First let me say what this essay is not: it’s neither some desperate idealistic lunge at lost hope, nor is it sour grapes. Ironically, my stubbornly lingering support for Senator John Edwards is oddly pragmatic: it’s the only way I can think to register support for progressive ideas in the Super Tuesday sweepstakes, thus presenting a principled obstacle to messrs Obama and Clinton. Sound funky? Read on.
Politics is about negotiation, leverage, power - and, yes, ideas. In my estimation, Senators Obama and Clinton have failed to exhibit a strong consistent commitment to progressive ideas, and need to be pressured and held as accountable as possible to ideas such as universal healthcare, strong sturdy anti-war policies, and economic justice. The only sensible way to express that sentiment on Super Tuesday is to vote for Senator Edwards — and make the two would-be nominees fight harder for his endorsement and delegates. A vote for Edwards will also remind them that even if his candidacy is dead, the principles - and constituencies - his campaign represented are not.
Neither candidate has been clear and consistent on the war and when/how to end it (not even Obama, who has since voted for war payments). Both candidates’ Iraq pull-out statements remain fuzzy and ultimately non-committal. Neither candidate has taken a strong clear stand on a universal healthcare plan that truly breaks the insurance industry’s hold over America’s healthcare system. (Check out Paul Krugman’s astute critique of Obama’s healthcare plan versus that of Clinton, in which he points out: “the big difference is mandates: the Clinton plan requires that everyone have insurance; the Obama plan doesn’t.” Not exactly what I’d call “progressive.”) To the extent that either has mentioned issues of poverty and workers’ rights, and corporate greed/power (which is to say hardly at all), it has been by virtue of pressure from Edwards’ candidacy.
This is not an anti-Obama or anti-Clinton appeal; ultimately I’ll line up like a good soldier behind either nominee to bring an end to this particularly vicious and damaging era of Republican executive power. Rather, I encourage voting for Edwards tomorrow on the basis of representing progressive ideas in the electorate, and sending as many delegates his way as possible, in the hopes that he will be that much more empowered to exact some pledges for his endorsement of either candidate. Otherwise, progessives who wanted a candidate who stands strongly on a range of key domestic and international issues will have no electoral means of registering their opinion.
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