Benny's World

Monday, February 04, 2008

John Edwards and the Big Yellow Taxi

Gelbin has penned an excellent diary at the Daily Kos, using the theme of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi, as to why s/he still intends to vote for John Edwards in the primary. The analysis is excellent, and supports why I intend to vote for JRE tomorrow. I have obtained permission to reprint its entirety here.

Sounds like s/he is a lot like many of us: a John Edwards Democrat.

Hello again,

Many of you have been asking me what my plans were now that John Edwards has "suspended" his bid for the presidency. Lucky for you all, I have been pretty busy over the last few days and so you didn't get a rash answer filled with tearful expletives. However, I am sure that this still won't be a straight answer...Once again, this is in the vein of a true diary, somewhat stream of consciousness, but thought out over the last few days.

The cliff notes: Edwards was right, and still is right. My second and third choices are a distant second and I don't feel worthy of a vote in either of their favor. So I am going to vote my conscience, and oppose the media and money domination of politics. I will vote for John Edwards. My analysis follows...

For those wondering how I got there, I tried to distill my thoughts below. There is a lot more that could be said about each of the candidates and more support for each of my thoughts, but I tried to provide only the necessary support for where I ended up.

My Initial Thoughts...

Well, lucky for me I was literally knee-deep in swamp muck when John took the mic in New Orleans to announce that his campaign was suspended and so I did not hear the initial coverage. But my first thought was, "wow, John is getting more media coverage on the day that he quit his campaign than in the 10 months that he campaigned." That thought quickly became a reality. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but certainly only slight. The fact is that the media has avoided covering John, or perhaps, assuming there is no conspiracy, has simply irresponsibly chosen to selectively cover the other two candidates. I have had friends that literally did not realize John was still running up until the day he quit. However, I have no doubt that by now they know that he has dropped out.

In the ensuing coverage, there were a few more things that I found very revealing. First, in covering John's departure, many in the media, including NPR, initiated discussion of the Democratic race by stating, "now that it is down to a two person race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton..." Wait, what? The media has been saying it was down to a two person race between these two since the Iowa caucuses. How disingenuous is that? Now they are right, it is a two person race. But geez, at least recognize that in part it is a two person race because in fact, you willed it to be so and were covering it as such for the last month!

In addition, I found some of the coverage of the recent debate to be pretty hilarious. I heard a review of the debate on NPR and the commenter was discussing the celebrity audience that was in the studio for the debate but went on to say, "but the two biggest celebrities were up on stage..." Ok. John did not get much media attention and the attention that he did get was full of statements like, "John Edwards, who likes to refer to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as 'celebrity candidates'...." Funny. It was basically an insult to John, something like a Badge of the Incessant Whiner, when it was John that was answering questions in the press as to why he was not doing as well as he had hoped. But now, by gosh, it is the same press that finally can admit the two people it has been choosing to cover all along, two celebrity candidates. Woo hoo. It is finally not offensive or irresponsible to talk about their celebrity status because it is not going to offend the white male in the room who happens to have a fraction of the money.

We Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot

Not sure how many know the song, but it has been in my head recently and therefore I feel it must have some relevance. In any case, I feel that as a nation, we missed a huge opportunity to bring about some radical change in our government and truly restore a sense of decency, responsibility, and virtue by giving a voice back to the American people. We are at a historic moment, perhaps an all-time low in our nation's history where people are so unhappy with our current government that we are open to new ideas and serious change. I think that in all but a very modest sense, we passed up that opportunity by failing to see what John had to offer and failing to insist that the press give him the coverage that we deserved.

Though my emails, discussions, and the videos I have tried to show how remarkable a candidate John actually is. John gave at least one more distinction to add to the list when he gave his final speech from New Orleans on Wednesday, he stopped his campaign bus under a bridge to talk to the number of homeless people there aching for their voices to be heard. As my friend said in the car when we heard this, "what presidential candidate does that?" Answer: none that are left. And on that note, after he gave his speech, he went to work on a Habitat for Humanity house. Leading by example...something truly fresh in politics.

John was not just an idealistic populist, he was also the leading Democratic candidate on the issues. He was the first to detail a universal healthcare plan (later copied by Hillary), the first to take on global warming with specific plans and policies, and took the most aggressive stance on getting our troops home from Iraq. Don't take my word for it though, Paul Krugman had a great column in Friday's New York Times looking at John's impact on the Democratic race.

We Eat our Own

I am not surprised that Hillary and Barack did not make efforts to show us what a great candidate John was. And I am not surprised that the Republicans or the corporate media did little to show us John's potential. But what does upset me is that the progressive and people's movement failed to point out the significant opportunity that John presented and, in doing so, failed itself and the American people. This includes progressive politicians (and ex politicians), including Al Gore, labor groups, religious leaders, and environmental groups. In fact, with few exceptions, most of these people and organizations stood silent as we watched the somewhat inevitable decline of the Edwards' campaign due to scant media coverage and self-fulfilling predictions leading to a feedback loop of dwindling support.

To illustrate, I offer two examples from contrasting corners of the progressive movement. The first, and perhaps the most frustrating, is Jim Wallis, evangelical minister and author of God's Politics and several other books on the christian social movement. Jim's frequent theme is that our politicians, despite invoking religion when it was politically suited, have done little to actually address the moral issues of our time, most importantly the problem of poverty. Along these lines, Jim sent out an email to his mailing list just last week chiding the Democratic candidates for not discussing the important issue of poverty, ending the war in Iraq, healthcare, and global warming. He could not have intentionally picked issues more closely tied with the core of the Edwards campaign. Not only was his statement completely false, but in my view it smacks of that commandment we were given not to bear false witness against our neighbor. The fallacy of his statement is clear even if you pay just a few minutes to what John has been saying. While it may be true that if John was not included in the dialogue the two front-runners, content to throw jabs at each other for various political and character flaws, John was there to draw the discussion back to the issues. More often than not John brought the audience back to poverty, healthcare, the working poor, or global warming. What makes this so infuriating is that Jim has to be aware of the fallacy of his statement as he is extremely politically engaged and leaves me wondering whether he either was playing for another favorite or simply wants to sell more books (that point out that politicians don't do what he is saying they don't do, that John actually was doing).

The second example comes more from the mainstream "left," that is, Moveon had taken continuing polls and regularly showed that Edwards had the majority of support with moveon's members. However, like a good coward, moveon failed to take any position on John's candidacy until the day after John dropped out. Now that it was down to the two "change" candidates (gender change and race change), moveon initiated its final poll to determine who to throw their weight behind. How convenient.

Now, perhaps I am being far too cynical about moveon's motives, but the primary criticism that I have for moveon is not that they did not endorse the Edwards campaign, especially since moveon did have many members backing both Obama and Clinton. My criticism is that moveon failed by not taking on the mainstream media for their inadequate coverage of John's campaign and never raising their voice about the failure of our democratic system when the outcome of an election is so directly tied to big money. Where was their progressive voice for the last few months?

In contrast, there was one voice that did break the silence about John's campaign, and that was Ralph Nader. Once again, Ralph Nader spoke up for an American populace that is too busy watching reality TV to engage in the reality of the upcoming election.

Considering the Options

It appears that perhaps at least a slight majority of Edwards' supporters will be supporting Obama through the remaining primary season. This is perhaps expected as John and Barack were somewhat aligned early based on a platform of change in contrast to Hillary's long career in and around politics that more easily dubs her the status quo. For me, however, there are several reasons why I can't just simply move on to this convenient second choice. First of all, I have developed a fairly strong distrust of Obama. I see him as a personally ambitious politician that has cut the corners of truth if not directly lied to the voting public. He has downplayed his ties with the Chicago slum lord as well as lobbyists in both the state and federal governments. He called on John and Hillary to end their support from 527 groups (like swift boat, moveon, etc) in Iowa only to benefit from their unlimited money later in the primaries. The smug hypocrisy sickens me in a way that goes beyond typical politician pandering.

Then there is the question of issues. Obama launched his campaign with little or no direction on the issues. It seems that his plan from the start was to capitalize on his BArock star status to create a campaign of quantity but little quality. Yes, he inspires people to be involved with the idea of the "new American majority" whatever that is. But at this historic point in our political history, is "bipartisanship" what we really need? Isn't it bipartisanship that got us into Iraq? Rather than returning like the battered spouse to the painful bedroom, why aren't Democrats using the failures of the current administration to illustrate the reality that the Republican party simply does not represent the majority of Americans? Whether it is standing stubbornly committed to a war based on lies and misinformation or preserving Exxon Mobil's record profits while the majority of Americans suffer due to the high price of gas and heating oil, the Republican values simply are not shared by most Americans. With a Republican party so completely out of touch, the Democrats should not be talking about compromise but should be charting the new course, dictating that the government be responsive to the people. Instead, the language of the Obama Democrats sounds like we should be begging for mercy in hopes that they let us in on their game.

(More about the Obama's New American Majority: Obama has been campaigning on the claim that Hillary's voters will vote for him but that his voters will not vote for her. Does not compute. Or wait, I see. More scary stuff from Barack. What he seems to be saying is that he can inspire people to come out and vote for him, but not for anyone else. Huh. So for Barack, the election is not about the Democratic party, which I agree for the most part, but he is also saying that it is not even about the issues. It is not even about ending the Iraq war. It is not about making access to healthcare for all Americans a priority. Clearly issues that are a priority for Hillary and not for John McCain (or Mitt Robtney or....). It is becoming more and more clear, these are the politics of an overly self ambitious guy where the election is much more about HIM than it is about the party, the issues, or even the American people. Certainly there is far less difference between Hillary and Obama than McCain and Obama. But Barack does not seem to care. His statements make it clear that he is not attempting to pull people in to the Democratic party, or even to the important issues of this election season where the Democrats have the strongest and most popular positions, he just wants to pull them in to him and his celebrity. Self serving. Immature. Even divisive, perhaps? (what happened to unity, Mr. O.?) At the very least, simply unable to see the great opportunity that the Democrats have in this election and to capitalize on it. I have to say, this idea of the New American Majority is starting to really sicken me, as is the idea of an Obama in the white house.)

Then there are the negatives on substance. I still have not been able to determine how either Obama or Clinton can be both against Yucca Mountain yet be in favor of permitting and building new nuclear plants. But so it goes, Obama continues to support new nuclear plants as an environmental solution (as does Clinton). This is not only an ineffective solution to global warming, but is also terrible environmental and public health policy. Edwards was clear when he took his position against nuclear power. The same can be said for so-called clean coal. First, there is no such thing as "clean" coal. Remember, both coal and nuclear power require mining, not only energy intensive operations, but also ones that leave behind a path of environmental devastation. The error of Obama's support for clean coal, which was no doubt driven by the fact that the first coal plant with CO2 sequestering was to be built in his home state, has been made unquestionably clear in the last few days when the Department of Energy publicly changed its support for the idea based on increasing costs and unrealistic projections. Despite heavy subsidies from the government, this technology is simply not cost effective or realistic. Obama's positions on both coal and nuclear power seem to be directly driven by political donations and support rather than environmental or energy policy. There is also the weakness of Obama's healthcare plan, one that does not cover everyone and one that, according to Krugman, is not likely to happen at all. Krugman gives the upper hand to Clinton's plan, which if we remember was nearly a carbon copy of Edwards' plan announced before Hillary's. And then, of course, there is the Rezco dealing, which cannot be adequately addressed here, but the Chicago Tribune has done extensive reporting on all of which indicates that this was not simply a case where five hours of work were done for this client...

Hilary suffers from many of the same criticisms, some to a much greater degree. She leads the candidates, for both Democrats and Republicans, for money taken from the Washington inside, lobbyists, and PACs. Then there is the issue of Bill's shady fundraising and what "return" donors to his foundation will be looking for with a Clinton presidency. On the issues, perhaps the most frightening aspects of Hilary's recent political career is her stubborn refusal to acknowledge that her support for the Iraq war authority was a mistake. This combined with her recent vote to recognize the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a "terrorist group," which sounds eerily familiar to the rhetoric that led up to the invasion of Iraq, make many, including myself, fear that Hillary lacks appropriate restraint when beating the war drum. Interestingly, in confirming Hillary's vote on the Iranian Guard issue, I noticed that again Obama was simply not there to vote on this resolution. Providing yet another act of political cowardice on the part of the leader of the New American Majority. At least Hillary had the guts to pull the lever, right or wrong. Overall however, there are simply way too many things that scare me about HIllary, the PACs, the lobbyists (who she boldly stated "represent the American people" - how counterfactual can you get), the defense contractor fundraising parties, the war drum that she is too wiling to bang for my personal comfort, in addition to the personal distaste for a 2 family dynasty in American politics and the divisive nature that Hillary brings as a political candidate in the general election.

A Crazy Idea, Why not Vote Republican?

I am amazed that I will even write a paragraph about this idea, but from what I have heard, I needed to look at this briefly before deciding what I would do. Looking at McCain, sure he does say one or two things that make you like the guy. I mean, he did call pharmaceutical companies "evil" and has no hesitation, unlike the majority of his Republican compatriots, calling waterboarding torture. Those two things, and his campaign finance reform may make your finger hover over his name on the touch screen for just a second. I urge you not to give in to that mirage of level-headedness. A "moderate" Republican is still a Republican. That means, in general, they will still come down on the side of big business, they will still come down against the environment, they will still come down against civil liberties, and the list goes on. Beyond the person in office, the party in control will give power to political appointees at agencies like the FDA and EPA and they will also have the opportunity to appoint federal judges, including potentially new judges on the Supreme Court. Voting for a Republican, even a McCain, is not a sound option. And let's not forget that John McCain expects us to be in Iraq for the next century!

And Romney, well, given that he is little more than a corporation wrapped in white skin, I don't feel a need to address him.


I don't trust Obama. Hillary sat on the board of Walmart, the retail definition of "the man," and remained silent during the board's discussion of its anti-union efforts. Both of them have taken way too much money from the washington inside for me to be comfortable that they will execute US policy objectively. Both of them ran campaigns with little substance whatsoever, injecting it as needed to fend off John Edwards' and the much too forgiving press. Where Hillary scares me because of her deep ties to entrenched Washington special interests, Obama scares me with his lack of substance, his anesthetic rhetoric, his ability to lie and to mislead, and his tendency to color his presentation to the audience of the day. I still don' t know who Barack "Change & Hope" Obama is (and that superbowl commercial did less to inform than to reinforce) and I still don't know who has bought and paid for Hillary Clinton.

That gets me to where I am now. I refuse to waste my vote on a candidate that had to be shamed into taking positions on the issues or proposing policy, even on the most fundamental issues facing the nation today, healthcare and global warming among others. I refuse to let the media dictate who will be our next President. I refuse to let special interest money and money from America's most wealthy dictate who will be our next president when poverty and the working poor continue to struggle. I refuse to let celebrity dominate our discussion instead of issues. I want my vote to be against all of these things.

So, I am voting for Edwards. He is the only candidate I am comfortable voting for, and a vote for Edwards also is against all of those things that I oppose. John Edwards has not withdrawn from the Democratic primary, but merely suspended his campaign. So for now, he should be keeping his delegates and our voices still should be heard. In fact, the Edwards' campaign had at one point asked that John be removed from some state's (I forget which) ballot, but since asked to have it reinstated. In the early throes of the Democratic primary, John Edwards emerged as the prophet Jeremiah, bringing the important message and issues to the forefront. I can't give anyone else the credit that he and his campaign, and only he and his campaign, deserve. Anything else would be throwing my vote away.

I would urge you all to consider doing the same - vote your conscience. If not Edwards, consider voting for some other third party candidate. Maybe one day mainstream politics will grow to reflect real people and real issues. For now, all we can do is vote.


Well said, Gelbin. I think there is going to be a lot of voters' remorse.

Here's the song, as sung by Joni Mitchell. I think the song was written by Bob Dylan.

For those who prefer the Counting Crows version, which is pretty good too, here's their version.

Labels: , , , , , ,


  • This piece is outstanding. It captures the unconscionable conduct of the media/press toward John, identifies his wonderful platforms and mission, and compellingly demonstrates by his own example, his compassion and decency toward all humankind.

    We, too, will vote for John tomorrow, here in Minneapolis. We were active volunteers and participants at his last rally in MN. Having experienced John firsthand, he is the only choice for us.

    We believe "suspended" is not synonymous with "ended."

    John speaks for the voiceless. We speak for John. Every voice and vote matter.

    This country needs a leader like John Edwards, but from assessing what has taken place during his candidacy, in its non-appreciation, perhaps it does not deserve him.

    Thank you for what you wrote. It does not go unnoticed.

    By Blogger UnconditionalPeace, at 1:34 PM  

  • Thanks, the diarist at Daily Kos deserves the credit, but I thought it was worth reposting here.

    By Blogger benny06, at 3:14 PM  

  • I already voted for the guy. Even though some people tell me I wasted my vote, I actually feel good about it.

    By Blogger Chancelucky, at 3:44 PM  

  • CL, I have unconfirmed reports that JRE is getting more than 20% of the votes in many districts. That means he's likely to continue to collect delegates and his voice for all of us heard in Denver. Your vote was definitely not wasted!

    By Blogger benny06, at 3:52 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home