Why John Edwards Mattered

Paul Krugman on why John Edwards mattered:

Mr. Edwards, far more than is usual in modern politics, ran a campaign based on ideas. And even as his personal quest for the White House faltered, his ideas triumphed: both candidates left standing are, to a large extent, running on the platform Mr. Edwards built.[…]

If 2008 is different, it will be largely thanks to Mr. Edwards. He made a habit of introducing bold policy proposals — and they were met with such enthusiasm among Democrats that his rivals were more or less forced to follow suit.

It’s hard, in particular, to overstate the importance of the Edwards health care plan, introduced in February.

Before the Edwards plan was unveiled, advocates of universal health care had difficulty getting traction, in part because they were divided over how to get there. Some advocated a single-payer system — a k a Medicare for all — but this was dismissed as politically infeasible. Some advocated reform based on private insurers, but single-payer advocates, aware of the vast inefficiency of the private insurance system, recoiled at the prospect. […]

But the Edwards plan squared the circle, giving people the choice of staying with private insurers, while also giving everyone the option of buying into government-offered, Medicare-type plans — a form of public-private competition that Mr. Edwards made clear might lead to a single-payer system over time. And he also broke the taboo against calling for tax increases to pay for reform.

Now with Edwards out of the game, we have two candidates who have both benefited from Edwards’ ideas.

Obama, Krugman says, “has tried to work some populist themes into his campaign, but he apparently isn’t all that convincing.” Indeed he’s not because as Krugman points out “the working-class voters Mr. Edwards attracted have tended to favor Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama.” Why? Could it be because she’s got a stronger appeal to voters when she tells them, “I am listening.”

I made this argument here a week or so ago, people who are struggling want to hear that someone is listening, they want to know their voices are being heard, and as Hillary Clinton said in the South Carolina debate, “The American people should not have to work so hard to get leaders who will actually help them...

People want solutions, not platitudes and idealistic visions that fall short when it’s time to shine a light on them. When it comes to health care,  John Edwards set the standard, and as Paul Krugman notes, “it remains true that on the key issue of health care, the Clinton plan is more or less identical to the Edwards plan.”

The Obama plan, which doesn’t actually achieve universal coverage, is considerably weaker.

And when it comes time in the general election for the nominee to go up against the Republican nominee, well Krugman nails it:

Personal appeal won’t do the job: history shows that Republicans are very good at demonizing their opponents as individuals. Mrs. Clinton has already received the full treatment, while Mr. Obama hasn’t — yet. But if he gets the nod, watch how quickly conservative pundits who have praised him discover that he has deep character flaws.

The idea that Barack Obama thinks he’s better equipped to take on John McCain in the general election, because he was “right” on Iraq, is sheer hubris. McCain and the GOP will have a hey day with Obama’s “I was right on Iraq” when throw back at him, that he voted to fund the war once he got elected to the Senate.

I got news for Barack Obama, if being right is criteria for being president, we’d be talking right now about a Kerry re-election campaign on this blog, and not parsing out who’s right or wrong on Iraq. The issue now is to get the hell out there and solve a host of others issues here at home. On everyone of those issues, Obama falls short in my book, because he’s stuck on being “right” which is moot at this point.

Bookmark and Share

Bookmark the permalink.