Edwards’ Edge

For the past month and a half, our nation’s leading Democrats have been playing a game of musical chairs. At the end of February, we have two U.S. Senators named John vying for the one remaining seat, and when the music stops, he who sits in it earns the right to challenge President Bush in November. Aside from sharing a party, a title, and a first name, Senators Edwards and Kerry have very little in common as candidates. Senator Kerry is a New England aristocrat who married into even more money. In sharp contrast, Edwards hails from my home state of North Carolina, and had his humble beginnings as the son of a mill worker. He was also the first in his family to attend college. Whether from poverty or privilege, both men have risen to the United States Senate and now seek the office of the Presidency. From all outward appearances, it seems as though Kerry will cruise on to the Democratic nomination; he has won 15 of 17 primary contests, largely because of his perceived electability. So, we have a situation where our front-runner is winning simply because he appears likely to win. With “Super Tuesday,” the most pivotal of primary dates, fast approaching, the time has come for Democrats to realize that John Edwards is their best chance to retake the White House. In 1998, in the wake of the death of his 16 year-old son Wade, John Edwards abandoned his lucrative law practice and made a bid for his first public office: the U.S. Senate. I witnessed first-hand the filthy smear campaign the Republicans used to try to discredit Edwards. I saw my state’s political pundits predict that Edwards would lose to powerful incumbent Lock Faircloth in a state that is undoubtedly inhospitable to Democrats. The pundits were wrong and the Republicans were unsuccessful. John Edwards took his first political position at age 44. Conversely, John Kerry has dedicated most of his life to politics. He has been elected multiple times by voters in Massachusetts, who are more than friendly to Democratic candidates. Edwards has proven that he can win in a state where Democrats are in the minority, and he has continued to do so this primary season. In states with open primaries, Edwards has won the votes of Independents and self-described moderates by a ratio of three to one over Kerry. Let’s face it, the nation’s bastions of Democratic support, such as California, New York, and the New England states, will vote for whichever candidate the Democrats put forth. If the Democratic Presidential candidate took one Southern state, as Al Gore failed to do and John Edwards could do easily, then it would be enough to tip the scales of the Electoral College in favor of the Democrats. Prior to his entry into public service, John Edwards made a living as a medical malpractice lawyer. Time and time again, he tried cases against large corporations for middle-class families, the same corporations and special interests that have formed the core of John Kerry’s financial backing over the years. Edwards was the first to argue that while Americans invest billions of dollars overseas, many American children still go to sleep hungry. In keeping with his concept of “the politics of promise,” John Edwards has campaigned to unite the “two Americas,” divided my socioeconomic status. His status as a Washington outsider is exemplified by the exuberance and enthusiasm he brings to the campaign trail. This is not a man who is jaded and cynical, but rather someone who truly believes he can change this country. A great deal of fuss has erupted concerning John Edwards’ age. However, although he looks years younger, he is 50 years old. He has only one term in the Senate on his resume, and while that shows he lacks political experience, our current administration is a testament to the fact that experience does not equal success or political prowess. Between Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and George Bush, we have right now the most “experienced” administration in recent memory, and so far that has yet to translate into jobs for Americans or health insurance for our nation’s children. By the power of sheer number of delegates, John Kerry is more likely to be the Democratic nominee than is John Edwards. However, it remains pertinent that we not disregard Edwards. His message is powerful and pervasive, and the Bush Administration appears terrified of the notion of his being nominated. So, if our nation’s Democrats are truly eager to see change in Washington, and in America, they should rethink whether John Kerry is truly the right man for the job.