By now most people not living under under a boulder know that John Edwards is considered an "economic populist." Unfortunately, the term is often ill defined, other than a sense of being on the side of working people and vague recollections about a Cross of Gold speech. For Edwards substantively "economic populism" means that he is committed to universal health care, to effectively eliminate poverty in thirty years, and supports Smart trade agreements that benefit workers here and with our trading partners instead of just corporations.
Beyond the specific policies John Edwards's value system is one that comes unapologetically from his small town working class background. But, mill working fathers and passionate speeches aside, what is too often missed about the John Edwards brand of populism, is his insistence on the marriage of economic and political empowerment.
The way Edwards combines promoting a fair economic shake for everyone with de-rigging the political system has appealed to me since he started doing it during his last run. Now, after eight years of top down politics and top down economics from the Bush administration, John Edwards's brand of small "d" democratic Populism is exactly what is needed.
...In a way that no other politician seems to, Edwards gets that the unfairness of our political system is linked to the unfairness of our economic system. In a way that no other politician seems to, Edwards is committed and prepared to change both. And it is that combination of economic Populism with democratic Populism is what makes Edwards such a potentially transformational leader.
A darling blogger in Nevada solicited from John Edwards better questions than the ones asked by the moderators at the Nevada Democratic debate. Here is one which I've snerched:
Q: Sen. Harry Reid has vowed he will do all he can to stop the construction of three major coal power plants in Nevada. Do you agree with Sen. Reid?
A: In March, I was the first candidate to call for a ban of coal-fired power plants that cannot capture and eventually store their carbon emissions... To encourage consumers to use less energy and to use energy when it can be generated less expensively, I will expand the use of smart energy meters, which display energy
use and price at the same time. I will also reverse Bush's budget cuts to the Department of Energy home weatherization program and expand it to $500 million a year.
What am I thankful for? That I live in America, in a country that has a tradition of being a liberal democracy, where people believe that if they dedicate their lives to making the world a better place, they will succeed. We are told all the time by the Republicans that the marketplace is the best way to solve the real needs of the country, and then you go out and look at the skyline of your city, or the declining marine harvests in your estuaries, and you know what they really mean. The market will take care of the needs of the people who dine with silver spoons. Nothing explains the fundamental value of government like the pollution in our cities, like problems of over-fishing, like declining drinking water resources, like the rising cost of heating your home, like the rising cost of milk. For those of us who eat lunch with a plastic spoon instead of a silver one, you know the money being made at the cost of our environment and our local economies is going to buy silver spoons for someone else. We could give in to the Republican mantra. Or be brave enough to refuse.
Hillary wanted a conversation. Barak wanted a picnic. John wanted sacrafice and commitment. How well we remember the heady days after 9-11 when we were ready to come together and show the world the enduring nature of what it meant to be American, land of the free and home of the brave. And George just asked us to take our credit cards to the mall, and spread democracy in the world by increasing the corporate profits of his campaign contributors. Americans know that's not what economic prosperity and good fortune should entail. John wants to ask Americans to do something else, wants a Presidency for Americans that will lead our country towards an open and better future. Where a hard days work puts nutritious food on the table and fills the prescription the doctor wrote. Instead of waiting around for the corporations of the world to save us, for Wal-Mart to cure breast cancer and for Haliburton to end global warming and for Blackwater to ensure fair trade, we American citizens are perfectly capable and morally responsible to do these things. Through diplomacy, through leadership, through millions of choices and opportunities to -gasp- do good. Tomorrow begins today.