I've been conflicted throughout this race. Is my best choice in 08 really the archetype white male? Maybe I've not really as progressive as I think...why am I not finding my political support resting with the candidate that has breasts or darker skin. Why am I picking the good looking, white, neatly coiffed white man? Am I really more moderate than I think of myself? Do I have one foot dipped in the good ole boys network? No. I support Edwards because (despite his feelings toward the death penalty) he was the first mainstream candidate to articulate an agenda that resembles my hopes for the United States.
I always encourage my Women's Studies students to "write an imaginary thank you note" to the author we covered in class on any given day. I'll say "if you had to write Betty Friedan a thank you note, what would you say?" Inevitably, they list off the ideas in one's work that resonated most with them.
So, here, is my thank you note to John Edwards....
Thank you for:
* Proposing an economic stimulus plan (that included unemployed workers) long before there was a consensus on just how bad the economy is.
* Calling for a public investment in alternative energy and promoting a cap and trade system.
* Joining people on the margins to fight against poverty. This means you took seriously the need for a higher minimum wage, to reform the lending system and pursue economic justice. You were the only candidate to consistently talk about poverty and government's responsibility in eliminating it.
* Being honest about how these difficult changes were going to happen. You admitted that someone had to pay for them. You showed knowledge and hope--a powerful combination.
* Scaring the business lobby throughout the race.
* Asking Americans to sacrifice for something other than the war on terror. We can't just make sacrifices for "war," instead (you reminded us) we need to sacrifice to get our emissions under control and our poverty rates in check.
* Being the first to advocate a bold universal health plan. You set the tone and the agenda in the race regarding health care.
* Remembering that college should be affordable and making a commitment to education at all levels.
* Talking about women.
* Marrying Elizabeth Edwards and bringing her into the national discussion.
* Being honest about where you stand on gay marriage. Even though I don't agree, I found it promising that you were willing to continue thinking about the issue. That you were willing to admit that you "didn't know." I don't see that as a flip flop, I see that as a thinker who is willing to keep progressing.
I don't agree with every position Edwards' has ever taken. But I agree with much of what he stands for today. I think he ran a great campaign and I'm sad to see him leave the race. He talked about important issues on the campaign trail and in the debates.
So where do I go from here? The big question is what happens to the Edwards' supporters. I'm not sure. I don't know who I'll support in Georgia's primary next week. If Edwards' name is still on the ballot, I'll vote for him. There is a lot going on between the Obama and Clinton camps that I don't like. I've been disappointed by the negativity and the games. I'm disappointed when Obama doesn't take questions from the audience during his stops and I'm disappointed when Clinton makes all her answers into negative attacks. I'm disappointed when Obama mis- characterizes attacks on his voting record as personal attacks and I'm disappointed when Clinton spends all her time touting her past and not looking ahead to the future. I'm disappointed by the lack of attention to poverty. I'm disappointed in the disputes over mindless issues. I'm disappointed in Bill. And I'm disappointed in the Obama supporters who play cut throat politics at the expense of the party. But I hope that it will turn around. I believe that both Clinton and Obama value the party more than their ego. They value the voter more than the Washington insiders. They just need to prove it. I'll be waiting to see who gets there first. Who evolves? Who will be the person that remembers what and who needs fighting for.