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Tuesday, July 06, 2004  

Politics: John Edwards is an endorseable choice

I have been a reluctant trooper in regard to this year's presidential election. Unlike most people in the blogosphere, I have never heartily supported any candidate. When John Kerry emerged as the last man standing in the Democratic Party, I accepted that I would vote for him. However, of the two Johns, my preference would have been John Edwards. One of the reasons I admire Edwards (pictured) is he has lived a challenging life, rising from working-class origins to become a very successful trial lawyer. Kerry's wealth and status are largely inherited. Another reason, I prefer Edwards is his uncompromising support for civil rights. Silver Rights explains.

It appears Edwards will be more open about his opposition to some traditional Southern values. Right Wing talk radio host Les Kinsolving discovered Edwards will not balk at offending 'heritage' supporters recently.

SALEM, N.H. - Democrat presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, denounced the Confederate flag on Wednesday, Jan. 21, calling it "divisive" and "a symbol of oppression to some Americans."

He also declared that the Confederate flag which flies on the state capitol grounds in Columbia, in his native South Carolina, should be removed.

. . .My answer is that the Confederate flag, which is a symbol of oppression to a lot of Americans, is a divisive symbol and should not be flown in a place like it's being flown in South Carolina, in front of the state capitol. It shouldn't be flown on public grounds like that. That's my position and I stand by it.

The interviewer got nowhere with trying to manipulate or trip up the pugnacious trial lawyer turned politician.

But, how will Edwards' principled stand play with relatively conservative white voters? In my experience, many of those people like a bit of wink-and-nod from leaders to reassure them the status quo is not really being disturbed.

Edwards has also refused to wink in regard to the hot button issue of affirmative action. He emphasized his support of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding affirmative action programs in higher education this summer.

"The court reaffirmed America's commitment to equal opportunity and justice," Senator Edwards said. He cautioned, however, that the 5-4 ruling "underscores the importance of nominating and confirming justices committed to upholding civil rights."

. . .Senator Edwards filed a friend-of-the-court brief with 11 other senators urging justices to uphold the admissions policy. The senators argued that affirmative action policies at universities throughout the country play a significant role in remedying racial disparities. The senators' brief was one of more than 60 submitted to the high court in support of the University of Michigan.

Again, a politician has taken a principled stand that many of his constituents may oppose. The fact Edwards is a Southern politician taking that stand makes him even more vulnerable than he would be otherwise.

Edwards' unequivocal support for civil rights could cost him a some votes among Democrats who are also participants in or sympathizers with the neo-Confederate movement. However, it could also help Kerry with a part of the electorate he has failed to get enthusiastic support from -- racial minorities. Time Magazine recently considered Kerry's lack of appeal to African-American voters.

Because black voters are more opposed to President Bush than is almost any other voting bloc, John Kerry's first move to secure their enthusiastic support might have been simply to follow Hippocrates' instruction: do no harm. But when he appeared before the National Conference of Black Mayors in April, Kerry chose to speak not about their concerns but about his plan to make the U.S.'s chemical plants more secure — leaving the audience underwhelmed. And when Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, listed his top election strategists, it revealed that the group of six was all white, angering black activists who feel the Democratic Party takes African Americans for granted. Noting that Bill Clinton was sometimes called America's first black President, Kerry said earlier this year, "I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be the second." Responds a senior Clinton Administration official who is black: "That ain't gonna happen. He's not going to out-Clinton Clinton, and if he tried, he would look phony."

. . .Though a Democrat, Massachusetts state representative Byron Rushing has said he will not campaign for Kerry until he sees a strategy that will energize black voters. "People want to like Kerry. People want to be enthusiastic about him. But for whatever reason, they're not," says Julianne Malveaux, a Washington-based black activist and writer who attended a recent Florida retreat for African-American political consultants.

According to Time, Kerry has been close to two black Americans in his life, one as a child and another as a young adult. Though that record is probably more diverse than one would find for many white Americans, it describes a person not exactly cognizant of the experiences people of color have. If he is to win the one in five Democratic voters who is African-American that Al Gore did, he must find a way to appeal to people he may rarely even think of. And, the problem does not stop there. Kerry, a patrician New Englander, has shown no particular knowledge of Hispanic or Asian voters, either.

Edwards, however, has achieved his political success in a part of the country still openly riven by issues of race and class. He was forced to face racial issues head on during his rise to prominence. Most importantly, he has not blinked. I believe many of the civil rights supporters Kerry needs to attract are aware of Edwards' advocacy for their cause.

Kerry will not win the degree of approval from supporters of civil rights he would have by hiring Donna Brazile as his campaign manager, but he will shore up an increasingly doubtful constituency by having selected John Edwards as his choice for vice president.

4:00 PM