I’ve been on an electoral
rollercoaster lately. I abandoned the Howard Dean train after a
disappointing loss in Iowa. I’ve also been impressed with
Gen. Wesley Clark’s intellect and unassailable patriotism,
but without the political machinery he’s useless. And while I
like the idealistic platform of Dennis Kucinich, let’s get
real.

Mira Levitan

This columnist is making a political endorsement. In the
Michigan Democratic caucuses, I will vote for John Edwards.

Kate O’Beirne of the National Review recently opined,
“Edwards has adopted the portrait of widespread, dire poverty
famously depicted in Michael Harrington’s ‘The Other
America,’ without checking its publication date … Over
40 years, and hundreds of billions in welfare spending later,
Harrington’s, and now Edwards’s, ‘Other
America’ doesn’t exist.”

Oh really, O’Beirne? Perhaps you need to do some fact
checking. Forty-five million Americans are without health care
coverage. Social programs are being closed and unemployment is
still a plague. Business Week, hardly known for its liberal bias,
commented last month that we’re currently seeing “an
erosion of one of America’s most cherished values: giving its
people the ability to move up the economic ladder over their
lifetimes … The best economy in 30 years did little to get
America’s vaunted upward mobility back on track.”

O’Beirne is right about one thing. The government has
spent billions in welfare over the past 40 years. The government
has given away tax incentive after tax incentive to suburban
developers and corporations, keeping them on the teat of the
American people while the industrial, urban poor and working class
were completely forgotten. Where she goes wrong is when she says
that the “Other America” doesn’t exist — it
has merely been sidelined by the government. So to the
establishment and the mainstream media, this “Other
America” is perceived not to exist.

Edwards is the only candidate adequately focusing on this
growing gap between rich and poor America. He is also the only
candidate with a realistic chance of success who has actually lived
through the American nightmare of working-class isolation.

Other candidates are trying to go after Bush on Iraq. I say
focus on the economy; Iraq will crush Bush from within. It’s
one thing for anti-war protesters to say that the weapons of mass
destruction don’t exist, but now a former weapons inspector
and Secretary of State Colin Powell have publicly cast their
doubts. Iraqi elections are going sour and the Shiites are getting
restless. Bush will screw this up himself.

I also like Edwards because he revealed that his favorite album
of all time is “The Essential Bruce Springsteen.” This
may sound like petty cultural favoritism (Clark is automatically
out of the running after announcing his affinity for Journey.
Bleugh!), but this yields important insight into Edwards’
understanding of the American economic landscape.

The Federal Government has been subsidizing middle- and
upper-middle class development in the Sunbelt suburban wastelands
of Arizona, Nevada and Southern California for decades turning a
blind eye to the Rustbelt, working-class cities of Detroit and
Cleveland. Springsteen used this tragedy as the inspiration for his
art. Edwards was “born in the U.S.A,” in
America’s forgotten working class, as Springsteen famously
mused.

Edwards has several traits that logistically make him the best
choice for the Democrats. Many analysts have asserted that in
today’s political landscape, a candidate needs to appeal to
southern voters if he or she wants to come out on top in the
Electoral College. Edwards could not only win his home state of
North Carolina, but he could appeal to voters in poorer southern
states like Kentucky and West Virginia. If the Democrats run an
establishment Yank like Dean or Kerry, they can kiss the South, and
the election, good-bye.

Also, it is clear that Edwards has a good shot of winning
midwestern blue-collar states like Michigan and Wisconsin if he
continues to play the class card. That, plus key Southern states,
plus coastal “blue” states equals a Democratic victory.
No other candidate has the credentials to replicate this
formula.

Unlike Dean or Kerry (or Bush for that matter), Edwards has
actually lived the Horatio Alger tale of pulling himself up by the
boot straps. America needs an American president, not some
artificial production of the establishment elite. Working America
needs a candidate who understands class issues, but has the talent
and charisma to win enough electoral votes. America needs John
Edwards.

Paul can be reached at
“mailto:aspaul@umich.edu”>aspaul@umich.edu.

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