I'm not going to start this out with tears or with false gaiety, but with the same determination I have felt since I made my decision to support John Edwards on that beautiful afternoon last January when he came home to Chapel Hill after announcing his candidacy. I drove from Northern Virginia that day because I wanted to see if my instincts were right, that this was the candidate I would fight to the end for. I met some fantastic people that day, and saw a candidate who was unafraid to speak the truth with a refreshing directness. He could tell us what was wrong at the same time he could tell us what we together could do to make it right.
For the next 12 months, I have stood with John and Elizabeth Edwards. I can't be more proud of a candidate and his family than I have been all year and as I am right now.
So, today, as the Edwards return again to New Orleans, let's look back at the impact the Edwards campaign has had on this race and on many many people along the way.
Washington Post, December 28, 2006:
NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 28 -- Former senator John Edwards of North Carolina launched his second campaign for the White House from this flood-ravaged city Thursday with a call for the United States to reduce its troop presence in Iraq and a plea for citizen action to combat poverty, global warming and America's reliance on foreign oil.
I had heard this was happening, and watched closely to see what he would say -- what his campaign would be about. I knew he'd been to New Orleans with a large group of college students right after the devastation of the natural and man-made disaster we came to know as "Katrina." Now, this is where he planned to launch his campaign. I had high hopes that Edwards would bring the issues I knew he'd been working on since 2004 to the forefront.
from August 25, 2006:
Hurricane Katrina didn't just blow away lives and dreams, it blew away the shroud that was hiding the invisible poor and, for the moment, put home grown poverty in the epicenter of the national consciousness. It was a horrifying wake-up call. How could this happen right here in our own country?
To be sure, this disaster also brought out the best in America. Good neighbors all over the country opened their hearts, their homes and their wallets to people they'd never met. Many gave their precious time to bring comfort and relief to those who suffered in this disaster. I saw it with my own eyes; it was inspirational and my spirits soared when I joined 700 college students who gave up their Spring Break last March to help dozens of families devastated by Katrina clean up their homes in St. Bernard Parish. Individual Americans reached out to help one another. But individuals eventually have to get back to their lives.
Throughout the year, John Edwards has led the field of candidates in both parties with critical thinking about the challenges facing this country and has continuously led the way on stripping away the veneer to the core issues that must be addressed.
"Edwards has elevated the progressivism and seriousness of the Democratic candidates on social policy..." Ezra Klein, The American Prospect blog "Tapped," 8/15/07
Even the international reporters of The Economist took note when they wrote on July 17, 2007:
[Edwards] positioned himself as the voice of his party's left wing. He renounced his support for the Iraq war in 2005 (Mr Obama never supported it, however) and has been a powerful critic since. He has steeped himself in progressive causes, particularly the battle against poverty, founding a centre at the University of North Carolina to study ways to combat deprivation. And he has assiduously built ties with the unions.
For someone like me, a member of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party as Howard Dean so famously said, John Edwards has been a breath of fresh air and a reminder that politics, while never an easy process, can be about what is good and right in America. John Edwards speaks about what we can do together, and has reminded us on many occasions that this campaign isn't about the candidates but about bringing justice to those for whom it is often an after-thought and a voice for those who have been voiceless.
On his historic trip from New Orleans up to Ohio and back to Appalachia, John Edwards retraced the steps of Bobby Kennedy from the last campaign to make poverty a central issue. It was on that trip that he met James Lowe. You've all heard the story by now, that Mr. Lowe was born in the mountains of Appalachia with a cleft palate that wasn't repaired until he was 50 years old because of lack of adequate health care and coverage. Some criticized Edwards for telling Mr. Lowe's story over and over. I always understood why he did: John Edwards was outraged to his very core that in modern America, this man had been denied a life-changing but simple operations for 50 years! I understood because I felt the same way.
To the critics of John Edwards, there is a simple rejoiner: James Lowe was not criticizing John Edwards for telling his story. He was supporting the politician he met and with whom he had a quiet talk, and furthermore James and Cindy Lowe went on the campaign trail with John Edwards to make sure people knew the man behind the story and the man telling the story.
Seeing James Lowe standing with John Edwards in New Hampshire, I was reminded again why I felt and still feel so strongly about John Edwards and about what he was and will continue to try to accomplish.
The last President I felt this much kinship with was Jimmy Carter. Yes, I worked hard to get Bill Clinton elected, twice. Yes, I was very happy to have Clinton in the White House. But as happy as I was, I never felt connected to the Clinton campaigns or the Clinton Administrations. Maybe by then I'd become too jaded, too cynical. I loved the energy of the Clinton years, but hated the rubbish that came with it. In Carter, I always saw a man determined to do good, to hold onto principles whether popular or not, to speak the truth even when we didn't particularly like it. I realized way back then that I was in the minority, just as I've understood this year that many others wanted to hear a rosier picture than the one they perceived from Edwards.
On poverty, Edwards lamented that the economic growth over the last five years has only benefited the richest Americans. In combating poverty, Edwards called for (1) truly universal health care; (2) a higher raise in the minimum wage; (3) an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and removal of its marriage penalty; (4) the strengthening of workers' rights to organize unions in work places; and (5) strong national predatory lending laws. All of these items clearly cost money, and Edwards proposed paying for health care specifically by cutting Bush's tax cuts.
"I can say without equivocation," Carter said, "that no one who is running for president has presented anywhere near as comprehensive and accurate a prediction of what our country ought to do in the field of environmental quality, in the field of healthcare for those who are not presently insured, for those who suffer from poverty and with a special attention to a subject he knows quite well, and that is the rural areas of America."
8/29/2007, at Georgia Southwestern State University, John Edwards and Jimmy Carter
Perhaps no other issue has been as visible during this primary season for the Democrats than health care. Since Hillary Clinton attempted to get approval for universal health care in 1992, this has been a growing and festering sore in American politics to me. I have friends who live in other countries and know people who have moved to the US from places like Canada, the UK, Germany, Japan. For all that is great about America, that people are afraid to go to a doctor because of the cost, that a child died in Washington DC last year because of an abcessed tooth, this is not only embarrassing, it should be a deep and abiding shame for the politicians and corporate executives who have perpetuated a long-broken system.
"And former Senator John Edwards has just set a fine example. At first glance, the Edwards health care plan looks similar to several other proposals out there, ... . But a closer look reveals extra features in the Edwards plan that take it a lot closer to what the
country really needs.
"So this is a smart, serious proposal. It addresses both the problem of the uninsured and the waste and inefficiency of our fragmented insurance system. And every candidate should be pressed to come up with something comparable." "Edwards Gets It Right" by Paul Krugman, 2/9/2007
Obama followed later with a less-than universal health care plan, and Clinton put hers out in bits and pieces during the year. When we had the full Clinton plan before us, hers looked very much like John Edwards's plan from months before.
But while the Edwards and Clinton plans may have had relatively small differences, that to me and to others was not the distinguishing factor:
"The differences between what Clinton proposed and what Edwards proposed are downright miniscule. In fact, the plans are virtually identical. The lack of huge substantive differences in these plans makes it all the more important to figure out which candidates will push their proposals with maximum determination. And, here, Edwards has set a pretty high standard. Not only was he the first major candidate to put forward a serious plan to cover every American; he has also made clear it's his top priority by, among other things, pledging that he would pursue universal coverage even if it meant postponing some progress on deficit-reduction." Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic, 10/8/2007
You know, folks, I could go on and on, on issue after issue, quote after quote. But I promised myself I'd get this diary up by 12:30 pm today. There are going to be other times to look back over more of this year, and other opportunities to raise the issues John Edwards has represented so well. In just about 30 minutes, the campaign that I have devoted so much of my time and attention to will draw to a close. I have met some amazingly wonderful people along the way -- RedJet, TomP, NCDem Amy, David Mizner, TracyJoan, Ellinorianne, Josh (I never get the spelling of the on-line name right!), benny05, jamess and jsamuel, be inspired, cosbo, sarahlane, chaoslillith, grannyhelen, nannyboz, pioneer111, BruceMcF, the list is long and I know I've left people out but only because sometimes, it's hard to keep thinking of people I've come to be so close to and who mean so much to me, and because I promised myself I wouldn't cry today and thinking of all of you and of the lost promise of this campaign today is making me break that promise.
So, I will leave you with the most inspiring message I received this year, from John Edwards:
TOMORROW BEGINS TODAY!