30 January 2008: John Edwards is the true blue collar candidate

John Edwards is the true blue-collar candidate

It’s been intriguing to watch the debates in both parties especially of late, not so much for what is being said but for the shows. While the recent Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama dustup has provided entertainment for those who find issues such as war, peace, health care, and jobs trivial, the all-white, all-male Publicans have been content at being cures for insomnia by giving love-tap glances to their buddies’ jaws accompanied with “you big lug, you” grins. Gotta love those frat boys!

There was a particularly telling moment at the Democratic debate in South Carolina with Obama calling attention to the historical proportions of the contest within the Democratic Party. Looking at Clinton, he said, “We have a woman,” then about himself, “an African American,” and finally towards John Edwards, he paused and grinned. He was at a loss for words.

I was waiting for Edwards to say, “What am I, chopped liver?”

Later, Clinton, in an attempt for inclusion, referred to Edwards as a “son of the South.” That’s one appellation I’d prefer not set forth as his “political persona.”

How about the “blue collar” candidate?

After watching the Republican “debate” in Florida, I realized I had never had tasted a dry martini, until then. Other than droning refrains of “Bush is good, Bush is great” from all the candidates except Ron Paul, their exchange was remarkable in that none of them said anything remarkable, despite several of them advocating socialism while pandering to Floridians living in hurricane lane.

They were calling for subsidized homeowners’ insurance coverage for those living in areas of risk. Unsurprisingly, neither moderator, Tim Russert or Brian Williams, picked up on the irony of that, given the contradiction to the Republican mantra about life being full of risks and with all of them being opposed to national health care. Subsidies to Big Insurance, it seems, are right as rain. That gives us into insight as to how their party got its name: You just need to be a Publican over and over.

As for the three Democratic candidates, each has an incredible personal tale to tell. Clinton’s story as a woman and Obama’s story as an African American are poignant. Their struggles to leap the hurdles of sexism and racism in a society very much the realm of rich, white males are heroic, powerful lessons for young Americans, especially females and non-whites.

John Edwards arguably has the toughest road to travel since he looks, well, Republican. His politics, however, are the most non-Republican of the three. Like Joan Fitz-Gerald, one of our candidates for Congress, Edwards’ roots and stock are solidly blue collar, firmly planted in the working class.

“Identity politics” has been part of our culture since the founding. Conservatives have attempted to relegate it to characteristics such as race and gender. But class is and has always been the primary factor in why people vote as they do. While broad-brush generalizations can dilute the actuality of a situation, nevertheless, what has been true historically is becoming evident once again: The Haves will vote Republican, the Have-nots, especially with “Reagan Democrats” returning to their roots, will vote Democratic.

For some, when deciding on a candidate, the emphasis is on where he/she stands on the issues. For others, it comes down to how the individual candidate resonates or with a gut feeling, given your life experiences, hopes, and desires.

The challenge for blue collar voters is to ascertain which of the candidates will stand up most powerfully for them against the ruling corporate and moneyed elite.

I once volunteered to pour wine at a gathering. Preferring beer and an occasional Scotch, I am the last person one should ask about a preference between red and white. So, when asked about which I would recommend, I would reply, “One’s white and the other red.” It was that simple.

That analogy comes to mind when considering the Democratic candidates for president and congress. Being mindful of their positions as well as looking at their roots and life’s works, what comes through is that John Edwards and Joan Fitz-Gerald are the lager candidates, the others white-or-red choices. One might be better warm and the other chilled, but both cost more and not necessarily accompanied with more satisfying results.

Until now, the election has been more a sideshow since we in Colorado could only watch what was transpiring in other states. But now, it’s our turn.

Our caucuses will be held on February 5th. If we are to make democracy the Comeback Kid of 2008, it starts with everyone participating from the get go.

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