John Edwards in Atlanta
by CLLGADEM, Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 08:38:36 AM EST
Nearly 300 Atlanta-area people braved yesterday's atypical snow to see and hear former Sen. John Edwards speak at the IBEW Local 613 union hall. Had the weather been better, I have no doubt the room would have overflowed. As it was, the room was full of people, full of positive energy, and full of fierce determination to stand by our candidate, come what may.
Mark Taylor, Georgia's Lt. Governor from 1999 to 2007, took the microphone about 2pm to begin working up the crowd. Despite his loss in the 2006 governor's race, he's still got the fire in the belly. Taylor spoke to our desperate need to win the White House in 2008, ("We knew George Bush would mess up America; what we didn't know is that he would mess up a world!") and how it is Edwards who can best compete in more states than the other candidates (meaning Georgia). After about 15 minutes, Taylor handed the mike to Governor Roy Barnes (GA governor from 1999-2003). He again hammered home the electability issue saying, "Georgia Democrats can not afford to apologize for the head of our ticket!" It is no secret that Democrats here have been beaten down for the last 3 cycles, with devastating consequences on issues like water, transportation, taxes and health care. Barnes paid due homage to the union movement, then seamlessly at 2:40 pm, only 10 minutes behind schedule, he thundered "Ladies and gentlemen, John Edwards!"
The P.A. system began playing John Mellencamp's "This Is Our Country", but it was barely audible amid the cheers of the crowd. I was positioned near his entrance to the stage, so I was able to receive an intial handshake from Edwards himself. He took to the stage, joined by Barnes, Taylor, Richard Ray (a well known labor leader in Georgia), several members of the Georgia Legislature (including Senator Vincent Fort, a real hero in the fight to preserve Grady Hospital), and two past chairs of the state Party.
I saw very little of Edwards speaking, as Governor Barnes was between me and the candidate. That was OK, as the sound system worked well. Some have suggested Edwards has a desire to form some kind of alliance with Obama; there was no evidence of that yesterday. He blasted Obama's invocation of Reagan as an example of transformational change. Edwards also mentioned the fact that the candidate who has raised more money from the defense industry, Big Pharma, and insurance interests isn't a Republican - it's Hillary Clinton. JRE got in one good line I hadn't heard before. "If you can join the Republican Party by signing a card, the same should apply to a union!" The rest was a pretty standard Edwards speech; end the war - Nataline Sarkisyan - we're the underdog because we don't kowtow to the corpoate structure - that's why we need to win.
He spoke for about 25 minutes, then waded into the crowd to shake hands and sign plackards. I got my chance, but asked him to sign my copy of the 80-page platform booklet. "I'd like you to sign this, because it's the ideas that matter". He signed it for me, saying "You're absolutely right." Suffice it to say, that little booklet has just become one of my prize possessions. After taking a cell-phone photo for the lady next to me, I left the scene to give others a chance. On the way, I met up with fellow Cobb County Democrats, as well as those with whom I went door-to-door in Greenville, SC. Afterwards, Edwards held a brief impromptu news conference with the local ABC and FOX affiliates, as well as Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He also took a few questions from regular folks, including a teacher upset with NCLB, and another concerned about mental health issues. About 3:40, John Edwards left the room and headed off to the next event.
Mind you, this was before the disappointing numbers from Nevada came through. That said, I do not believe knowing the numbers would have deterred a single person there. Certainly not me. After coming back home (a 1.5 hour journey on mass transit), my apolitical but very observant girlfriend asked the following question: "Are you supporting John Edwards out of self-defense?" My answer was yes. That's why I cannot give up on this campaign. I am working class to my very core, and I stand in defense of my right to live, and to have some effect the course of our society. I depend on having affordable housing and mass transit available to me (the former mentioned directly in Edwards' speech).
Compromise is not an option. John Edwards is the only potential leader of the Democratic ticket who can stop the bleeding here in Georgia. While it looks like the worst parts of Speaker Glenn Richardson's tax plan (eliminating property taxes in exchange for a huge sales tax increase) will be blocked this year, there will probably be increased regressivity in the tax code worked in some other way. The water plan is inadequate, and mass transit and public health will be further neglected. We must turn the corner here, and unfairly to be sure, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are not the ones to do that. The tranformational change we as a country need will not come by accepting corporate lobbyist and PAC money, nor will it take academic self-importance.
John Edwards cannot give up, and neither can those who support him. How can one compromise the principle of self-defense?
I hope to post some pictures later, assuming some friends of mine remember to email them. Thank you to all who read this for keeping the faith!