Since returning from work today my inbox has been flooded with people either venting about Edwards dropping out, praising his campaign or wondering what if anything I have to say. Viscerally, I’m despondent about his leaving. Even if Edwards wasn’t likely to prevail he set the pace on the issues debate. Edwards was far ahead of candidates in both parties on healthcare, poverty, the plight of the working poor, the phony global war on terror and global warming.
John Edwards is a champion of progressive values. Only a progressive mandate can facilitate the massive modernization our infrastructure needs, implement an exponential upgrade of public education to ensure the future, nurture a commitment to research and development for cleaner energy, reorient the economy so it values work over gentrified wealth, empower unions so wage earners will have more leverage, reform a justice system that supports a prison industrial complex by disproportionately incarcerating young black men and challenge America’s empire culture so we’re no longer at odds with the civilized world.
The best response for Edwards supporters like myself is to work for a progressive firewall in congress and statehouses nationwide. Given all the Republican resignations in Washington as well as the changing political landscape in state capitols, this can be achieved. A progressive firewall will hopefully either embolden a President Barack Obama towards greatness or earn respect through leverage with a President Hillary Clinton, to achieve as many objectives as we can.
Should a John McCain become president, it will take a progressive firewall to effectively challenge and obstruct the calamity of American conservatism that he represents and be in a strong position to ascend in 2012. Hardly an ideal scenario and I am certainly not giving up on the White House for Democrats this year. But one thing Democrats have learned the hard way over the years is that we can’t be too dependent on a single personality.
Even so, Obama’s immense potential does penetrate my despondency over Edwards departure. Perhaps he truly can assemble a movement that achieves critical mass and reverses the trajectory of American politics. I want to believe Obama can inspire a transformation from our ethos of greed to a culture of community. I had more faith in the tangible, gritty, populist struggle waged by John Edwards. Yet, if Obama can incorporate Edwards blend of populism with his fighting fire with water persona then he’ll be one of the great ones. With a progressive firewall behind him, hope may not require audacity so much as the will to roll up our sleeves. So as of now Barack Obama is my candidate as the quest for economic and social justice goes forward.