John Edwards: Television Yappers are Nonsense
Most of the questions were the same questions about getting out of Iraq (40-50K troop withdrawl now, and no more combat missions), education (college for everyone, pre-kindergarten, NCLB is a mess as kids don't learn completely from testing all of the time, teachers should have more say), global warming (he's against building new nuclear power plants). I'm familiar with many of his policies. But what got my attention was a woman who wanted to know the reality of cable news and national news reports that the primary election as well as the general election had been decided.
It was very telling as the voter was getting at the problems with the media and other big money behind it, which was the theme of Edwards' One Democracy initiative today. Edwards asked the crowd: is the election decided here in NH already? NO, the crowd yelled. Then Edwards said he knew the voters had not made up their minds in NH, and the same in Iowa, and that "television yappers are nonsense". Let's look at Edwards' One Democracy ideas.
Edwards’ three-legged chair approach calls for strengthening the voice of ordinary citizens through election reform, reforming campaign finance to strengthen small donors, and ending the unique power of lobbyists.
“The American people are sick and tired of business as usual,” said Edwards. “Lobbyists and the special interests they represent are pouring millions of dollars into the system, corrupting our democracy and stopping the change we need dead in its tracks. With all the money flooding into politics, you’d think that instead of holding elections we were auctioning our leaders off to the highest bidders. Our founding fathers intended our government to do the will of the people, but regular people can’t afford a voice in today’s pay-to-play Washington.
“It’s time to put an end to the special deals enjoyed by lobbyists and insiders at the expense of the regular Americans. We must strengthen voting and campaign finance laws and curb the influence of campaign contributions from special interests, so that everyone has a voice in the political process and the people decide who leads this nation.”
That's the official part, but in his speech in Keene, he spoke of the time when Teddy Roosevelt took on the corporations with anti-trust measures, when railroad, oil, and steel magnates tried to monolopize prices. Edwards used a similar parallel in which he had done the same thing by fighting against corporations as a lawyer for people in their hardest times. Then he revealed what he witnessed while in Congress, John Boehner handing out checks on the floor to influence votes, and when Nick Smith was handed $200K to change a vote related to health care. I remember that vote, I thought to myself. It was when they voted for the bad prescription bill that created donut holes for the middle class--and Edwards voted against it.) That game needs to end.
Ending the Unique Power of Lobbyists: Edwards will prohibit all candidates and federal office holders from accepting contributions from lobbyists and will prohibit federal lobbyists from acting as bundlers for federal candidates. He will limit the ability of lobbyists to secure lucrative earmarks by enacting a Constitutional version of the line-item veto, where the president can require an up or down vote on special-interest spending.
Moreover, Edwards said close the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street by reinstating the five-year ban on lobbying by former top government officials and by banning former lobbyists from taking executive branch positions related to their former clients. Bill Clinton enacted this during his term, but rescinded it during the last days of his term. He would sign a statue where this could not be reversed.
In terms of public financing, Edwards had a very good proposal for when he is president.
Few Americans can afford to make $4,600 contributions to gain access to presidential candidates, and the integrity of our campaign financing system depends upon smaller donors continuing to play an important role in the political process. Edwards’ campaign is built upon the support of small donors – in fact, 93 percent of the campaign’s donations come from donors contributing less than $100. As president, Edwards will create a new Grassroots Presidential Financing System to match small donations under $100 by eight to one, making two $100 donations as valuable to a campaign as a single $1,000 donation. He will also reduce the maximum contribution from $2,300 to $1,000 per person, to better reflect the incomes of most Americans. Edwards will create a system of full public financing for Congressional candidates and require corporations to disclose their political activity and spending.
That drew applause too.
The third leg was about strengthening our voices (since he knew what it was like in the last election in the problems with Diebold) and creating citizen congresses. To ensure everyone’s vote is counted, Edwards' administration will
require that all voting machines, including electronic ones, use paper ballots that can be verified by voters, allow Election Day Registration in federal elections, fight voter suppression and intimidation and end the disenfranchisement of former prisoners who have served their time.
That was new to me and the citizens clapped for that too.
In order to increase citizen engagement, Edwards will ask one million citizens to participate in biennial Citizen Congresses – national town hall meetings where regular Americans tackle national issues together, without the filters of interest groups and the media. Similar projects have given citizens a voice in community solutions across the country, including in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in terms of elections, school redistricting etc.
This concept was re-interated this afternoon in a diary at the Daily Kos about the Study Circles Resource Center.
It was very clear that Edwards made points that in order to change the status quo, we have to make bold changes, and he is willing to do it. And we need someone who can carry other Democrats in Red States as much as blue and purple ones to bring about an aggressive progressive agenda. (hint: Edwards leads in most head to head matches, and by better margins)
As one guy said to Edwards on his way out, we need someone to fight for families in Washington. I think Edwards' One Democracy initiative is a big step in the right direction. We cannot trade corporate Republicans for Corporate Democrats.
To read more about Edwards' One Democracy initiative, go here.
I agree with Edwards when he says "Elections Should Not be Auctions." The Keene NH crowd concurred.
Also cross-posted at MyDD