An Analysis of the D Frontrunners: Edwards Is the Most Progressive

by on December 6th, 2007

I want to make something clear, though I write a lot about politics, I am actually not a fan of politics. An interest in, or even a passion about, politics is not necessarily tantamount to an earnest love of it. I didn’t even think of politics until I moved to the Washington D.C. area in 2005 to work for a non-profit and became mired in the day-to-day drama of it. As I began to read the daily and hourly newsbriefs, and visit Capitol Hill every week to implore them to abstain from drilling the Arctic Refuge, I also sat in on Congressional meetings in which I observed the pure power politicians have in dictating the lives of their consitituents. When you whittle down all the dressmaking and dry language of each bill, in essence these people have control as to whether a person can have a life-saving surgery, supplemental heat in their home during the winters, and even whether or not the world will continue to succumb to the biggest environmental problem of our time, climate change. I was heartsick and disgusted to hear the cross-banter and laughter as votes went through a chamber stripping civil liberties, dooming certain species to extinction, or perpetuating poverty. No matter how much we choose to ignore this power, it is there, and I consigned to make myself aware of it and proactively look into how to harness it into the appropriate direction.

Until recently, I was also not a registered Democrat, but an Independent, though by default I usually voted Democratic. I even have often cited that the Republicans and Democrats could more accurately be called Republicans and Republican-lites, such was the way of my cynicism. I saw my vote as a default vote for the lesser of two evils. However, my view to shift my registration was prompted by the concern over the future of our country in a world of climate change, poverty and ill health. Specifically, with climate change, the clock is ticking and the scientists have made it clear: if we do not make aggressive changes in how our society functions and the sources of its energy dependence, by a certain timeframe in my lifetime, we are dooming future generations to a catastrophic world. Specifically, if we do not make 80% cuts in greenhouse gases by mid-century (2050), beginning with drastic cuts in the next couple of years, the window will close to redeem this world as a livable planet for future inhabitants, both human and non-human.

Congress loves to negotiate and have their sidedeals, but you cannot negotiate with Nature. What is it about humans to think they can even take on the gods of elements beyond our control, and pistol-whip them with the same contrivances of suits and cigars and banter? Of all the climate/energy bills that are currently swirling in Congress, only one adheres to the layout of the science and make the cuts necessary to achieve avoidance of runaway climate change. This bring me to my point. The only Democratic front runner to sign on to this bill, months in advance of all of the others was John Edwards. Clinton and Barack Obama abstained to sign on until months later after the proposition looked “safe” and un-controversial. Likewise, John Edwards was the first presidential candidate to commit to speaking at Step It Up!-a grassroots endeavor of citizens across the United States to advocate the cuts and initiatives proposed by the Sanders-Boxer bill. John Edwards was the first candidate to release a comprehensive and aggressive energy policy platform, that not only supported the 80/2050 cuts required to avert disaster, but even boldly called for a moratorium of new coal-fired power plants and heavier regulations of the coal industry. If one has questions as to the moral and environmental implications of coal, simply Google “moutain-top removal” or MTR and read up on the horrific offenses of blowing up of mountains in Appalachia to appease our country’s voracious energy demand, not limited to the harassment, assault and eventual displacement of the residents in the region.

By contrast, Barack Obama only last spring proposed a coal-to-fuel bill that would seek to implement liquefied coal into cars, a nefarious bill Clinton also signed on to support. Though Obama has since retracted the bill due to an uproar by environmental groups, his sincerity over the issue of climate change remains in question. Seemingly, both Obama and Clinton try to play it safe when it comes to climate change, only releasing their energy policies months after Edwards was released and embraced. I don’t think we need a leader on this issue who cowers in a corner or plays the constituents like deck of cards. Granted, both Obama and Clinton have now also issued aggressive energy policies (that are strikingly similar to Edwards’) and signed on to the proper legislation, but only after Edwards walked that tight-rope first and didn’t fall. This would indicate that the policies of Obama and Clinton would fall apart or be readily changed with the slightest political or industrial challenge and that they are unwilling to take bold action.

On a sidenote, having grown up in poverty to a blue-collar family in an inner-city neighborhood, and being aware of the shrinking of the middle-class and the shambles of New Orleans, I am boggled that only Edwards has sought to make the alleviation of domestic poverty and universal healthcare a prominent platform that he has touted since day one of his campaign. Not only this, but his refusal to take campaign contributions from corporations signifies a confirmation of his determintation to be unbiased in his platforms. These past few years of ubiquitous corruption and scandal in Washington D.C. proves that as long as a politician is bankrolled by industry, his/her values are up for sale. Corporate subsidizing of a campaign will inevitably lead to a sense of debt or repayment on the part of the politician. Why go down this road again and make the same risks? The flow of corporate money from the fossil fuel lobby to the current Administration and representatives in Congress is in large part responsible for our present problems with climate change.

It seems strange that the public perception is often that Edwards is the least progressive, when quite the opposite is true. One of the apparent assumptions is this is probably due to the ouward appearance of him as a WASP male from the South. As much as I would love to see the day we welcome a woman or minority president (or someone who is both!) into the Oval Office, I cannot endorse an individual based on these superficialities. I also cannot automatically assume to ascribe to them the progressive traits I desire in a candidate. To do so would be as equally descriminatory as those who discount someone based on race and/or gender. Also, as much as I continue to hope for the rise of alternative parties, such as the Green Party, and observe widespread implementation of these parties into our state and federal governments, logically this presidential race is narrowed down according to polls to frontrunners in the main two parties. Furthermore, climate change is an imminent issue with such a timely aspect, that if we fail to elect the proper candidate, we fail to avert runaway climate change. This being the case, I cannot endorse an alternative party and detract necessary votes.

Finally, I am also surprised by the lack of avid interest in the upcoming presidential elections among young people in regards to its implications on climate change and other pressing issues in domestic and international policy. Even groups that actively focus on issues of climate change have not brought this to the table to engage in open dialogue. I implore all constituents to openly discuss the candidates and analyze their environmental and social platforms, voting records, and campaign contributions. Our next president will have a huge impact on the future of the planet, either by being a leader in enacting sustainable strategies that will ensure the healthy endurance of future generations, or by remaining malleable to political and corporate influence thereby accelerating the rate of its demise.

For more info, or to get the scoop on your candidate’s environmental record, visit Grist

Laura Kiesel