Since coming in a surprising second in the
Iowa caucuses, renewed optimism and support have revitalized John
Edwards’s presidential campaign. Although he has a history of
using rhetoric that is often vague, the overall aim of his campaign
— to repair an America symbolically divided in two — is
a message that is long overdue.

Kate Green

Like most of the other Democratic candidates, his economic
package is targeted at alleviating economic inequality. This was
summarized in a Dec. 29 speech when Edwards spoke of “one
America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward
… One America that is struggling to get by, another America
that can buy anything it wants, even a Congress and a
president.”

Edwards’s education reform package is a thoughtful
proposal. His “College for Everyone Plan” outlines a
proposal to pay the first year of tuition at public universities
and community colleges for every qualified candidate who agrees to
work an average of 10 hours per week. Although this plan would not
provide a complete education for its recipients, it allows students
to examine the benefits of higher education before making a
significant financial investment.

His inconsistency, however, is troubling, as he has made
spur-of-the-moment political decisions that in retrospect seem
ill-conceived. On his website, he mentions his strong national
security record in sponsoring and/or supporting several acts aimed
at national defense. He fails to list though, his prominent role in
authoring the USA Patriot Act, the legislation restricting civil
liberties in the wake of Sept. 11.

Furthermore, his refusal to release the list of his major
campaign donors is another cause for concern. Of the notable
candidates for president, he is the only one who has thus far
refused to do so, provoking suspicion as to the identity of those
funding his bid for the presidency.

Meanwhile, Edwards often uses rhetoric that is unclear and
hollow. He takes safe, broad stances that are so uncontroversial
that they lose much of their meaning. For example, he claims to
oppose racial profiling, but offers no concrete plans to eliminate
it. He wants to restore values to all aspects of America —
including the economy — but it is unclear what exactly this
would entail.

Nonetheless, he brings to the table a powerful populist message,
that while not totally unique, is cognizant of the divide in voter
preferences between the North and South. In a primary season in
which many Democratic voters are primarily concerned with
electability, Edwards’s astutely notes that no Democrat has
ever been elected president without the support of at least some of
the South. Edwards’s’ background lends him the credentials
necessary for him to have credibility with voters across the
nation.

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