The deep meaning of a lightweight

There is something faintly comical about John Edwards, the one-term North Carolina senator with the best head of hair in the field of Democratic presidential contenders. Edwards is staking a second presidential campaign on the theme of an America divided between rich and poor. As late as 1968, it is a theme with which a patrician like Bobby Kennedy could generate some frisson. In a country so wealthy that obesity is an epidemic among the poor, it has become frankly absurd. Yet the band plays on.
It is of course a theme with a hardy Democratic tradition. Like Kennedy’s, Edwards’s version is derived from democratic socialist Michael Harrington and his 1962 book The Other America (expanded from a Commentary article of his on the same theme). Driven by the guilt of a lapsed Catholic, Harrington sought a putative underclass around which to mold the Democratic Party into a radical form; he helped give us LBJ’s Great Society. By the early 1970’s Harrington’s thinking had moved on to postulate labor unions as the core of a radical Democratic majority.
Edwards’s selection as John Kerry’s vice presidential running mate is inexplicable as anything other than a tribute to Kerry’s poor political judgment. Edwards did not even hold the promise of helping the ticket carry Edwards’s home state. What can Kerry have been thinking to have selected Edwards over someone like Richard Gephardt, who might have helped Kerry carry Missouri and perhaps even Iowa — and win the race?
It is almost incredible that, despite his obvious handicaps in native political gifts and acquired skills, Kerry came so close to defeating Bush. I think that if the story of the 2004 campaign ever found its Theodore White, it would be found to be a leading indicator of the shrinkng Republican base that was the most striking feature of the 2006 election and just cause for worry over the 2008 presidential election.
JOHN adds: Right. I wonder how One Party Country is selling these days.
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