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John Edwards' brand of progressive populism is just what this country needs.

John Edwards and the Future of Our Country

In the beginning it was Hillary. Well over a year ago, the mainstream media led by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews began to talk the talk, beat the drum; chant the chant. “She’s the one to beat.” “Can anyone possibly beat Hillary?” ran promo after promo. Why not just skip the primaries altogether and just anoint her nominee?

Personally, every time Matthews or another pundit played that card, I simply didn’t understand it. Yes, Hillary certainly had the highest name recognition, having served as a very vocal, intelligent and powerful first lady. She is popular as a Senator in her adopted state of New York and is generally  an effective representative of her state.

In my opinion, the media were gearing up for a New York Senate race rematch between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Giuliani. It would make, admittedly, for lots of fun — for media talking heads, that is.  So who could blame them?  And an awful lot of the hype about Hillary coming from the mainstream media I do believe originated in that desire. But really, what has she done to warrant the presumptive title? If her name was Hillary Stone or Hillary Smith, no one would have given her a second glance. But the name Clinton is a powerful and potent lure to a nation numbed by nearly eight years of President “Mission Accomplished.”

Some of her votes and her justifications of them have been (to me, anyway) rather inexplicable, dancing with the words she thinks that voters want to hear. Although her views on some issues have been consistent and strong, on others she seems to waver in the wind, depending upon the audience to whom she’s speaking. She often comes off as overly managed by her handlers or the latest polling data. And whether she’s sincere or not is sometimes hard to discern.

I think what bothers me about Clinton is best exemplified by the May 2007 Senate vote on the Iraq War funding bill. Waiting until the last possible moment before casting her "no" vote, she failed to assume any sort of leadership in opposing the measure. Unlike Chris Dodd, also running for president, who spoke out vigorously against the funding bill as it stood: a stripped and rubber stamped measure, miles from the levels of accountability and oversight — and timetables — that were promised to the voters in November 2006. Yes. I know. She voted “no.” And that was, in itself, an important statement. But her methods seemed at the time to have been politically calculated to both appease “the base” and play to the general electorate (should she get the nomination). I am aware that Obama did the same thing. And both were guilty of paying more attention to their positions in the presidential field than to acting and speaking out as people of principle.

Obama is my Senator in Illinois. I voted for him and will continue to vote for him. He is a bright and thoughtful intellectual with a great deal of compassion and a lot of good ideas. I'm not sure that he yet has his presidential "chops."  I’d love to see him as the VP candidate in 2008. And maybe as the president in 2016.

The rest of the Democratic field, and I would vote for any one of them before casting a ballot for ANY Republican, is okay, but not inspiring. Joe Biden is a good speaker as is Chris Dodd. Fiery and well-spoken. Passionate and inspiring. Both are smart. Dodd’s views are closer to mine than are Biden’s, but long-term “inside the beltway” slickness taints them both.

I said in a recent Blogcritics piece that I liked John Edwards, but that my support for him was soft and I could be otherwise persuaded. But as time goes on, I feel more and more drawn to Edwards’ brand of progressive populism. His message is on target, and although the Iowa Register, a highly influential newspaper in the all-important caucus state of Iowa, suggested that he was too much of an iconoclast to get things done — too potentially divisive for this particular time and place, his "anti-corporate rhetoric too harsh." I disagree. I feel that Edwards is exactly what this country needs.

And he can win.

Yes, this country needs healing. It needs to move on and move past the destruction of the past eight years. And whoever is elected will need to accomplish much.  But what it doesn’t need is a Gerald Ford figure who will say “what’s done is done, it’s time to move on.” What we do need is someone to ensure that the sort of monarchical presidency that this nation has endured for nearly eight years will never happen again. Edwards can do this and at the same time, disentangle Washington from the corporate lobbying hydra that has for years entangled itself in and around the Washington power elite. Never again should we have the foxes guard the chicken coop; have the oil companies write our energy policy; have polluters write our environmental laws; have sycophantic flunkies run our emergency agencies into the ground. Have our health care policies written by insurance and pharmaceutical companies whose primary interest is in enriching their bottom lines.

And he can win.

And that is more important than anything. He can win. And the Democrats need to win. Not for the Democrats only. But for the very soul of the nation.

And Edwards can win.

No one ever wants fascism. It’s something that creeps up like a cockroach in the night, skittering to the edges of the room when it thinks someone is looking; but quite suddenly your house is infested and only dynamite and a lot of toxic chemicals can free you of their presence.

Fascism can only happen when people are either frightened and willing trade their civil liberties for presumed security, or when they are sleeping and apathetic, willing to go along with incremental changes that, when they’re all added up over time become something that no one bargained for. We have lived for eight years with a creeping and incremental erosion of our Constitution. It has been nibbled away by loopholes that bring religion into the public school surreptitiously through things like required moments of silence; faith based social programs that teeter-totter on the fine line of separation between Church and State that our founding fathers were adamant about maintaining. It’s nibbled away by the officials, candidates for national office and mainstream political parties asserting that this is a Christian nation, encouraging the revisionism that endangers the Establishment Clause.

The Constitution is shredded when habeas corpus is discarded like a dirty old rag, with little consideration of the consequences. When lawmakers risk being characterized by the opposition as unpatriotic for casting votes in opposition to the administration to protect the constitution. We, as a nation, are diminished when our leaders stoop to semantic distinctions between “enhanced” interrogation and torture when defending water boarding, renditions or Guantanamo Bay. The constitution is eroded when only a scattered few leaders act to prevent the administration from granting immunity to corporations that spy on citizens at their behest. It makes me sick to know that the Democrats are willing to allow immunity to the telecom corporations because they don’t have the stomach to actually say “NO” and bad PR be damned. “Swift-boating” be damned.

Fascism happens when spying on the bad guys no longer only means al Qaeda, but also spreads quietly, and with little protest from the opposition, to more amorphous enemies of the State. And when the leaders of the loyal opposition become more concerned about their own political futures than the future of this country.

I do not trust Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama to hold this administration accountable for the shredding of the Constitution. And to take immediate and substantial action to put it aright.  I do not trust them to end the war or to be not influenced by the very corporations that fund their campaigns and feed their coffers.

Yes, there are other good candidates out there, but Edwards, for me, at least presents someone who can effect change AND is electable.

He can win.  Edwards' brand of progressive populisim can win.  And "The People" will win.

It seems that momentum is beginning to turn his way. His crowds are growing and his message is being heard and heeded and believed. Only time will tell, and I may be wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time). But for me, at this particular moment in time, barring an entry into the race by someone like, say …Al Gore, it is Edwards who will get my vote in February.

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books.Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."

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