Forgive me for beating this dead horse, but I am not quite done with the spectacular fall of Johnny Reid "John" Edwards. As the only politician who had the guts to talk about the reality of our two Americas, one for the hyper rich elite, the other for the rest of us, I miss him to the point of night sweats. Not being able to see into the mans heart, I cannot guess to his sincerity on this subject. Was One America all smoke and mirrors; like Hope and Change?
Oddly enough there are plenty of commentators on the inter-webs that have been gifted with the talent to X-ray into the soul of Edwards. Oddly enough they all proclaim his concern for the working class a fraud. And this is just the beginning of their spittle-flecked ramblings about the man. By the time these good people are done with their discourse about Johnny-Boy you are forced to conclude that he is the spawn of Satan or at least a lesser demon of Hell.
This level of hostility to a failed politician is odd, even for a Democrat. Edwards gets slammed for his metrosexual good looks, the fact that he was a trail lawyer before entering politics, and his populist messaging. Even now, when he has performed the most epic political face plant of last twenty years, and perhaps more, some people cannot let go. Why?
It must be that, for all his faults, and for whatever reason, Edwards hit a nerve.That Populist message of his was hitting a little too close for comfort, it was hitting a nerve. People whose politics are invested in increasing the economic divide, in increasing the gap between the economic winners and losers, cannot spare the vitriol when it comes to Edwards. It is vitally important for them that Edwards failings as a human being, which were legion, be attached to his ideology.
The idea of One America, that we are our brothers keeper, that economic justice is necessary for America to stay America, is an anathema to Edwards haters. It is never sufficient for these people to just attack Edwards, or his moral failings. It is essential to prove that Edwards was never serious about One America in first place. It is essential that One America was never a serious proposal, period.
In reading the flow of bile pouring forth from Edwards-phobs, the presumption of free market uber alles is never far from the surface. The lock-step dedication to economic laissez faire notions favored by libertarian propeller-heads is not hard to discern. It is not necessary for one to be a Ayn Rand loving, Tea Party mau-mauing, ditto-head to dislike Edwards. It is not necessary to be dye-in-the-wool Right-Wing Republican troll, but it certainly helps.
Maybe I’m projecting here, but it seems if you just scratch the surface, you will find genuine fear from political conservatives that Edwards’ ideas might just catch on. What will the right-wing fear mongers do if the working class actually starts acting as a cohesive class? What to do if Joe and Jane Six-Pack stop being distracted by social issues, and start following the money? What happens if the working class, and the middle class, focus on Bill Clinton’s message of, “ its the economy stupid?”
As Amanda Marcotte pointed out, the real danger that Edwards presented to the status quo was that his liberal populism was a direct counter to the conservative populism that is running rampant over the political landscape. Much of the beat-down Edwards is getting is to ensure there is no challenge to the triumph of conservative populism / TEA Party extremism. That way the concentration of wealth can continue unabated, and Social Conservatives can get their Authoritarianism on.
So wither the message now? With Edwards down and out for the count, is there any politician of note willing to pick up the amor that Johnny-Boy left scattered about after he fell off the cliff? Is there anyone out there? Anthony Wiener? Oops, I see that he has small problem with his twitter account and is not available for the foreseeable future. Anyone else? Perhaps a member of the fairer sex, as all the male progressive politicians seem to have problems with their little heads short-circuiting their big heads?
As the Edwards saga plays out, I keep reevaluating who he was and what he did. His candidacy did get both Barack Hopey-Change Obama and Our Most Sacred Lady of the Tastefully Appointed Pant-Suite to get serious about health care reform. But seeing how Idiot Big Ears botched the actual enactment of that program, I can’t say I’m that thrilled with the results. We wanted Health Care reform. What we got was Health Insurance reform. We got something to the right of Dick Nixon’s bright idea back in the 1970’s and called it “progress.” We got a Republican idea in good standing, that the Elephants then demanded be repealed immediately. Still without Edwards' prodding, we might not have even gotten this soup sandwich of “reform.”
I cannot blame Edwards for the epically corrupt way D.C. does business these days. Any politician in the Presidency would have an uphill climb to counter the dirty way D.C. conducts its affairs. My problem with Obama is the man does not even try to counter the dirty deeds done dirt cheep business model, he just goes with flow, further enabling and entrenching the corruption. It may be good politics, but it is rotten policy.
Still, who knows what betrayals Edwards would have envisioned if he had managed to keep his monster in his pants, and gained the top prize? How much of the Populist Edwards was a construction? More to the point, how much of it was a construction of Elizabeth Edwards? With Edwards in re-elect mode, and his wife no longer present, what compromises would Edwards envision? Having been badly burned by the reality of Edwards, and his epic narcism, I am unwilling to give him too much latitude as how he would have behaved in this mythical present construction. Even for a supporter like me, Edwards’ stock is in the dirt, and not likely to come back up.
Edwards the messenger may no longer carry much weight, but that does not go for the message. For this nation to succeed, for it to truly climb out of the hole it has dug itself, there has to be some politician willing carry that message, that idea, of One America. The continued hollowing out of the middle class is dangerous to Democracy. It is ultimately dangerous to the very people who are carrying it out. I am not saying this as a dyed-in-the-wool, peace-love-and-granola, hippy-dippy, commie-pinko, bleeding-heart lefty, but as a student of history. If we continue on the path we are on, revolution is inevitable. I’m not talking in the hackneyed sense that the yammering elites of the media class are want to talk, not one bit. I am talking in the historical sense, in the sense of the French or Mexican Revolutions, where lots of people ended up seriously and prematurely dead. In a nation where there is one gun for almost every person, the violence, if it gets to that point, will be stupefying.
It won’t be the mythical class war that right-wing pundits love to yammer about, but the real deal--which is a much uglier thing. The rural, right-wing, racist yahoos that run the Republican Party these days may be all for this, theoretically. They might be all gung-ho for the big get even, for the all-out race war of their fantasy; right up to the point where the reality of the situation comes right up to their faces, and literally guts them. As they slowly bleed out, they might reconsider what a bad idea this was; but maybe not. The unbearable pain of evisceration does have a tendency to block out all other thoughts that are not connected to central theme of ,“Sweet Jesus, stop the pain!”
Unlike the right wingers, I am not willing for the nation to devolve into the dystopia of out-right class war. I have read enough history to know that revolution is never what you think it will be. Revolutions, by their nature, are chaotic. The losses that flow from revolutions never justify the gains. Real revolution, is horror, and pain, and dislocation, and utter madness. Only fools and ideologues ( which is pretty much the same thing) root for violent revolution.
Unfortunately we seem to be chock-a-block with willing fools these days. Far too many are far too willing to indulge in tribalism, to my way or the highway, to eliminationism, to bigotry, to homophobia, to immigrant bashing, to misogyny, to all types of petty hatreds.
For them, the unity John Edwards proposed is blasphemy. For them, there is only Social Darwinism. For them, there are only winners and losers. For them, it is winner take all, and screw everyone else, especially if the else is not a white male. In there love of the mythical John Galt, they have no end of hatred for the real John Edwards. There seems to be no shortage of little men and little women who are willing accomplices in the plutocrats grand design to turn 99% of the population into destitute surfs. Economic slavery is ok by these minions, as long as they get to be overseers on the plantation.
I have no idea how the politics of fear, division and corruption will rule this nation. I have no idea how long the populace will continue to trade illusionary security for real freedom. I don't even know if Johnny Reid Edwards would have even attempted to change this process once he gained the White House. Before he became a populist, Edwards was a very solid DLC donkey of the South.
It was this supposed Southern Connection that was to be Edwards strength. Mudcat Sanders was more than willing to blather on to anyone who showed any interest how Edwards was the man to bring back the Bubba vote. I never had much faith in that narrative. My biased guess is that Dixie will not come back into play for the Donkeys until present demographic changes further play out.
Edwards supposed strength may never had existed in the first place. Far too many of the people, especially in the South, were far too willing to buy into the meme of Edwards being a sissy "Breck Girl" and ignore his economic message. They appeared to more than willing to go whole hog for the big fat lie of the $400.00 haircut.
The real problem here is that the politics of personality, the politics of celebrity, has drowned out all other considerations. John Edwards, light-weight, self-indulgent, narcissist that he proved to be, really was a the wrong man to move forward the message of left-progressive economic populism. But then who would be viable candidate? Any man or woman who qualifies to run as a serious candidate for President will always have mountains of baggage that the trolls can rummage through.
And even if there is nothing there, the right will just make crap up. Republicans have perfected the dark art of the bald-face lie. Every Democratic nominee since McGovern has had to deal with utter bunk charges; with deep, dark, obvious lies during their campaign. The election of Barack Obama has only made this awful situation worse. In this regard we are own worst enemy. As long as we treat our electoral process with the same lack of seriousness we treat American Idol, we will continue to have clown-car elections.
The petty politics of personal deconstruction will continue as long as we continue to treat our elections the same way we used to treat runs for high school student council. We have to separate the message from the messenger. We have to treat our elections with the seriousness they deserve.