Edwards bows out: sustaining hope in a dirty world

It was only a matter of time.

John Edwards Drops Out of Presidential Race
— Former Senator’s Campaign Adviser: ‘It Just Became Clear It Wasn’t Going to Happen’

Former Senator John Edwards, D-N.C., will drop out of the Democratic presidential race on Wednesday.

“It just became clear it wasn’t going to happen,” a senior Edwards adviser tells ABC News’ Rick Klein.

Edwards, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2004 before joining Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., as his vice presidential candidate, had placed poorly in several early contests, lagging behind rivals Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

The former senator will end his bid during a speech on poverty in New Orleans, where he began his White House campaign in December 2006. His family — including wife Elizabeth, who is battling a recurrence of cancer and has been absent from the campaign trail since New Hampshire — is expected to be present.

My hopes were never high, and as 2008’s squeakiest third wheel falls by the wayside I find that I’m more than a little ambivalent.

On the one hand, Edwards was the only “serious” contender willing to talk about our nation’s profoundly troubling class divide. Like me, he grew up working class in the South, which meant that you fought tooth and nail for every scrap of opportunity you got. He was born with little and nobody gave him anything, which made the cynical classist attacks on him from people born with everything a little hard to stomach. That mansion? At least he earned it. The million-dollar haircut? How much do you spend on grooming and wardrobe a month, Sen. Blueblood? Now that it’s done and I’m feeling no need for diplomacy, let me share two words with you: blow me.

Aside from voting for No Child Left Untested Behind, he was pretty much right on education. notes the following about his stances on ed in America:

  • Should have universal pre-Kindergarten for all 4-year-olds. (Oct 2007)
  • Make community colleges & public universities free. (Sep 2007)
  • Think of education as a birth-to-death experience in America. (Sep 2007)
  • Teach in public school that we embrace same-sex parents. (Aug 2007)
  • Sent all four kids to public schools. (Jul 2007)
  • Appoint judges with backbone to desegregate schools. (Jul 2007)
  • College for Everyone: tuition paid, for 10 hrs/week work. (Jun 2007)
  • Invest in rural community colleges as practical job training. (Apr 2007)
  • College for Everyone pilot: $300,000 to 80 N.C. students. (Apr 2007)
  • Create “Second Chance” schools to get dropouts back on track. (Apr 2007)

As you may know, I see education as our biggest national challenge, so a lot of this sat well with me. Just for fun, I encourage you to read through the entire Issues2000 record on Edwards. And realize that there’s nobody left fighting this fight.

On the other hand, I’m more than aware of the fact that Edwards was a candidate whose words didn’t always square with his record, and who was simply wrong on a number of issues that I think matter. He voted for the Iraq war, although he later said it was his biggest professional mistake. He voted for the Bankruptcy Reform Act, although he admitted he was wrong to do so last month. And his words on campaign finance were arguably purer than his actions, although it’s true that if you don’t play the game you can’t win it, I guess.

So one interpretation is that John Edwards is a man who says one thing and does another. The other possibility is that he’s a man who learns from his mistakes and is willing to do what he can to reform the system – while accepting that the battle has to be won from the inside. I’m not the starry-eyed type, especially when it comes to politics, but considering the alternatives, I think I’d take my chances on the latter.

What’s left: Barack Obama, a man with a powerful message of change that resonates powerfully with the booming young voter demographic. And Hillary Clinton, who represents the perpetuation of America’s new two-family dynastic system of neo-imperial leadership. Looking at Obama’s “ideas,” it’s still too early to say how far his change extends beyond “not George Bush,” and as much as I’d love our nation to be more unified, the sad fact is that we’re deeply in the clutches of forces that need squelching, not reconciling. Hillary? Well, she doesn’t look like a threat to the status quo at all, does she? I mean, of all the candidates running this cycle, what two could you place on the November ballot who’d represent less actual choice than Clinton and newly-crowned GOP frontrunner John McCain?

Unless something dramatic happens, we’re never going to get a shot in a general election to vote for a perfect candidate (or anything remotely like it). We’re stuck in Lesser Evilland. In this ugly context, I find that my ambivalence is giving way to sadness. Warts and all, John Edwards struck me as the best hope still standing.

All I can do now is pray that I’m wrong.

21 replies »

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  2. I cannot tell you who I’d vote for if it were Clinton-McCain this go around, and that scares me a great deal.

    Of course, I can’t tell you whether I’d vote for in next weeks CO caucuses either – Obama or Clinton. I guess it’s finally time to hit their websites.

  3. McCain Hillary is easy. Hillary doesn’t have me convinced that she’ll get us out of Iraq, but at least she isn’t promising to get us INTO more wars. Also, I trust her on SC appointments.

    Like her, no. But McCain? Ummm, not….

  4. Clinton is nearly as hawkish as McCain on many national security issues, and I know if it was her vs. him, the GOP base could put aside its distaste for McCain and rally around the Hillary hating flag to take the election.

    I’d take her over any of the GOP currently running, but if it’s down to her or Obama, the choice is clear now. Hell, that isn’t even a choice–that’s a moral imperative.

  5. That’s kind of how I see it. Obama looks like the best option left, and Hillary is less unsavory than any of the GOPpers. But talk about an ugly dog contest – if she wins the nod it ain’t gonna be pretty. It would easily be the nastiest election in history…..

  6. My wife works in the school system in New York state. She said that today alone she talked to five Democrats who would vote for McCain if Her Royal Clinton-ness ran for the Democrats.

    Also, my wife’s a feminist and would vote third party before HRC.

    Bodes ill for Democrats, the party with a death wish.

  7. I’m not hatin’, man, but damn, he’s gone absolutely nowhere. Edwards has a better chance to win than Gravel does, and Edwards just quit.

    About the only way I could see Gravel make it is if the fix were in and both Clinton and Obama dropped out right before the convention, leaving Gravel as the only Democratic candidate.

  8. I think Edwards will make a great Attorney General. He had an up hill battle all the way, even though he was my favorite among the last 3 Democrats he wasn’t just battling the candidates records, he was battling history. There was no way he was going to win, yet he needed to be there. I think he may not endorse anyone quite yet, unless it becomes clear who’s going to win, I think he’s going to do take one for the team and kind of keep quiet for a few weeks.

    No matter who’s gets the nod he’s going to get a job in the cabinet, he’s just too popular not to. I’m going to miss him in the debates; he brought some civility to them. At least we get to see Ron Paul explain the economy to the Republicans for another couple weeks, after he’s gone then there’s really no reason to watch the debates anymore.

    I’m not a H-Dog fan, but at least I kinda know where she stands. Obama is running on change, but I have no idea what he’s going to change! He’s running on the young good looking platform I guess. It sucks that the people that are mathematically out of the race, or have dropped out are the only ones who have a platform.

    That being said, like boxing my moneys on the black guy!

  9. Substance seems to be out of fashion in American Politics. Even after 7 years of W. I understand why John Edwards stopped running today, but it is a sad day for substance in the Presidential Race. Let’s all watch a reality show and ignore reality.

  10. If Hillary Rodham-Bush gets the Dem nomination, that removes the argument preventing Jeb Bush from running in 2008 – dynasy fatigue. Jeb then will get roilled out and he will win. Why? He is considered way smarter than W, but Hillary is no Bill!

  11. Edwards was my favorite as well. That said, both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama are infinitely better than any of the Republicrooks for this nation, I will proudly vote for either. The bottom line is that we cannot have four more years of Republican rule.

  12. I am crushed. Edwards was a ray of hope. I already mailed in my absentee ballot. So, I threw my vote away, as well. My second choice would be Obama. An Edwards/Obama ticket was my dream. Obama/Edwards sounds good, too, though!
    California dreamin………..

  13. Big Money Corporatism rules America today. It’s a tragedy.

    Maybe some day we’ll have Democracy, but not yet.

    Let’s get teh voting system fixed, so we can at least have the appearance of a Democracy with that.

    I supported John Edwards and it does hurt, despite knowing his chances were like a snowball in Hell.

  14. If it comes down to Hillary vs McCain, I’ll vote third party, and watch McCain win. The repubs will bring out all the old stuff, true or not – it doesn’t matter – white water, foster, lewinski, the health care fiasco, all of it. This is the race for the Dems to lose, and they are working hard to lose it. It’s hard to imagine that we’ll have a republican pres after 8 yrs of Bush, but I think if Hillary wins, that could easily happen. She could take huckleberry easy enough, romnausea would be a fight, but she’ll lose to McWar.

  15. Sorry, while I definitely mourn Edwards’ leaving the race, I find assertions that Clinton is just another Republican lite to be idiotic.

    Obama is republican lite. And if liberals think Obama won’t be subject to smears every bit as vitriolic as any faux scandals they could fire at Hillary, they haven’t been paying attention.

    I think liberal America’s rejection of, and demonization of, Hillary Clinton is really kinda pathetic. Reagan was a Washington outsider. Bush II was (sold as) a Washington outsider. Jimmy Carter was a Washington outsider.

    How well did those work out, eh?

    Now Obama, who spouts feely-good generalities, has no shortage of his own corporate connections and proxy swiftboaters, and promotes bipartisanship with the GOP’s scorched earth knuckle-draggers, is running as a Washington outsider.

    Maybe fourth time’s a charm, but I doubt it.