The most un-talked about story in the primary, with all of the attention paid to the horse race and crossfire between Obama and Hillary is the narrative of John Edwards dying on the vine.
Edwards run in 2008 began on the day he agreed to be John Kerry’s running mate in 2004. Edwards was the late anti-Kerry in 2004, which is when he began to attract more progressive voters, most of whom had supported Howard Dean.
After the 2004 election, Edwards showed up in Iowa, practically before Bush was re-inaugurated. If I’m not mistaken, he announced his candidacy very early on, and took his “two Americas” theme to its logical progressive conclusion.
The problem is, Edwards served only one term in the Senate, and has done nothing but campaign since 2003 (and wind up his Senate tenure). And he did not show himself to be a hard-attacking running mate, something that I believe Kerryites have not forgiven him for.
But in this primary season, where the last minute rushes of support have been critical, I am still without an explanation for why Edwards, who finally began to crystallize support on the eve of Iowa (and who finished a close third) has simply fallen apart since.
Sure, the media hasn’t paid much attention–but that’s what happens when you finish a distant third in New Hampshire, and finish with a 4% showing in Nevada. Markos Moulitsas has pointed out that Edwards fatal mistake may have been to take public financing–but his rhetoric almost forces him to.
But why did he do so poorly in New Hampshire? I doubt it’s because the populist rhetoric doesn’t sell there. Can he just not compete on star power with Obama and Clinton? And the 4% showing in Nevada? That can’t be the culinary workers. They stabbed Edwards in the back because he has been the only candidate to be so profoundly pro labor, and endorsed Obama, only to see many of their members vote for Hillary.
Is it because he’s unexperienced? No, he has more experience than Obama, at least at the federal level, plus he’s run a national campaign before. Is it because he’s a white man in an identity politics orgy? I don’t think so.
I think it’s because Edwards, like Kerry, still bears the stigma of a loser. Everybody knows we should have won in 2004, and Edwards’s failure to do anything about it is probably why, even when we cheer what he has to say, we don’t want him to be the messenger.
Edwards probably also won’t be chosen as VP again–so what realistically can he do with his delegates? Release them? Endorse Obama, which realistically could create a brokered convention?
The first thing Obama did that really turned me off to him, fatally, it turns out, was to attack Paul Krugman. Since then, he’s started down the road of selling out the progressive base by appearing with homophobic preachers, raising Social Security “problems” that don’t exist, saying not so nice things about labor, and, just to prove that he truly does accept the Beltway narrative, he has now praised Ronald Reagan (and in the same breath dissed Bill Clinton, of course).
His campaign relies on the “electability” argument, which never fails to produce the least electable candidates (Dukakis, Mondale, Kerry, or, if you like your men in the bathroom stall, Bob Dole) and the belief, relying on the present state of things, that the right wing hates Hillary so much that they will come out to vote against her.
Well, I don’t deny the latter, but I’m quite sure that by the time they are finished with Obama plenty of people will turn out later to vote against him.
The Obamaites are fervent, to be sure. They act as if people who support Hillary are selling out, and their man is the true progressive. I guess they trust him. I have no reason to. Hillary is a known quantity, and, amounts to essentially the third term of the best Republican ass-kicking politician in my lifetime, who managed to govern effectively with a Congress that impeached him.
I would have voted for Edwards if he was viable, all of that notwithstanding, because he gave me a reason to. Obama hasn’t.
UPDATE: Apparenlty, I’m not alone. Liberals have been breaking hard for Clinton, and MyDD suggests that the Reagan comments cost Obama Nevada.