Editor's Note: This is the second in a two part series from the staff of the Northwest Progressive Institute concerning our presidential preferences.
This post reflects the views of the majority of the Northwest Progressive Institute's staff, myself included, and is not the position of the organization as a whole. When the primary voters have had their say, all of us at NPI will be delighted to support the Democratic nominee.
- Jason Black, Senior Policy Analyst
Don't get us wrong. We like Barack Obama... quite a lot. Nearly everything he says, we agree with. His platform is solid, his rhetoric is motivating. We like him, and can totally understand why Andrew and Scott support him.
Only, we like John Edwards more.
Edwards has our support until the end - until such time as he says he doesn't want it any more. There are a few specific reasons for this.
The first has to do with the selection of causes and issues that Edwards has chosen to base his campaign on. He's the one who has pulled talk about the poor, about the worsening class-divide in America, into this year's presidential race.
His "Two Americas" theme, which he's been shouting from the rooftops for a long time now, is a important theme, because the right wing's assault on the middle class is (and has been) absolutely devastating.
Healthcare that costs too much and doesn't do anything, legislative "reforms" that let corporations walk with increasingly spiky heels all over their workers, monetary policies and lax regulations that encourage predatory home lending, the slow whittling-down of our public schools (personally, I scarcely know how I'm going to help my kids through college!)
This death by a thousand cuts is what the right wing has inflicted upon us. This, friends, this is what class warfare feels like. Edwards gets it.
If it's impossible for an American citizen to play by the rules - stay out of trouble, work hard, the whole bit - and
get ahead, then America is doomed. Edwards gets that. This is a deep, fundamental problem our society has right now, one that has the ominous potential to make America a very bleak place indeed, and he's the only one running who's talking about it.
The second, weirdly, is because he is a self-made rich man. Go ahead, rub your eyes and double-take, shake your head in disbelief.
There is a huge difference between being rich because you earned it, and being rich because you inherited it. From observing the behavior of people in the latter camp, we have this sense that because they never had to work for their money, somewhere deep in their psyche, they're not secure about their fortunes.
Because they don't have the personal experience of having built that wealth, they worry that the money could run out, or somehow disappear.
So they do everything they can to acquire more money against that fear. It leads to unbridled greed. When you put people like that in charge of the government, it leads to tax cuts for the rich and the host of other truly horrific fiscal policies that are designed to funnel money from the poor to the rich.
John Edwards is different. He earned his wealth himself, through his own hard work. That he earned it by fighting against big business on behalf of regular folks like me pleases us to no end, but isn't really relevant to our point.
He grew up in a household of modest means. He has that personal experience. He raised himself up from it to a place where, now, he is truly a free man, unencumbered by worries about whether he'll ever have problems affording first-rate health care, about where his next meal will come from, or whether he'll be able to pay his heating bills in the winter.
And, having gotten to such a place, what has he chosen to do? Did he say "Great, I'm rich! Now, how do I become super-ultra-uber-filthy rich?" No. He chose to go into public life to continue fighting for regular folks like me. We have an almost unspeakable amount of respect for that.
From Edwards, we get the sense that he recognizes that there is a practical limit to greed. There is a point at which a man can look at his portfolio and say "Yup, that's enough. I'm good from here on out."
His freedom means that we can trust him. He's unencumbered by the need to keep any special interest benefactors happy, and therefore he can - and regularly does - say what he thinks really needs to be said.
The fact that he knows he doesn't need to do this--he could head to the Bahamas and sit on the beach sipping Mai-Tais for the rest of his life if he wanted to, but he does it anyway makes me believe in his sincerity for his cause: our cause
, more than anything else.
Third, his stump speech is backed up by excellent, highly specific plans for how to address the issues he's talking about.
His plans for how to help the poor and middle classes are excellent. His plans for tackling the climate crisis are are innovative.
His plans to get us out of Iraq are as good as any, considering the snafu of a situation we're in. Obama and Clinton prefer to speak in generalities (yes, we know, they have position papers on a wide range of topics too, full of their own specifics), while Edwards is totally comfortable talking about how, specifically, he would go about fixing what ails America.
We think of it in terms of that old joke about going to the doctor and saying "Doc, it hurts when I do this." From Dr. Clinton we'd expect an answer like "Don't worry. I've got the experience to help with your problem." From Dr. Obama, we'd probably hear, "We'll get you better. The important thing is not to lose hope."
From Dr. Edwards, we'd expect to hear "Really? Show me. Okay. It looks like you've pulled a muscle in your back. Do you have a desk-job? You do? I thought so, I see this a lot from desk-jockeys like yourself. What I want you to do when you get back to your office is check your chair and make sure it's really level. A lot of those office chairs, especially the swivel chairs, aren't quite level and it throws people's backs out of alignment. So level up your chair, make sure you're sitting with your feet flat on the floor, and call me if it hasn't improved in about a week." Specifics. Experience is great. Hope is great. But please, convince us you actually know how to fix our problems.
The last touches on elements we've mentioned a little bit already. It's that he's a fighter. Say what you want about lawyers, and trial-lawyers in particular, but we love that Edwards has a great history of actually fighting the front-line battles in real people's lives.
Clinton offers a veneer of experience, but all the experience in the world doesn’t impress us if we can’t believe you'll put it to use trying to help the vast majority of Americans in the best ways.
Obama offers us his message of hope, as if we didn't all have hope already. Without hope that we could make the future a better place than the present, why would we bother even to vote, much less write blog posts like this one or be involved with fine organizations like the Northwest Progressive Institute?
We don't need hope; we've got hope in spades, man. What we need is a fighter in our corner. Someone who can and will take the fight to places we can't personally take it. Someone with a history of doing exactly that, and being wildly successful at it. Someone exactly like John Edwards.
So that's why we support John Edwards. We know his chances aren't great to win the nomination. That's hardly the point.
He is the embodiment of exactly the characteristics of vision, values, leadership, determination, and mettle that we want in a President. Like we wrote at the beginning, we'll be happy to vote for the eventual nominee. But right now, we are voting our consciences. We are voting our values.
Primary season is not the time for tactics. This is not the time to try to guess who will win and vote that way because you like to vote for a winner. No.
Primary season is the best opportunity the citizens of America have to express our real values through our vote. So vote for Hillary Clinton if you want. Vote for Barack Obama if you want. But do it because that person is the best embodiment of your own true values and vision for America.
For us, there's only one real choice. John Edwards.