The Left will eat itself – a few thoughts about John Edwards and self-loathing among progressives

johnedwardshealth.jpg

Martin Bosworth wrote in his piece on John Edwards’ withdrawal from the Democratic Presidential race: “Edwards did not fit the assumed narrative the media wanted to run with in this campaign–he was the outsider, the guy who wasn’t campaigning on experience or the audacity of hope. Moreover, he was speaking painful truths about class, corporatism, and how our lives are dictated and controlled by the power elite. So the media machine cranked up the distortion and tried to smear him into oblivion with stupid trivialities. Yet, through all that, his message persevered.” (italics mine)

If this is true, why is JE out of the race?

What Edwards is really doing is paying the price for being a white guy at the time of historic (and mostly just) back lash against the “aristocracy of white guys” that has been the target of the concerted efforts of “liberals” who aren’t liberal at all. What these “liberals” (too often media pundits) are are ideologues who proclaim that someone would make a better (read “more media interest worthy”) Presidential candidate simply because that person is a) a woman or b) an African-American. Justice is one thing – ideology is another – this is ideology at its most reeking…. Yes, I hear your scornful retorts: “These are the times that try [white] men’s souls…” yadda, yadda….

I don’t say this to discredit Hillary or Obama, both of whom have real merit. I say this because the drive to push forward a woman or black candidate is (I fear) a media creation that allows the media then to control the narrative of the Democratic campaign – and the election. And the Democratic Party, which plays the sucker to every narrative the media creates for it, is playing the sucker again.

John Edwards has addressed overtly and directly real issues plaguing our country at this historical moment – the shift toward a class system that the “Repugnacans” have engineered – and their systematic removal of any realistic opportunity for those in the rapidly developing underclass to better themselves. Edwards, like me, Sam Smith, and many others across this country, has been able to work hard, gain success, and rise to a position of both (in a relative sense) wealth and power because of the past social and economic policies of the Democratic Party. I don’t begrudge him any of his success the way the entitled scions of the Right do – to do so would be to repudiate my own life. What I find most repellent in The Left’s rejection of JE is its own smug self-righteousness that it is doing so for the “correct” reasons.

Not so. The Left is rejecting Edwards because he reminds too many of us in the Left® of what WE came from – how we scrambled and worked and took advantage of opportunities made available by FDR, HST, JFK, and LBJ. It’s easier to glom onto the myth of Hillary as a deserving member of her gender or Obama as a deserving member of his race (despicably patronizing behavior masquerading as visionary open-mindedness) than to stand up and say “offering opportunities for people to better themselves has been and should always be a basic tenet of the Democratic Party.” That would mean supporting Edwards – who espouses these positions – and rejecting the more fashionable idea of supporting Hillary or Obama because they represent a “historic opportunity.”

Poll after poll has shown that Edwards would defeat John “I’m a war President, too” McCain in a general election. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama has fared as well.

I told the members of S&R privately weeks ago that I believed McCain would be the Republican candidate and that he might well defeat Obama or Clinton. And, in another media manipulated tilt at the windmill of history, the Democrat Party (let’s just buy into the humiliation that the Republican rulers of the media heap upon us, shall we?) will lose the 2008 election – and relegate our children and their children to lives increasingly indistinguishable from those of kids in those countries who provide us with illegal immigrants.

I’m reminded of the way Sam Smith and I have often laughingly scoffed that the only Marxists left are those wearing tweed in tony offices in universities. The closest they ever get to the “revolution” is the occasional Cuban cigar obtained from a Canadian friend. Those of us who’ve benefited from the Democratic Party’s social and economic policies that allowed us to get educations and move up the economic and social ladder are like tweedy Marxists. We’re interested in opportunity as an intellectual abstract.

In plain English, too many of us are full of shit. Opportunity is only opportunity if it’s at work on the ground helping kids do better than their parents. Edwards has spoken to this issue in ways that no other Democratic candidate has – or seems interested in doing. What the Democratic Party needs now are people who vote Democratic because they see a tangible gain for themselves in doing so.It’s not about race or gender – it’s about message.

As my grandfather, a North Carolina tobacco farmer, used to say, “there are fools – and then there are damned fools.” The Democratic Party has, I believe, shown itself to be in the latter group by rejecting a candidate whose message has more in common with those Democratic Presidents mentioned above than either of the remaining candidates.

We will soon, I fear, be able to rue our decision at our leisure.

19 comments on “The Left will eat itself – a few thoughts about John Edwards and self-loathing among progressives

  1. You know, I tried to sort of modulate my anger on this one. I’m well aware that not all claims to class discrimination are equal. Race and gender are big issues, and for damned good reason, and I think I share the hope of so many others when I see that the two frontrunners are black and female, respectively, even though I don’t necessarily endorse them individually. It’s a step forward, and that’s good.

    But you and I know that while most of the power in America is white and male, that doesn’t mean that all white males have power. There are real and powerful class issues in the white majority, and I know I’ve fought to overcome them my whole damned life.

    Maybe I was hopeful about Edwards because his message wasn’t about what particular stripe of disadvantaged you were – it was about overcoming class barriers PERIOD, by god. It was about ALL the have-nots vs all the keep-em-in-their-place elites.

    Thanks for giving voice to your anger. And mine.

  2. The Left is rejecting Edwards because he reminds too many of us in the Left® of what WE came from – how we scrambled and worked and took advantage of opportunities made available by FDR, HST, JFK, and LBJ. It’s easier to glom onto the myth of Hillary as a deserving member of her gender or Obama as a deserving member of his race (despicably patronizing behavior masquerading as visionary open-mindedness) than to stand up and say “offering opportunities for people to better themselves has been and should always be a basic tenet of the Democratic Party.”

    Wow, thankfully some are FINALLY fessing up to that fact. I don’t endorse Edwards for this very reason. Edwards, once he had “made it”, left everyone else for dead, then when there was money to be made defending the “have nots” there he was again. Simply because as of late Edwards is “defending” core democrat values doesn’t negate the fact that in the past he didn’t. It appears to most that Edwards is for Edwards. I for one think it and I believe many others do also.

    So the point you make about having had opportunities and then comfortably settling into the status quo is exactly correct. I’m 40 something and I watched this happen within my age group especially. When I stood up (and I did, still do) you didn’t have my back. Now do you think I would support “progressive Edwards” no way. He sold those of us who hung in there down the river and now has a “supposed” change of heart? Yeah…right….

    Sure Edwards talks a good game. He’s a lawyer. The problem is everyone saw what he DID, and that has made all the difference. Anyway, I thank you for looking in the mirror and calling a spade a spade……..maybe there’s hope for y’all after all. I’d be a welcome sight. Frankly, I put my money on the young who because of MY AGE GROUP’S FAILINGS are paying a hefty price.

  3. Pingback: www.buzzflash.net

  4. stilloutraged – can you even imagine the possibility that people can change, and that there’s a chance that Edwards actually did so?

    If you’re looking for a Presidential candidate who’s not in it for themselves, then you’ll die a very disappointed person – there are no candidates who aren’t in politics for themselves, in any party. If they say they are, they’re lying. The question you should be asking is whether or not their self-interest has any real alignment with your interests.

  5. The Left is rejecting Edwards because he reminds too many of us in the Left® of what WE came from – how we scrambled and worked and took advantage of opportunities made available by FDR, HST, JFK, and LBJ

    I thought Edwards was rejected because he reminded us that we’re really just working-class. And that we weren’t ready for that hard truth.

    We still cling to the notion that wer’re upper-middle-class — or will be when we sell our house. (It’s still got some value, hasn’t it? Right? Doesn’t it?)

    But no, houses are just homes now, not investments. And we’re just workers. When was the last time you heard someone say he or she was a member of the working-class?

    But maybe I’m wrong and it was not Americans who weren’t ready for his message, but the mainstream media.

    I’ll miss him too. He gave some of the greatest speeches I ever read (didn’t get to hear them).

  6. Brian Angliss
    “The question you should be asking is whether or not their self-interest has any real alignment with your interests.”

    Your comment suggests to me that you still don’t quite understand. First, people are ALWAYS in a state of change. That’s where we get those sayings like “How did I end up here”. So to me that portion of your comment is a moot point.

    The comment above is the one I take issue with. To use this logic then I should do what is only in MY OWN INTERESTS. Then of course I would be a republican. Why not? I’d just do what is best for me. It is precisely this kind of logic that got us where we are today. In the end that type of logic ALWAYS works against you. If for no other reason than you are the force of one! (which translates as brown noser)

    Now I know this sounds idealistic but I’m going to say it anyway. If you don’t demand that your candidates and representatives represent your (as a country) interests, they won’t. Do I think we’ll ever get this perfect person? No. But I do think most of our candidates and representatives will do a better job if we demand it? Yes. For the simple reason that there won’t be a next time if they don’t.

    As far as Edwards changing his views, sure I think it’s P0SSIBLE, I just don’t think it’s LIKELY. I truly believe Edwards is a smart man. I think he has all the moxie in the world. “It’s what you do with what you have” which makes me question Edwards. Edwards had all this moxie a long time ago. He chose to “play it” another way.

    So where was he when everything started to topple. I believe Edwards “noticed it” before most, he’s a smart guy. .Why didn’t he speak up THEN. Start to turn the tide THEN. I agree with many people who say he’d make a GREAT attorney general. I don’t hate Edwards at all. I like the guy. But he really pissed me off, and a lot of others too, for this very reason.

    Its one thing to be a child of the “have nots” however it’s a completely different thing to be an adult “have not”. So possibly Edwards never truly understood “his roots”. Nothing a little soul searching wouldn’t solve I’m sure. Has he ever had to “decide” what to buy his children, winter boots or a winter coat? And then live with that “decision” AS AN ADULT, knowing HIS children are suffering……..

    BTW, if candidates are ONLY in it for themselves, they shouldn’t be there. I do not think that is idealistic, I think it is realistic. This is exactly what we have now, the emperor Bush. Is there anyone who can’t see the damage that that brings.

  7. Stilloutraged: You seem very close to suggesting that people don’t change. I find that curious, because I know that I personally have undergone changes FAR more dramatic than what would have been required of Edwards.

  8. stilloutraged – you’re right, I don’t understand, and your attempt at clarification just made me even more confused. You seem to be claiming that Edwards recognized when the winds changed but didn’t change his opinions until it was politically expedient. Ie, that Edwards is a hypocrite.

    What I’m suggesting is that Edwards didn’t necessarily notice until later and then changed his views as soon as he noticed, ie that he changed his mind.

    I’ve seen nothing that suggests Edwards is any more of a hypocrite than anyone is, and you’ve provided no evidence to justify your assertion.

    Either way, though, I’m pretty sure you missed Jim’s point and focused instead on a side issue.

  9. Brian Angliss

    I don’t think Edwards had to change all that much. I think he already knew and didn’t act on it because it was in HIS BEST INTERESTS not to. A hypocrite is someone who says one thing but believes something else. I think THERE WERE TIMES when Edwards was a hypocrite, however more often, at least in my mind, I think he knew better and didn’t ACT on what he knew. As I said, I don’t gauge Edwards as the deluded sort.
    Sure…I could be wrong, just the same I don’t think I am (obviously) otherwise I wouldn’t have made the comments I did.

    As per your comment: “I’ve seen nothing that suggests Edwards is any more of a hypocrite than anyone is, and you’ve provided no evidence to justify your assertion.”

    I’m sorry but your logic suggests that in fact Edwards is a hypocrite and so is everyone else.. Although you’ve provided “no evidence to justify your assertion”
    Edwards isn’t 25yrs old, 35yrs old or 45yrs old, he is almost 55 years old, a smart person, educated, had at least some experience being poor, is a lawyer and a politician. To say he “suddenly” had an epiphany concerning the current state of affairs is a stretch. That’s my qualification.

    Dr Slammy:
    I don’t see how you understood my comment to be that people don’t change. I said, or at least was attempting to say that people are in a perpetual state of change. My quote: “First, people are ALWAYS in a state of change. That’s where we get those sayings like “How did I end up here”. So to me that portion of your comment is a moot point.” Does that clarify my take on it?

  10. JIm, thanks for this. It’s a great post. And, it affirms for me a sense that we let Edwards get away too quickly. I’m of the belief that the major progressive narratives we’re hearing from the Obama and Clinton campaigns were Edwards’ first. Further, I believed Edwards was invested in people, all of us. One PhD in economics later, it’s clear to me if the country doesn’t work (judicially, politically, economically, socially) for all of us, it really doesn’t work for any of us. Given my state’s position in the primary line up, I’ll not have the opportunity to vote for him. But, I don’t regret one damned dime I contributed to his campaign. I wish him well. Thanks again for your insightful post.

  11. stilloutraged – you’re right, I do think everyone – yes, everyone – is a hypocrite. I’ve said so repeatedly, in fact. I consider it fundamental to human nature, as natural as breathing, and I haven’t met anyone – anyone – who isn’t. The question is how often a person is a hypocrite, what the person is a hypocrite about, and the reasons for being one.

    I’m too well versed in the difficulty of personal change to think that Edwards “suddenly” had anything of the sort. As far as I can tell, most people change incrementally all the time, but have realizations that they have changed in fits and starts. Consider it the punctuated equilibrium theory of self-realization. Do I know that’s what happened? Of course not. But having seen many people have epiphanies, as you put it, in their middle age, I’m unwilling to flat out reject the possibility as you are.

  12. What Edwards is really doing is paying the price for being a white guy at the time of historic (and mostly just) back lash against the “aristocracy of white guys” that has been the target of the concerted efforts of “liberals” who aren’t liberal at all.

    That’s a load of codswallop. Hillary was already a celebrity. Obama became a media darling. Edwards never managed to do that. Democrats didn’t rank-order these three — the media did it for us. (And remember, Edwards had an anti-globalist message — the elite media weren’t having any of that.)

    Poll after poll has shown that Edwards would defeat John “I’m a war President, too” McCain in a general election.

    Not the most recent ones.

  13. Brian Angliss:

    I disagree that EVERYONE is a hypocrite. I’m, what I affectionatelly refer to myself as, a “nutshell” person. Which basically means that I like to bring everything down to the basics. Because I believe/feel/think/and have observed is where the crux of the matter lies. Obviously, one can expand from there, however what good will it do us/anyone if our basis is “off”. That said, here I go. (BTW, great link.)

    I disagree that everyone is a hypocrite. Deluded, sure. (Been there myself, in fact) But being deluded is not the same as being hypocritical. Basically, because one has to look at intent. Easier said than done I’ll agree. Take the case of Mother Theresa. From all rational query one would gauge that her intent was to help/stop/alleviate suffering. Very outspoken critic of humanity. (I’m an atheist so I find her fascinating) Yet, she saw the hypocrisy. The one I believe you speak of. However, she herself was NOT of that mold. Explain Mother Theresa……

    I can definitely entertain the concept of “punctuated equilberium” of self realization theory……sure. Do I think that’s what happened with Edwards? Hmmm….hmmmm……it’s a possibility I suppose. But then also I would have to say that the man was TOTALLY not being true to himself. Can that happen? Sure. But not “normally” at this stage of the game (agewise)… possible, yes. Likely…no. But I don’t rule it out by any means. For the record, I don’t flat out REJECT the idea that Edwards could have had an epiphany, but as you said, not in these exact words of course, this is politics……need I say more.

    If Edwards did in fact have an epiphany, I wish him all the best. Smart man. You gotta love his wife though. She totally called Ann Coulter out, and to my way of thinking she put ol’ Ann the skank to shame. Good for her.

  14. After receiving an e-mail from the Michigan Democratic Party, I let them know that I was changing my party affiliation back to Independant ( I became a registered Dem the day after the 2000 election ) because the local party had been responsible for Michigan Dems not being able to vote for their candidate of choice by playing chicken with the Natl. Party and moving up the primary, and that the National Party was complicit with Big Media in silencing Edwards message. I told them I doubted I would vote in the general election (not true – I’d vote for a squirrel before I’d cast for either of the Republican candidates). I think it is imperative for Progressives to push back at the DLC and let them know that we will not stand for our voices being silenced. Thank you for the article…..it was spot on.

  15. I want to know where this idea that Edwards is a populist-come-lately is being generated. It’s the same problem as the “white guy” narrative. I’m sorry, but I listened in 2004. Do a LexisNexis search, people. They were calling him the “populist” candidate back in ’04, and accusing him of having just come to those positions back then, too.

    Yes, he made some “regrettable” votes in the Senate – regrettable for a liberal Dem, but perfectly understandable for a purple state Senator. Yes, his positions have grown increasingly liberal over the last eight years. Isn’t that a good thing?? I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s “opportunist” – I think it’s intelligent.

    Edwards was my Senator for six years. Whenever he made a vote I disagreed with, I registered a complaint. I always got a thoughtful response. Obviously, I realize that this may have been the work of his staff members, but my point is that I have not ever known another politician at his level who placed the same emphasis on listening to his constituents. Not to polls. To his constituents. And his constituents, unfortunately, were overwhelmingly in support of Bush’s war when he was in office.

    The man has his faults, sure. He’s a friggin politician, not our blessed savior. There is no blessed savior – and anyone who looks for one in politics is a fool. But he’s the first pol I’ve seen in a long, long time who really focussed on class issues and the only Democrat in 20+ years who has maintained a high-profile campaign without selling out to corporate interests or sliding ever rightward in pursuit of a “centrist” label. John Edwards deserves some cred for that, at least.

  16. I’ve struggled unsuccesfully to express my same feelings on this issue. But you eloquently and brilliantly summed it up. John Edwards SHOULD be the Democratic candidate, for all the right reasons. Obama and Clinton are there for all the wrong ones.

  17. The mainstream media have systematically shut out anyone whose message threatens to rouse the “rabble” of ordinary Americans by telling the truth: we are being ripped off by the Washington elite in cahoots with big corporations. Everything John Edwards says NOW, Dennis Kucinich has said from the beginning, and neither one will be tolerated by the power elite. In fact, there is reputedly a campaign at work now to remove Kucinich from Congress because he’s dared to press for impeachment of Cheney.

    But both Kucinich and Edwards deserve our support, and credit for standing up to the juggernaut of corporate power that is running amok. We need to organize, and break up the appalling monopolies that are growing ever bigger, greedier, and more arrogant.

  18. You’re right, ncvoter, anyone who thinks Edwards just became a populist last year needs to pay attention. Like most people, his opinions have changed. I’m sure that’s partly to do with his reading of how Americans’ opinions have changed, but it’s also at least partly due to why they’ve changed. When he first came to the Senate he was an inexperienced politician, and the DLC were trendy back then. Little wonder he made some mistakes, even assuming he hadn’t come from a purple state.

    I’ve heard and read so much nonsense from people about who Edwards is that it’s depressing.

    Anyway, BorgWarner seems to have him pegged. He’s the guy the establishment ignored because he was a threat, and he was the one who was in it to make things better. He was also the one who took a stand first, with Clinton always playing catch-up when she realized there was lots of support for his policies out there. My feeling is that she’ll give them lip service just long enough to get into the White House. Out of Obama I expect even less.

  19. So….what? Is this a elect Edwards campaign site or something? LOL. Sorry, I didn’t mean to “rain on your parade”, or more likely “dig the knife in deeper”. I (and this is true, no BS, didn’t realize). I know it really pissed me off when Kucinich “didn’t get “his day in court” since that was my pick. So that said, I really wasn’t here to, like I said “dig the knife in any deeper”. Sorry.

    For the record, that’s my post (above). The one that says anonymous. I just messed up and said “submit” before I realized that I hadn’t filled in name…etc. Yeah, I do that shit all the time.

    Edwards can still put a HUGE dent in this imperialist game that is attempting to be implemented. The question is, will he? Here’s my request to Edwards. Do it, my friend, do it! You know you can, I know you CAN, please…..do it.

    BTW, your site is great, I like it.

Leave us a reply. All replies are moderated according to our Comment Policy (see "About S&R")

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s