Thursday, January 3, 2008


Conventional wisdom has made much of how the GOP is divided and unhappy with its slate, and, IMHO, not given enough attention to the similar feelings among Democrats. At first I was more pleased with most of them than not. Now I'm less pleased with all of them but for different reasons. And that's why I've had little to say about this election so far. All I know at this point is that I'll support any Democrat over any Republican. I wish I felt the enthusiasm and hope I did when Bill ran first, but I don't, though I am tending now for John Edwards.

Capitulation to conservatives isn't the way of the future. It's the way of now. No change, no hope. Anyone who trends to the Right or hopes to run the country by reaching out to the GOP is dangerously out of touch with the needs of the country and the world to the extent that the US affects it. On the other hand, the fact of the matter is that corporatists have far too much power--over the media and over the purse--for a true Left Democrat to get in office. Hence the loathesome reality that Democrats run more conservatively even when decades of national polls show strong American support for progressive values on abortion, health care, energy, the environment, and foreign policy.

This is why Edwards is not given more attention by the media and not shown in the Iowa polls as its front-runner. I would bet real money that he represents the policy choices of most Democrats in Iowa, but that they don't believe he can win the White House because of establishment opposition. It would really delight me if he comes out of Iowa in a powerful second slot and charges into New Hampshire in a position to take that state.

I have considerably more trust in Edwards than in Clinton or Obama. Anybody the corporatists hate has to be my kind of guy. Besides, Clinton does not speak with fire about her core positions. As a result, I don't know where she stands. And to my great dismay, Obama has begun the fight with signals of concession to the GOP, and that's not where I mean to be, for all the reasons noted in "Obama? What's At Stake in Making Nice." He may play well in Midwestern Niceland, but excuuuuuuuuse me, hasn't he noticed the relentless assault from the Right on everything the Constitution and Bill of Rights stand for?

Edwards, on the other hand, has a big house, a $400 haircut, and a career as a trial lawyer. The house and the haircut make me sick. New rich, bad form, not my style at all. And the Right has made good use of this to raise questions about his core values.

But remember: A trial lawyer is a pit bull who has kicked corporate butts for 30years and made a profit winning at it. That's not a bad thing.

I want a person in the White House who knows what Appalachia means, and why unions are essential to the future of middle America, and why the much-abused white southern blue collar family is a valued part of the sadly neglected heart of America.

If I had it to do again, as a Lefty activist/theorist, I'd do two things differently. I would give as much effort to ensuring the job security and dignity of working people as to ensuring the civil rights of minorities and women, and I would focus on buying up as much media as possible. That last is another subject. As to the first, the interests of poor white people are identical to those of poor black and brown people. The mistake we made was ever allowing the Right to see daylight between the emphasis we gave them. So hear me clearly. I'm not saying that we should have, or must now, advance the interests of working poor whites over those of African Americans, Hispanics, women and others.

I'm saying that when the tide rises for working people, it rises for us all.

I'm not underestimating the challenges we all faced in the South and elsewhere fighting for civil rights, don't think we're done by a long shot, and would be a fool to suggest that white working poor people were on board as one. The racist division was real. Where we dropped the ball, however, was in allowing the Right to shut out unions, outsource jobs, and thus leverage race as a huge wedge in the way it has.

But I digress. Edwards understands that we have two choices. Either the Left can continue to treat working white people with the contempt embodied in words like "trailer trash" and "red neck" and wonder why they're getting redder and meaner by the year, or we can treat them with real respect when possible and with anticipatory respect when necessary, and lift them up as we continue to lift up African Americans, gays and lesbians, Hispanics, and women. It begins with ensuring the jobs, defending and growing the economy, protecting the environment--acid rain and strip mining aren't funny--and making damn sure that the working people receive their fair share of the profit. And it begins with a change of tone, with regard and consideration for the conditions of their lives. And it continues with education and with demonstrating the lies embedded in the Far Right's divide-and-conquer strategies.

Easy? Nope. But it beats the alternative so lavishly laid before us by the Right.

I could change my mind, but Edwards career, tenacity, and personal experience of deep wounds to the heart speak to me more persuasively at this time than anything else I've seen out there.