John Edwards gets it and gets this woman's vote.

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

Tags: 2008 elections, abortion, Democrat, Diversity, Environment, equality, John Edwards, Poverty, Primaries, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS, war, women's issues (all tags)

Comments

36 Comments

I think Edwards will definately pull

from the Women's vote, I think he will pull many from Clinton and Obama.

Women's issue are in the front.

by dk2 2007-04-19 03:48PM | 0 recs
It's important to him.

Women's rights always have been. Did you see Kate Michelman's email today? It was great:

My name is Kate Michelman. I was president of NARAL Pro-Choice America for nearly 20 years. I've dedicated my adult life to advancing women's dignity, freedom and equality. Today, I'm angry and alarmed about the future. And I'm ready to fight.

Yesterday, a closely divided Supreme Court voted to allow Congress and state legislators to ban a specific abortion procedure--even if the health of the woman is at grave risk and even if her doctor thinks this procedure is the best one for her particular situation. It is nothing less than the greatest blow to a woman's right to reproductive freedom since that right was first guaranteed more than 30 years ago.

In yesterday's opinion, three of the justices again argued that ALL decisions guaranteeing reproductive rights are wrong. And remember, the two Supreme Court Justices nearest to retirement are staunch defenders of women's rights--just imagine if another Republican president is allowed to replace them. You know as well as I do that the right wing won't stop at a woman's right to decide. They've painted a bulls eye on a broad range of privacy rights, civil liberties and other basic rights that we take for granted.

This is one of the most important reasons all of us--but especially women--must be fiercely committed to electing a Democratic president in 2008 who will protect and defend our rights. And that is why I am so strongly committed to electing John Edwards.

I believe that out of all the candidates, John has the strongest commitment to the issues that matter most in women's lives. I know he is the most effective national messenger for the values we share and I have complete confidence that--with our help--he can win the White House.

So today, I'm asking for your help. I need you to reach out to the women and men you know who believe in the rights and liberties of women and are ready to join this campaign and help us defend them.

Would you be willing to take a few minutes--right now--to reach out to 3 people you know and ask them to sign up for our campaign? Just write them a quick note (you can also forward this letter) and ask them to add their name by following the link below:

www.johnedwards.com/join

I want to tell you why I'm so sure about John.

I first met John nearly a decade ago when he had just entered public life. And I've personally witnessed his consistent and courageous commitment to the issues that shape women's lives--issues like health care, child care, education, job discrimination and reproductive freedom.

But the argument for John goes well beyond earning an A+ on the issue scorecard. It's about supporting a person who I know is deeply committed to the ongoing struggle for the equality, freedom and dignity of all women.

Thirty-eight years ago, I found myself a pregnant, abandoned, penniless mother of two at the mercy of a system that had no respect for my humanity. I've spent the last three decades working to ensure no woman would ever again suffer the indignities I faced when women in my position had no legal rights to make the most important of life's decisions: whether and when to become a parent.

Thankfully, we've come a long way since that time. But our journey for full equality is far from over. Indeed, the next phase is absolutely crucial.

Millions of poor, marginalized women have yet to experience the empowerment we fought so hard to win. Women who have chosen to work face the growing burdens of balancing family and career--and our national support system lags woefully behind this enormous challenge. And as yesterday made painfully clear, many of the basic rights we've won through decades of struggle are still only a Supreme Court justice away from vanishing before our eyes.

For me, 2008 is about finding a true partner for women in the next phase of our long march towards equality, freedom and dignity--and it's about finding a candidate who can win. That's why I'm dedicating the next two years of my life to electing John Edwards President of the United States.

And now I'm asking that you choose 3 people you know and ask them to join our campaign. Just forward them this note, let them know how high the stakes are, and tell them how important it is that they join the team.

Here's the link they can follow to sign up:

www.johnedwards.com/join

Thank you,

--Kate Michelman
  Thursday, April 19th 2007

by sirius 2007-04-19 03:59PM | 0 recs
Quite an inspirational

diary, Sirius.  Thanks.

by littafi 2007-04-19 06:09PM | 0 recs
Re: It's important to him.

I actually was offended by that letter (I signed up for all big 3 candidates email).  As head of NARAL, she should be true to her ratings and point out that Obama (and I believe Hillary but I didn't look it up) also have a 100% NARAL record.  To send that email as head of NARAL, to me is a conflict of interest.  I lost a lot of respect for her today.  

by yitbos96bb 2007-04-19 06:22PM | 0 recs
Stop and take a breath!

Michelman's no longer head of NARAL. She was president for almost 20 years, but stepped down in 2004. She has also endorsed Edwards and is actively working to get him elected. Hope this clears things up for you.

by clarkent 2007-04-19 07:04PM | 0 recs
Wrong.

You jumped to a conclusion, perhaps because you support Obama.  That email was sent on JohnEdwards letter head.  How could you think it was from NARAL?   And she has not been head of NARAL for a while.  

Whoops.  Wrong in your statement. Perhaps Ms. Michelman desrves your respect again.

by littafi 2007-04-20 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it and gets this woman's vot

Though I don't personally care for Edwards I am glad you found a candidate you like.  Have lots of fun and enjoy.

by vwcat 2007-04-19 04:38PM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it
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.
Which feminist organizations are these?
by hrh 2007-04-19 10:20PM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it

Emily's list and others i believe

by okamichan13 2007-04-21 05:13AM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it

NOW did, as well.

by clarkent 2007-04-21 05:22AM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards
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.
Which feminist organizations are these?
by hrh 2007-04-19 10:21PM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards

I think NOW has been doing this.

by Vox Populi 2007-04-19 11:39PM | 0 recs
John Edwards
"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." Which feminist organizations are these?
by hrh 2007-04-19 10:22PM | 0 recs
Apologies for the multiple repost
The system was rejecting my post, telling me that my subject line was too long (??)
by hrh 2007-04-19 10:28PM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it and gets this woman's vot

While in the Senate, Edwards didn't vote on the PBA ban. Considering that it was a blatantly political bill, I believe that it was the right move.

By the way, what has lost in all of this is that the only thing banned by the PBA ban is killing the fetus in the birth canal. If the fetus is killed in utero, perhaps by injection, then the procedure can be carried out.

In other words, nothing is really banned and the ban is unenforceable. This bill was designed to make Democrats look like baby killers and Edwards was wise enough (or lucky enough) to have no part in it.

by wayward 2007-04-20 03:05AM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it and gets this woman's vot

Oh, I see skipping out of the vote was a wise political decision and not a... (hmmm, what's a polite word for cowardly?)  a miss opportunity to show conviction.

Edwards is a decent guy and a fantastic campaigner but spin like that is nuts.

If the Supreme Court upholding the ban is an outrage then doesn't Edwards catch ANY flak for avoiding taking a stand when it mattered?

by abburdlen 2007-04-20 07:55PM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it and gets this woman's vot

I have no doubt how he would have voted.  He has always been consistent on abortion.

by jallen 2007-04-20 09:11PM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it and gets this woman's vot

But he didn't vote.

I'm not saying he's the only one who should have stood up for his convictions but didn't.  Kerry and Biden also avoided the vote.

What good are is being consistent if you don't stand up for your beliefs when it might be politically damaging?

Contrast Edwards not voting on the bill to limit a woman's choice and Richardson signing New Mexico's medical marijuana law.  Richardson is going to take heat for it- he is taking heat for it - but he he did it anyway.  
I'm glad Edwards is outraged by the Supreme Court ruling but wish there could have been some outrage  back when the bill was up for vote in the Senate.

by abburdlen 2007-04-21 03:56AM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it and gets this woman's vot

What are you talking about? It passed 64-34, so John Edwards' vote would not have mattered. He was on record as opposing the bill at the time.

by clarkent 2007-04-21 04:37AM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it and gets this woman's vot

So if the numbers aren't there, voting doesn't matter?

Remember that when people complain Congress is not getting us out of Iraq.

by abburdlen 2007-04-21 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: John Edwards gets it and gets this woman's vot

Oh, come off it. You're trying to pretend he didn't make a stand. John Edwards has a 100% pro-choice rating, and he is on record speaking out against the PBA ban at the time. He also voted against it in 1999.

by clarkent 2007-04-21 05:44AM | 0 recs
Foriegn policy...?

I will honestly say I think Edwards is stronger on domestic policy issues... at least so far.

But when it comes to foriegn policy he just seems to be lost in space. He voted for the war when it was popular, apologized for his vote when the war became unpopular, and now he supports defunding the troops since that's currently popular.

When Bill Clinton ran in 92 the famous phrase was, "It's the economy, stupid." In a like manner, in the 2008 campaign, the operative phrase will be, "It's foriegn policy, stupid."

by Mystylplx 2007-04-20 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

We've basically ignored domestic issues for the last 6 years and our foreign policy has been disastrous. so a little domestic focus is fine for me along with cleaning up some of the mess Bush has made.

by okamichan13 2007-04-21 05:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

Domestic issues aren't in nearly as big a mess as our foreign policy is.

by Mystylplx 2007-04-21 08:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

They're all connected. Something that Edwards has been stressing for some time. It's also a position that's refreshing and might suggest that he actually does have a clue.

by adamterando 2007-04-21 08:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

Well, the war in Iraq, which he voted for, has certainly not been good for us domestically. So your right about them being connected, but I'm not so sure about the part about him having a clue...

by Mystylplx 2007-04-21 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

He already apologized and admitted it was a mistake to vote for it, before anyone else did. Your comment is thus null and void, and unless you missed the numerous posts and stories on it, you know it.

by JewishJake 2007-04-21 10:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

Apologizing doesn't make the war go away. IMO anyone who voted for the war should be disqualified from being President on the grounds of mind-boggling stupidity.

But I will eventually let Edwards live it down... just as soon as we are safely out of Iraq without having created a massive civil war/genocide, THEN he can live down his vote.

by Mystylplx 2007-04-21 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

BTW, now he advocates instantly defunding the war, which shows once again that he doesn't have a clue.

We need a President with both the judgement to know what is right and the courage to do that even if it is unpopular. Edwards has not shown such judgement or courage. His ideas on foreign policy float around with the popular opinions of the moment. That's the last thing we need in a President of the United states.

by Mystylplx 2007-04-21 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

What do you mean, he advocates instantly defunding the war?

by clarkent 2007-04-21 12:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

He wants to cut off funding instantly. Am I mistaken about that?

by Mystylplx 2007-04-21 01:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

Ah. I checked and I AM mistaken.

My bad. See? I can admit my mistakes too... ;)

by Mystylplx 2007-04-21 01:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

Don't worry... it happens to me all the time, too. :)

by clarkent 2007-04-21 01:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

No she can't. But she does say silly things like, "I take responsibility for my vote." !?!

What does it mean to take responsibility for a mistake she won't admit to having made? Does she mean she's taking credit for her vote?

It is to Edwards credit he can admit his mistakes, but it would be more to his credit if he hadn't made that particular mistake. There was really no excuse for it.

by Mystylplx 2007-04-21 12:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

Personally I'd prefer it be the President who has a clue, rather than relying on the VP for something so important.

by Mystylplx 2007-04-21 08:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Foriegn policy...?

But they do... both of them advocate a sensible policy of phased withdrawal, while Edwards once again sways with the winds of popular opinions of the moment.

And Obama was smart enough to oppose the war right from the beginning. He's the only one who's batting 1,000 on this. Hillary voted for the war and makes silly excuses for her vote, but at least she's not dumb enough to advocate instantly defunding the troops. And Edwards just sways with the wind...

by Mystylplx 2007-04-21 01:05PM | 0 recs

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