The “Edwards Primary”
John Edwards officially dropped out of the Democratic presidential race, giving his concession speech in New Orleans in a neighborhood destroyed by Katrina. Behind him they were fixing houses, or constructing new ones from scratch. For awhile, New Orleans had provided the perfect backdrop for the Edwards message, a sense that we were recovering from what was lost on Bush’s watch. But like most poetic political landscapes, it’s spirit eventually was betrayed by the words spoken in the foreground.
I wasn’t upset at Edwards for dropping out, but was disturbed deeply by his refusal to endorse anyone–seemingly an insinuation that Obama and Clinton are interchangeable. Edwards is familiar with Hillary Clinton’s style, her voting record, her ties to Wall Street money and other moneyed interests. He realizes also that Obama received support from influential labor unions, and from organizations that needed someone to defend the middle-class. Many of these endorsements went Obama’s way not because he was the candidate most committed to their plights, but because he had the best chance at defeating the woman who is indifferent to them.
What are we to make of Edwards’ non-decision to endorse Obama heading into Super Tuesday? He stated that both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have assured him personally that they will now make poverty their central concern for the rest of their campaigns and, if elected, for their presidencies.
That’s it? Hillary gives him her word–mere lip-service–and he takes it at face value?
What else did he expect her to say? “No thanks, John. Please tell your supporters they should all vote for Barack. As an honest, ethical human being, I cannot in good conscience ask those hardworking voters to cast a ballot in my favor, knowing that my plan is to continue the Bush doctrine of fucking them over.”?
No, of course not. She’s going to continue doing what she’s always done. In his decade of working closely with her, Edwards should have noticed that Hillary will do or say whatever she gets votes–cry, flipflop, you name it. And now that a former top-tier candidate has just dropped out of the race, leaving 15% of Democratic votes up for grabs, poverty and the middle-class are obvious her new order of the day. Her corporate sponsors probably even gave her their blessing: “Say what you need to say, Hillary, whatever rounds up those middle-class votes. Just promise us you have no intentions to keep your promises.”
Chris Matthews was right today, when he anticipated that we’ll be treated to an “Edwards primary” over the next few days. Obama and Clinton will be in order to earn his endorsement, falling over each other to see who can sound more like Edwards. The former Senator has more than enough experience to understand the responsibility that comes with the position he now finds himself in. Depending on how tight he is with with his ex-supporters, Edwards may be in a unique position to steer the race in favor of one candidate or the other. If he truly cares about his supporters, he should shoot straight with them about which of the remaining candidates gives less of a fuck about them. These next few days will be crucial, as Edwards backers’ decide who is their second choice. Why wouldn’t he put in his $.02 on their behalves?
Did he really care about ordinary Americans? Or was Edwards bullshitting us all along? Was it simply that “we the people” occupied the final niche that remained unspoken for, influential in our voting power, if not in donor potential.
Obviously, both Democratic candidates will be kissing the middle-classes’ asses for the next few days. But what should that matter? All of it will be fake. Edwards knows this; many voters do not. And so ultimately their support will lean toward whichever candidate busts out the more creative populist song-and-dance this week.
What is Edwards’ waiting for? A V.P. invite? He knows where Hillary’s loyalties ultimately reside. Why is he tacitly supporting her?
Edwards concluded today’s concession speech with his familiar rhetoric. He talked about the homeless people he met under the nearby bridge, and about the working class lady who feeds them everyday; he talked about some guy’s arm getting blown off in Iraq and our stingy government refusing to replace it; the clef-lipped guy who waited fifty years to speak; people with ambition and potential who can’t quite make the pieces fit; people like me.
“I will not forget you. I will make sure that your voice is heard. I will never stop fighting for you.”
Then he exited the stage, this candidate we had trusted for awhile, presumably to hammer nails inside the hopeful houses over his shoulder.
Maybe it was all just a Hollywood set; the houses, props to be disassembled shortly; the guys who looked like Louisiana carpenters, campaign interns who boarded buses to Clinton headquarters when the cameras cut away. Or maybe everything was real about the scene except the influential politician’s heart.
There are no top-tier candidates for me now. If Edwards keeps sucking up to Hillary I’ll know there never were. And that will beg the question, one I’ll have to ponder long and hard as I decide whether to vote for the charismatic Obama or move to Canada: is it wrong to feel inspired by empty charisma?