John Edwards gets it and gets this woman's vote.
by sirius, Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 03:31:44 PM EDT
April 18, 2007
Like most people who haven't had their head buried under a rock for the last six years, I've been outraged about a lot of things recently. Sometimes there are so many things to be outraged about, that there isn't time to respond to them all. Sometimes, the things that I ought to speak out on get buried under a whole pile of other things that I ought to speak out on, until I feel entombed by my own unsaid words.
I just looked back at the first paragraph I wrote here, and realized there are a lot of words there about burial and tombs. Honestly, I hadn't thought my metaphors through well enough for that to have been conscious, but it's an interesting choice of words, because today's Supreme Court decision limiting a woman's right to make a private decision about her health with her doctor, even when her health may be threatened by her pregnancy, will undoubtedly put some women in the grave.
John Edwards had a great response to this decision:
"I could not disagree more strongly with today's Supreme Court decision. The ban upheld by the Court is an ill-considered and sweeping prohibition that does not even take account for serious threats to the health of individual women. This hard right turn is a stark reminder of why Democrats cannot afford to lose the 2008 election. Too much is at stake - starting with, as the Court made all too clear today, a woman's right to choose."
This is direct, to the point, with no mincing of words. I don't want to get into an argument about which candidate's statement was better on this. All three of the top-tier Democratic candidates issued statements that said much the same thing.
I will, however, point out that Edwards was, once again, the first candidate to come out with a statement on a controversial issue, as evidenced by the timestamps on each of their respective blog posts. Cutting the other candidates some slack, I guess I could say that it takes some time to come up with a response. Still, you'd think the candidates with the most money to hire campaign staff could manage to be first. Perhaps lean and mean is actually better.
Petty rivalry aside, I thank all of the three candidates for making a quick statement on the issue.
Here's another thing I've been bothered by recently: I'm frustrated by what I feel is pressure from various feminist organizations, whose work I otherwise respect, for me to support Hillary Clinton just because she's a woman. I don't think whether or not she has female parts should really be the issue.
I'm looking for a candidate that understands the issues that I care about, not from a narrow perspective of women's rights or women's reproductive rights only, although that is very important to me, but a candidate who understands the complex interrelation of a lot of different issues. I'm looking for a candidate who understands the complex big picture of how one problem feeds into another and how it is all related. Actually, I'm not looking. I've found him, and it's John Edwards.
I've been thinking about this diary for a few weeks now. The Supreme Court decision may have been the catalyst that made me finally write it, but I really started thinking about writing it a few weeks ago when I visited the Edwards campaign in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
While I was there, I heard a talk by Kate Michelman, founder and former head of NARAL, now working for the Edwards campaign as one of his surrogates. Ms. Michelman made waves early in the campaign when she announced she would work for John Edwards, not Hillary Clinton. In an interview with Salon, Michelman explained it like this:
My choice to support him was made in full consideration of all the candidates. Each has real strengths, and frankly any of them would make us safer and prouder [than we are now]. It's a field of the best of the best, from Hillary to Barack to [Gov. Bill] Richardson to Governor Vilsack. But, again, my personal view of John is that he stands for what he believes in -- he has never backed down or retreated from a woman's right to choose; he understands as a lawyer, as a senator, as the father of two daughters, and as a husband what the right to equality for women means, and he understands personally what the experience of women in society is.
What I heard from her in Chapel Hill was even more impressive to me. Ms. Michelman talked about the interrelation of poverty, war, and environmental destruction. She talked about how women and children are often impacted by those interrelated problems most keenly. She talked about solving the issue of poverty being the key to solving so many of the other problems that it feeds into. She talked about choosing John Edwards because he was the only candidate who seemed to get that.
I understood Ms. Michelman's point immediately, because I too have seen that John Edwards understands in a very deep way how one problem feeds into another, and how poverty is in many ways a keystone of our problems. I think you can get a glimpse of it here, in his recent speech about transformational change:
What we used to call foreign policy has such a profound effect on our everyday lives that there really is no such thing as purely foreign policy anymore. Trade policies affect jobs and wages here and throughout the world. Energy policy affects climate change here and all over the world, and it impacts domestic and foreign security. Poverty is an issue for us here - I could talk about that all day long - but poverty is also an issue directly related to the rise of terrorism and our place in the world economy. A well-known politician from a neighboring state used to say that all politics is local. Today, all policy is local. We are not going to solve these problems with the usual approaches. These challenges are too big, too connected, and too complicated to be answered with the same old politics of incrementalism. Meeting them requires more than just a new president--it requires an entirely new approach. To build the America we believe in requires fundamental, transformational change. Not change for the sake of change, but change for the sake of getting to where we know the country and the world can be, should be, and needs to be. Not incremental, baby-step changes, but invigorating, uplifting, challenging, daring, boundary-pushing changes that address the root causes and understand the complexity of our challenges.
Here's another example from the same speech:
As President I would implement a four-point plan to tackle global poverty - and improve the national security of the United States: First, we would launch a sweeping effort to support primary education in the developing world. More than 100 million young children have no school at all, denied even a primary education to learn how to read and write. Education is particularly important for young girls; as just one example of the ripple effects, educated mothers have lower rates of infant mortality and are 50 percent more likely to have their children immunized. As president, I will lead a worldwide effort to extend primary education to millions of children in the developing world by fully funding the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015. The U.S. will do its part by bringing education to 23 million children in poor countries, and we will ask our allies to step up and do the rest. It's not just good for our security; it's good for theirs. Second, we will support preventive health care in the developing world. Women and children bear the burden of poverty and disease in the developing world. Women in our poorest countries have a 10% chance of dying during childbirth. More than 10 million children die each year from preventable diseases. Many of these diseases are preventable with clean water and basic sanitation or affordable immunizations. As president, I will convene a worldwide summit on low-cost investments in clean drinking water and sanitation. Under my plan, the U.S. will increase its investment in clean water six-fold. Third, we can get to the root of global poverty by increasing opportunity, political opportunity and economic opportunity. Democratic rights allow poor citizens to force their countries to create more progressive laws, fight oppression and demand economic stability. Economic initiatives like microfinance and micro-insurance can spark entrepreneurship, allowing people to transform their own lives. And fourth, I would appoint an individual in the White House, reporting directly to me, with the rank of a Cabinet member, to oversee all of our efforts to fight global poverty. Despite its importance to our national security, the United States still lacks a comprehensive strategy to fight global poverty. We need to embrace the vision of John F. Kennedy, who recognized that "the Nation's interest and the cause of political freedom require" American efforts to lift up the world's poor. Our current effort has plenty of bureaucracy - over 50 separate U.S agencies are involved in the delivery of foreign assistance. What it lacks is efficiency and accountability. As President, I'll change that. Accomplishing these goals - ending poverty in America and transforming our approach to poverty around the world, creating a new energy economy, bringing health care to every American, and building an educational system that helps to build and support the middle class of the 21st century- will not be easy. And attempting them will require a change in our politics. We can no longer accept having the course of our country dictated by a relatively few people who push onto the rest of us policies that suit their particular interests. We need leaders who insist that all voices are heard, leaders who will take the role Harry Truman defined so clearly: a president who is the lobbyist for all the people who don't have, don't want, and can't afford one.
Those are lengthy quotes, but even so, it's hard to communicate a sweeping vision for healthy change in one speech. Edwards is eloquent, and did an admirable job of it in this one, but I think my understanding of the depth of his vision comes from watching him for a few years. It's not just what he said in this one speech, it's the sum total of what he has been saying for years that has impressed me.
I also know that Edwards has a deep respect for women, and a deep disdain for intolerance in all its forms. He is a man who respects humanity in all its diversity. He displayed this understanding again, just today, in remarks to the National Action Network Conference:
"There is no question in my mind that intolerance is a direct cause of one of our greatest and most threatening problems: the growing disparity between rich and poor, between haves and have nots, between working people and all those powerful forces who do not have their best interests in mind. Because guess what? The people that are usually the targets of intolerance and bigotry are too often the same people who suffer from lack of opportunity, the same people who are left behind. And as long as intolerance pervades our culture, it's far too easy for politicians in Washington to ignore the big changes we need to make in order to end poverty once and for all."
You have to admire a presidential candidate who, without any of the arrogance that often comes with great personal achievement, sees every individual on the planet as his equal. John Edwards demonstrates that every day, in his interactions with the people he meets on the campaign trail. Take a look at this photo taken by another blogger at a campaign event.
His concern for the woman he is speaking to is evident in his face.
You have to admire a man who isn't threatened by strong women, a man who is content to let women be in full control of their own lives and destinies. John Edwards showed this respect for women when he hired Kate Michelman.
He also showed this respect for women when he supported his wife Elizabeth's decision to continue to fully embrace her work and her life. He didn't insist she be a weak wilting flower, who must be coddled and protected, because of her cancer. He stood behind her while she made her decision to continue the work that she believes in, to continue fighting for what she knows his right. You have to admire a man who stands back and lets his wife shine.
John Edwards treats women and everyone else as his equals. He will protect all of our rights, and that's why I'll be proud to call him my president.
Oh, and all those myriad things I'm outraged about? I'm still outraged about them, but I feel a lot of hope about them too. I feel a lot of hope about them, because I know I'm supporting a presidential candidate who is not only as outraged as I am, but who has realistic plans for righting those wrongs.
cross-posted from my post made yesterday at Daily Kos