Edwards gets hate from the right AND left

By Martin Bosworth

If the saying that a man is judged by the enemies he makes is true, then John Edwards is a helluva man indeed. Yesterday Sam led an excellent counterattack against the typical media narratives being spun about Edwards. Today, the shank comes from the left, in the form of Garance Franke-Ruta’s look at his poverty tour:

But offered a choice between the promise of new programs and political candidates who might enhance their social standing and political power, many poor people are choosing the promise of social change. They understand intuitively that social equality and increased political power for the disenfranchised leads inexorably to greater economic equality and opportunities for all. Edwards’ promise of anti-poverty government action, in this calculus, holds less appeal than the transformative potential of electing the first African-American or first woman president in the nation’s history.

In other words, blacks will vote for a black guy because he’s black, and women will vote for a woman because she’s a woman, and that means more to them than what they’re saying. Damn, that is cynical as all hell.

Now, I’m not naive enough to think that Edwards will convince people solely on the strength of his positions. Hell, if I were a guy that Edwards met on his tour and saw him coming, I’d be skeptical. But Garance does the audience she’s writing for a disservice by blanket assuming that women will gravitate to Hillary, blacks to Obama, etc. Hell, Hillary is a polarizing figure among women as much as men–at least in my experience. I’ve had women tell me that they despise her so much they’d vote Republican if she got the nomination. This is completely anecdotal, but then again, so is much of Garance’s essay.

America is ready for a black president, or a woman president. No doubt we are long past due. But what America is really ready for is a president with real concerns for and ideas to help our country. I think all three of the candidates have that power, but their ideas are what count–and Edwards’ ideas are still the sharpest and strongest when it comes to issues of poverty, economics, and the widening gap between have and have-not in America.

Not to mention that I think it does Obama AND Clinton an insult to reduce their transformative potential to “Because he’s black” and “Because she’s got tits.” I give Obama credit–the man has done more to make his ethnicity a non-issue than anyone’s attempts to bring it up through sheer charisma and star power. And Clinton is running as Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Senator, not simply Hillary the first woman candidate. She’s too smart and too experienced to play that card, and her candidacy reflects that.

Most of all, Americans, for all of our quirks, biases, tics, and problems, are becoming much less naive about politics and much less easily defined. In other words, we’re smartening up and breaking out of labels, boxes, and categories. Black Republicans, hawkish Democrats, secular progressives, atheist conservatives, religious liberals–you name it, it’s in the mix. That means it’s not so easy to assume that we will cleave to obvious divisions and trend where we’re supposed to. Jenifer Fernandez Ancona touched off a great discussion on OpenLeft of how complex a task it is to define a movement, and many of the posts touch on breaking away from assumptions as to who will do what and support why.

I normally enjoy Garance’s work, as she is extremely measured and insightful in her views and refrains from hothead rhetoric–I can get plenty of that from my own writing. But in this case, her reductionist views of Obama and Clinton combined with her dismissal of Edwards’ ability to communicate betray her own biases more than they do the weaknesses of the candidates.

I would vote for all of these candidates, which is a credit to how strong the Dems are coming in this time and how absolutely atrocious the GOP candidate array is. But I won’t vote against or for them simply because of how much they look like me–I’ll make that decision based on the issues. I would like to think I’m not alone in that regard, and if I am, that’s a damn shame.

30 replies »

  1. Hillary has tits? Are you sure?
    I’d actually want to slap someone who said “women will vote for her because she’s a woman”. I’d consider that an insult of my intelligence and suggestive of herd mentality: her parts match my parts, better follow her. Sorry, I’m more intelligent than an orphan bird accepting food from a hand puppet. Why aren’t they saying “bald white men will vote for McCain”?

    I won’t vote for Hillary for one reason: Bill. I can’t respect a woman who does nothing in response to her husband cheating. He should have at least shown up with a black eye and a limp the next time he was in front of camera. Some people may think it’s shallow, but I can’t trust someone who is either a. having a political marriage or b. doesn’t stand up for herself when her husband publicly shames her and their marriage. I don’t want someone in office who is going to “preserve the public image” at all costs.

    Still supporting Stewart/Colbert 08.

  2. Lara,

    That argument was PRECISELY the one my female friends used–to them, the idea of Hillary not divorcing Bill for being a cheat and sticking with him for political advantage was anathema. It was interesting–they were angrier at her than at him.

    What that says about the psyche and gender roles is something I’m not smart enough to parse. 🙂

  3. Hell, dude’s got my vote. My staggeringly unimportant primary vote in Virginia. Because, a. Hillary scares me, and b. Obama talks a good game, but I haven’t seen much else from him. That being said, I’m totally with you, I’d ecstatically vote for any of them over any Republican (except maybe Ron Paul, but what are the chances that could happen?).

  4. Martin,

    I not angrier at her than at him. I already know I can’t trust him, he violated his wedding vows. Whether or not you consider the vows a sacrament, they are still a promise to another person made in front of witnesses, probably the most important promise you can ever make. If he had stepped forward and said, “you know, I was weak. I’m a complete ass, I’m sorry.” That conversation may have taken place privately, but it sure didn’t look that way.

    One reason women may respond to her staying with him so vehemently is because it’s a reminder of a time when women were expected to marry for political/financial advantage and just be a bargaining chip (and keep our mouths shut when we were mistreated). At the time we were sold the image of her being a respected part of his administration, a female voice in the oval office. Instead it looked like she was just a prop, reinforcing the stereotype of “boys will be boys, and women bear in silence”, and women were enraged.

    Someone who will marry for political reasons, male or female, should never be trusted. They are taking something beautiful (a lifetime commitment between two people) and turning into a cold business relationship, stripping it of all meaning and wonder.

  5. Does all of this he-don’t-get-no-respect make John Edwards the Rodney Dangerfield of politics?

  6. John Edwards gets plenty of respect from the people who are intelligent enough to listen to him.

  7. Threebells, I’m still waiting to hear who you might actually support in the race. You’ve plainly established your dislike for Edwards, and that’s fine–but why dodge the question of who you’re for?

  8. I’m not trying to dodge anything. I simply ignored the question of who, if anyone I support because, knowing someone would want to know, I began posting about John Edwards by trying to make it fairly plain that I have voted Democrat in recent years and that I don’t particularly like anyone running for President.

    Meanwhile, one thing that advisors to John Edwards had better figure out is why his message is not resonating with America. Whining about “people who grew up with precious little in the way of real opportunity who seem, for reasons that are at best unfathomable, to identify more strongly with faux good-ole-boys born with a silver spoon up their asses (Sam 07.17.07)” does not win elections.

    Nor is claiming that John Edwards was “guy just like you [or me] who was smart, worked his ass, and made good, well, THAT guy is a personal reminder that you [or I] DIDN’T make it even though you [or me] started in the same spot (Sam 07.17.07)” likely to win either the hearts or minds of voters.

    John Edwards spent his whole life trying to separate himself from his working class origins. Now, he is trying to reclaim it in a bid for higher office. Although many people are unable to articulate their concerns, they sense that it smacks of the same hypocrisy that drove George W. Bush to adopt his Bud and burger campaigning style while living in a wine and caviar world. It is much the same condescending insult that can be found with Fred Thompson and his last hundred-yard rides in his red pickup to rallies.

    Robert Kennedy could take off his coat, throw it over his shoulder, roll up his sleeves, and walk among the masses in believable fashion because he had nothing to prove. John Edwards can’t quite pull it off because, inside, he is still that little kid from the wrong side of the tracks.

    To reengineer Sam’s psychology above that detractors of John Edwards are simply jealous that he succeeded where they failed, it could be that John Edwards’ poor boy dog and pony show fails to attract because John Edwards spent so much of his life trying to distance himself from mill hill that he can’t find his way back home again. So long as he was a struggling young lawyer, he could identify with common folks. Then, he became successful and rewarded himself with a run for political office.

    Once in the Senate, John Edwards got a real taste of wealth and power. It was intoxicating, exhilarating, and addictive. His ambition grew. Thus, began his first bid for the presidency. When that failed, the drive to succeed was still there and he built the most expensive house in Orange County.

    Now, with his mansion built, John Edwards is on the campaign trail again. The problem is that he isn’t really accepted by the big boys. The same deep pockets that financed George W. Bush’s obscenely expensive presidential campaigns are backing Hillary Clinton. Obama Barack has a prior claim on the black vote.

    So, John Edwards is left with the out-group white vote. Only, now having acquired a taste for the accoutrements of wealth and power, he has lost his common touch. The projection of phoniness results from the great disconnect between his campaign trail talk and his private life walk. In the end, this severed connection will cost him the nomination and, thereby, the presidency that he so desperately craves as his crowing glory.

    Having once again, failed, John Edwards can go back to his mansion and hide behind his “No Trespassing” signs and write a book about it. Who knows, he may have the same success in writing that Mary Cheney enjoys!

  9. Meanwhile, one thing that advisors to John Edwards had better figure out is why his message is not resonating with America. Whining about

  10. Threebells,

    You clearly have an agenda by being out to hit Edwards, and your refusal to identify what you stand for or even who you are–and your dodges of Sam’s and my questions–leads me to suspect you’re here to troll and start fights.

    Disliking Edwards is fine, and generally you’ve articulated your positions well (if not always logically), but the level of vitriol your comments about him have revealed show there’s something deeper going on here.

    To put what Sam said more succinctly, “I’ll take sock puppets for $200, Alex.”

  11. Oh, my, we seem to be getting a little testy here, aren’t we, Sam? Why is it that everyone has to have an agenda just because YOU have one? (Hint: That’s called projection.) As I have already tried to tell you, I really don’t have a horse (or, more accurately, dog) in this race.

    You have a problem because John Edwards is not connecting with the American public. Until you figure that one out, your boy is going to remain a loser. (Hint: It is not my fault that John Edwards’ message does not resonate with others nor will I accept responsibility for his failed messaging.)

    Since you don’t like my version of John Edwards’ obvious failure, give me your perspective. If he is such a man of the people, why can’t John Edwards make it past the first turn in two starts out of the presidential gate? (Hint: Blaming the voters doesn’t win elections.)

  12. Threebells,

    I’ll take this one in addition to Sam.

    Edwards ain’t perfect. He doesn’t always articulate his points clearly and has a lot of baggage to overcome–including some of the things you yourself cite. Plus, the issues he is fighting on are uncomfortable to many. No one likes to talk about class, or race, or inequality, because they invoke the hard truth that our society is not a meritocracy and that we won’t all be rich. This is poison to the people Edwards is fighting against, who’d much rather be comforted by Obama’s feel-good message or Clinton’s presumptive leadership.

    So to make sure these discussions get quashed, the right-wing noise machine seizes every mistake Edwards makes and turns it into a talking point. You yourself know this–your posts are some of the most bitter, personal attacks on the guy I’ve seen this side of Ann Coulter calling him a “faggot” and claiming he uses his dead kid as a political prop.

    So, since you’ve said none of the Dems impress you this cycle, let me ask you this: Who WOULD you vote for, if they were available and running?

  13. Why, Martin, I’d vote for you. I’m sure your insurmountable logic could put Ann Coulter in her place and quash the rightwing noise machine. Yes, Sir, Martin, I’d vote for you. Are you, perchance, available at this late date?

  14. Now you’re just being petty. Come on, man, I’m honestly trying to figure out what it is that has your dander up.

    You left a comment on an earlier post of mine that was most interesting, so obviously you’ve got things on your mind you want to say. Why all the smokescreening?

  15. I don’t know what planet you’re on, but according to Zogby (who is probably about as liberal as polls get), Hillary Clinton has gained 11 percentage points since the end of 2005. During the same time, Barack Obama is up 18, and John Edwards has lost 1. Add Al Gore into the fray and most polls put John Edwards in the low double-digit range. USA Today Gallup has John Edwards listed as single digit!

    While you may think John Edwards is the best candidate, the fact is that he is not gaining traction. The reality is that there are only to slots available and out of four Democratic candidates, John Edwards may not even get the VP slot this time around!

    You can accuse me of a hit job until hell freezes over and it will not raise John Edwards’ poll numbers one-hundredth of a percentage point. His message is simply not resonating with the public.

    In reality, no one from the outside is going to save the American labor movement. It will have to save itself. John Edwards cannot proclaim himself to be its self-appointed self-anointed savior. His bid is simply showing up in the polls as a “No Sale”. He is making the same mistake as Timothy McVeigh.

    The Oklahoma bomber thought that, by blowing up the Murrah Building, he was going to precipitate a revolution. It never happened because any lasting change is going to have to be a grassroots movement. That will only happen when the current r

  16. “Only then will leadership arise spontaneously from within the labor movement and nothing will stop it.”

    Now, THAT was an interesting statement. You’re assuming that the labor unions are the only opposition to the current elites running the country, but from where I’m standing that just isn’t true.

    Worse than that, there’s precious little to distinguish elitist labor leaders from elitist business leaders from elitist old money politicians from elitist NGO leaders. They’re almost all in it for the personal power, rather than for the good of the country, and that’s what has to change from the ground up.

  17. No, you are assuming that by labor movement that I mean only organized labor – which is a rapidly disappearing segment of the workforce. The new reality will most probably include the unemployed and underemployed as well as more traditional labor.

    More interestingly, you assumption would make someone like John Edwards part of an attempt at elitist control of the labor movement since he is certainly not working class by any reasonable definition!

  18. “…. It was intoxicating, exhilarating, and addictive.”

    …telepathic powers Sir, or are you John Edwards in confessional mode? Just curious… 🙂

  19. So, what impact did you that his first failed bid for the presidency had on John Edwards? Did having his ass kicked across the national political stage bring out latent masochistic tendencies or is he so money hungry that he enjoyed sucking on the matching funds federal money teat?

    P.S. John Edwards may soon be joining John McCain on the delusional but derailed candidates’ heap. In addition to his fund-raising and popularity woes, The New York Observer (July 17) has John Edwards touting the results of an apparently nonexistent independent poll showing him to be the strongest Democratic candidate among voters in key states.

    (It is not illegal for candidates to produce multiple sets of polling data. One set is the propagandistic product of push-polling where question wording and order are designed to bring forth a specific result. The other consists of the cold hard statistics that candidates rarely want to expose to the light of day. According to The New York Observer, John Edwards made the mistake of claiming one of his push-polls was the real deal.)

  20. labor movement: an organized attempt by workers to improve their status by united action (particularly via labor unions) or the leaders of this movement (source)

    Please make sure you use your terms carefully, because at present I know of no organized “movement” in labor that fits the definition above that isn’t a union or NGO in one way or another.

  21. ” . . . labor movement is a BROAD TERM for the development of a collective organization of WORKING PEOPLE, to campaign in their own interest for better treatment . . . ” (Emphasis added.) Moreover, even a labor union may be “organized for the purpose of representing the interests of workers and the WORKING CLASS.” (Emphasis added.)

    In the future, please be a little more widely read or a least know what you’re talking about.

  22. Just for the record, John Edwards isn’t the only candidate busted for an overpriced hairdo or two. Mitt Romney “spent nearly $2,000 on makeup artists over four years.”

    Details at:


    The difference is that Mitt Romney – with whom I had an exchange over the treatment of returning veterans – has little pretense of rubbing elbows with the common man or woman.

  23. 3bells, “collective organization” and “labor union” – thank you for proving my very point.

    I think I’ll listen to you again when you can provide me even one example of a non-union and non-NGO movement that might have any chance of actually emerging from nothing to force a paradigm shift away from the current system.

  24. Labor movements exist for the DEVELOPMENT of the organization and are not necessarily the organization itself. In other words, the organization is a byproduct of that movement. Often polymorphic quasi-political movements do not have a name until they either become organized or sufficiently powerful to threaten the status quo.

    The fading remnants of labor organizations that exist today were products of a past time and reflected reactions to managerial strategies of that day. What will evolve in the future is as yet undetermined. What can be said is that there is a great deal of unrest afoot.

    The concept of NGOs is fairly new in human history. INGOs are even more novel creations.

    Frankly, I don’t much care whether you “listen” to me or not. If you are actually HEARING anything in what I write, it might be cause by voices in your head. Those voices might explain your silly semantic games.

  25. The difference is that Mitt Romney – with whom I had an exchange over the treatment of returning veterans – has little pretense of rubbing elbows with the common man or woman.

    Much can be inferred from the fact that you treat this as a virtue.

  26. Make whatever inferences you wish. Let your vivid imagination run wild.

    Now just what do you suppose that I told Mitt Romny about returning veterans? (This really is going to be fun before it’s over.)