It would be no great feat of punditry to suggest that John Edwards is running as an outsider in this year’s campaign. Some thought that Edwards, who has held no office since the 2004 election, would struggle to stay relevant. Instead, he has used his absence from government to put the heat on those who still serve.
It’s been good to have him in this position. Edwards has pushed his party to stand up to President Bush on Iraq. He’s also tapped grassroots energy on climate change and poverty (both domestic and global) in ways that I think more candidates should. He’s also shown, contrary to conventional political wisdom, that acknowledging mistakes isn’t political suicide.
But I’ll admit I’m skeptical that he would do more to change the culture of Washington or stand up to special interests than other candidates – at least for now. The sitting senators who are running for president are reforming the way money leverages influence in the capital, even if the change is incremental and painfully slow.
Why am I bothering to write any of this? Because the Edwards Campaign just sent a 16-sentence e-appeal in which the word “Washington” appears 11 times.
The truth is that members of both parties use the “change Washington” talk year after year to challenge for seats in Congress and for the Presidency. Few of these candidates do much to change the way the process works.
I should add that the comment that has given Edwards this opening, made by Hillary Clinton, isn’t exactly wrong. Lobbyists do represent Americans and many of them do important work educating policymakers so they can make informed decisions. It’s the money that’s the problem, especially in elections.
I’m glad to see Edwards is pushing reform. He does support public financing of elections, which is hugely important. But if Edwards is going to hit us over the head this hard with anti-Washington rhetoric, I think we have the right to expect a little more in the way of specifics.
After all, only two years ago, John Edwards could have helped change the system as a U.S. Senator. We deserve to understand what sets him apart from the others running besides no longer having any responsibilities in government.
For effect, I’m copying the Edwards campaign e-mail below the fold.
— Scott Paul
On Saturday in Chicago at the YearlyKos convention, John Edwards challenged the entire Democratic Party to reform itself and end the practice of taking campaign money from Washington lobbyists.
“We don’t have to wait for a new law – the Democratic Party can end the game today – and from this day forward say to Washington lobbyists – your money is no good here anymore.”
“The system in Washington is broken – it’s rigged to serve the interests of those with the most money to throw around, rather than the best interest of the American people. The type of change America needs will never be achieved if we just replace the insiders from one party with the insiders from another party. That’s why the Democratic Party must lead the way in taking a bold step toward reform that will return the power in Washington back to where it belongs.”
But there are those in the Democratic Party who are unwilling to end their addiction to money from federal lobbyists – they do not understand that people like you will help fund a party that is truly a party of the people.
So reforming the Democratic Party begins with us – with John Edwards and you showing the way. Contribute what you can to the campaign today and prove to the Democratic Party that people will respond to a campaign that says “no” to Washington lobbyists.
The Republicans can keep taking money from all of the Washington lobbies – corporate lobbyists, insurance industry lobbyists, pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and oil industry lobbyists – because they’ve been doing the bidding of these lobbyists for far too long.
But the Democratic Party can reject all of the Washington lobbyists’ money and reform itself – solidifying our stature as the party of the people and forcing the Republican Party to either join us, or forever make clear to the American people who it is that the Republicans in Washington are working for.
And so your contribution today is more than a contribution to John Edwards — it’s more than a contribution to show the Democratic Party the path to reform. It’s a contribution towards making our government for, by and of the people.
Today in Iowa, John talked about how we need to stop writing and signing trade deals that benefit special interests at the expense of American workers. And he talked about how we can’t fix our trade policy as long as politicians take money from federal lobbyists and let them rig Washington against regular people.
If we are going to fix our trade policy, end the war in Iraq, win universal health care for every American, and end at game in Washington that rewards corporate greed at the expense of working people and our country’s future – we must be prepared to say not only that Washington is broken – but that real change will only happen if the Democratic Party truly becomes the party of the people once again.
Thank you for being part of the campaign to make it so.
Joe Trippi, Senior Advisor, John Edwards for President
August 6, 2007
PS – Watch the clip of John calling for reform at YearlyKos here: