in November, Edwards made it explicit:

The presidential candidate who has raised the most money from Washington lobbyists is not a Republican. It’s a Democrat. The candidate who has raised the most money from the health industry–insurance companies and drug companies–is not a Republican. It is a Democrat…. And the candidate who has raised the most money from the defense industry, is not a Republican. It is a Democrat. And all those descriptions fit the same candidate. They’re all Senator Clinton.

At the debate before the New Hampshire primary, Edwards slammed Clinton for being aligned with “the forces of status quo” dead-set on blocking change in Washington.

Those were some charges. Did Edwards mean what he was saying about Clinton? Did he mean it when he proclaimed that poverty eradication was the cause of his life?

In this one arena does Corn get it dead on.  Policies differ, and as Democrats, we are expected to recognize those difference, and yet overcome those differences to work together.  That is not the issue.  The issue is that Edwards stood up and pointed to Hillary as the problem; was that merely for political gain, or did he mean it?

Did Edwards truly believe that he felt that much of what Hillary Clinton stood for was in direct contradiction of his own principles and beliefs, or was he simply trying to pick up percentage points at her expense?

The first option points to some measure of authenticity, the second to cynical political manipulation, and an endorsement for Hillary would be raw hypocrisy if it is the former, and more of the same politically if the truth is the latter.

Edwards once said that he and Obama, unlike Clinton, both represented change, they just disagreed on how one goes about bringing that change about.  If Edwards endorses Hillary, I’m afraid he either has a very strange way of bringing change about, or he is in fact a hypocrite.

UPDATE: Big thanks to Canossa for linking in!

4 Responses to “The Edwards Endorsement”

  1. Jeanie says:

    Looks like he is a hypocrite. That’s too bad, I thought he had more integrity than that. Oh well, just another candidate for the humorous yet true,

  2. ladylegal says:

    If Edwards backs ‘Billary’ he will the biggest turncoat since Benedict Arnold. Furthermore, I will hold him in the deepest contempt. He will prove that in the end, all his words for “change” was just an “easy promise” after all. Is Edwards trying to “rent the Lincoln bedroom” by backing ‘Billary’? Hmmm. Maybe Edwards contradicted himself, maybe the vice-presidency is for sale to the ugliest traitor.

  3. Well… I’m not going to pass judgement on him quite yet. If he wishes to remain on the sidelines and let Obama and Clinton duke it out, I can respect that, but yeah, it’s hard not to call him a hypocrite and a traitor if he does endorse Hillary.

  4. Family Doc says:

    I am a doctor and former Edwards supporter. In medicine, we think in terms of end points (prevent heart attack not just lower lipids..) and universal health care and reducing poverty were the endpoints most important to me. I am now supporting Senator Clinton, in part, because she comes much closer on these two issues. I can tell from Obama’s plan and comments that he does not fully understand the issues involved in health care reform. I am disappointed that he is setting the bar too low and fear that may undermine efforts to get it if he is elected. I am not convinced the “yes we can” candidate believes we can do this.
    Senator Obama has taken oodles of money from special interests, such as the nuclear power industry, and he has given more money to super delegates than she. I see him, both in how he got to this point, and in his negative tone when discussing his opponant, as pretty much “Washington politics as usual” .
    Still, He also has many good qualities, and I will support him fully if he is our nominee. Even though she is my prefered choice, I would like to see Edwards speak to the good qualities of both candidates, the differences he sees, and then release his delegates to vote as they choose at the convention. (No, I am not a delegate). I think we need some healing to start sooner than later. Let everyone vote and hopefully, there will be a majority and a candidate we can start to rally behind in June. The ultimate end pont is to beat McCain in November.


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