That was John Edwards's refrain today at a rally for Heath Shuler that he attended in Asheville, NC (NC-11).
While Shuler was supposed to be the main player today (after all he is the one running for office right?), John Edwards stole the show. It was quickly obvious to this veteran from NH primary season that what we were hearing was a very early form of a stump speech from Edwards. But before I get there, let's talk about what Shuler had to say first.
Edwards was supposedly talking about "what is at stake" and therefore why people should vote for Shuler. Surprisingly, for Edwards, he seemed to focus on the image of America overseas. This from the man who seemed to run in 2004 by not talking about International Relations almost at all. Everyone remember "One America?" But today was all about the need for American leadership in the world. However, Edwards was not tying this just to the way that we handle situations overseas, but also, how things are handled here. One of his truly great lines (IMHO) was "Power alone does not make you a leader; you actually have to have the moral authority to lead." He pointed out that "it is not just us. It is not just Western North Carolina, it is not just North Carolina, and it is not just America. The World suffers as a result." In dealing with the need for US leadership in the world Edwards focused on Africa and the poverty, genocide, and AIDS crisis there. While poverty is still big for Edwards, it is not just American poverty anymore, but world wide poverty as well. Edwards then made the BIG claim that "the future of the world is at steak in this election. It is. This one and the next one."
Then Edwards moved into domestic policy. He pointed out that we need to lead by example. He pointed to Abu Ghrab and Gitmo. He pointed to Healthcare, single mothers worrying about healthcare for their children. "If they wake up with a sick 4 year old at three o'clock in the morning, this is what they know: They are going to have to go to the emergency room and beg for Healthcare. We are better than that. America is better than that and you know it." The entirerty of the Edwards domestic policy were things that you would expect from him, but it is know through the lens that we have to clean up our act to gain the moral authority to lead in the world. He also suggested putting all the politicians that vote against a minimum wage increase on minimum wage for a year. After listing a litany of "Bush and gang" domestic policy travesties, come this "How dare these people claim the moral high ground. They give money to Exxon at the same time they are taking away money for healthcare for poor children. It is immoral. We need morality."
I am going to end with Edwards's own words:
I have been all over this country in the last few years, and I am not sure about some things, but there is one thing that I am absolutely sure of: There is a huge hunger in America. A hunger to be inspired again. People want to be inspired. They want to be engaged. They want to feel good about their country. They want to think that they still live in an America where everything is possible. They want to live in an America where the son of a mill worker, remember (crowd laughter), can go on to do great things for their country. They want to live in an America where everyone has a chance to do great things. They want to live in an America where we are once again the envy and model to the rest of the world. They want to live in a country they are proud of. Well I am here to tell you that it is not too much to say that not only the future of America, but the future of the world is at stake, and what I would say to every single one of you in this audience, in the next two plus weeks...when you are asked to do the hard, hard work...just remember every minute you are doing it what is at stake. Because when I talk about what our responsibility is I am not talking about me, I'm talking about us. Because we can not wait for some one else to do this. We can't. There is too much at stake and the time is now and literally the world is depending on you and me.
All in all I was pretty impressed. What really stood out to me at the time was how he framed in the language of values and morality. I am not sure that it came across here, but it was definitely there. After the rally today there is little doubt in my mind that Edwards is very seriously thinking about running again. If he does I will have to think hard about supporting him. Up to know I was keeping myself completely open as to whom I would support, and more than likely work for, in the 08 cycle. What I heard from Edwards today was what I have been asking for in a lot of ways: a leader to stand up and say that the future of the world is really at stake here. Also, I think that Edwards gets it with the fact that people want to be inspired again. That has been my experience in the last few days here on campus as we have really been pushing the envelope with ideas as to what direction the school needs to be moving in. If Edwards can effectively tap into that energy that is out there, and if he will run as what I believe he actually is, a true progressive, I will have no problem trudging through NH up to my butt in snow for him. Jeez, I think I need to find my snow boots.....