The withdrawal of John Edwards from the contest for the Democratic Presidential nomination on Wednesday has made the race suddenly less interesting. Like many other progressives, I was fascinated by the Edwards candidacy and by its promise to put radical ideas on the national agenda.
It was not that Edwards said all kinds of left-wing things. After all, so did Ralph Nader in 2000, running as the Green Party candidate. What made Edwards so appealing was that he did so from the mainstream. Polls consistently showed that were the Democrats to nominate him, his would be the strongest possible candidacy against McCain and the other Republicans.
In other words, he could have won.
Some might say that it doesn’t really matter — that whoever the Democrats nominate will be just fine and will easily beat the thoroughly-bankrupt Republicans. But that’s not necessarily true. Both Clinton and Obama have some serious vulnerabilities which have become clear even now, very early into the race. And the Republicans look increasingly likely to select a man who looks to be their most appealing candidate, John McCain.
McCain seems honest and supports a number of liberal causes, such as campaign finance reform. He is one of the strongest opponents of the use of torture, having been tortured himself while held in a North Vietnamese prison. But make no mistake about it: McCain will continue Bush’s policies, particularly in Iraq. Alone among the Presidential contenders, he believes the Iraq war was and is a good idea, and should continue.
Democrats are going to have a very hard time of it beating McCain and winning back the White House in November. Their most appealing candidate, the one that Republicans, independents and white male voters in general said they liked the most, was Edwards.
With him out of the race, the pressure on Clinton and Obama to move leftwards is now gone. To the contrary, facing the real possiblity of a Republican victory in November, it’s more likely that we’ll see both of them turn sharply towards the center. Their commitment to ending poverty, made to Edwards in phone conversations earlier this week, isn’t worth the paper it’s not written on.
Edwards probably had his own good reasons for giving up the fight now, and we need to respect that. After all, the man has been working flat out for more than a year. And his wife, Elizabeth, has terminal cancer. In defeat, Edwards remains a noble figure, deserving of our admiration and respect.
But American politics has suddenly become far less interesting, at least for me. For that reason, this will be my last column on the subject for the Morning Star.