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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Conscience of the Democratic Party

Two candidates bowed out of the 2008 presidential race yesterday. While Rudy Giuliani's campaign died a slow and painful death brought on by incompetence, egotism, and hubris, John Edwards' campaign died of media neglect.

Edwards' decline began exactly when it shouldn't have. After taking second in Iowa (and thereby beating presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton), Edwards' campaign was written off. He was slighted in the corporate-moderated debates and got very little press. Without the aid of the news media which was busy helping other candidates get their messages out, John found himself unable to even steer the debate toward the most basic Democratic values of fairness and social justice. Attracted to the very public squabbling of the other two dems, the media focused on personality over message, feuding over substance, and the nation took one more hit because of a lazy and sensationalist news media. We used to get Walter Cronkite at 6:00 Central -- now we get Entertainment Tonight-level fluff.

Of course, Edwards' anti-corporate message didn't help him any in a corporate media world. News networks aren't very likely to report the news that they suck.

So who is it now? Who will be the populist, the idealist, the full-throated critic of the status quo? Who will be running to lead the people, not their party? We're out there folks -- we're that segment of the population who are paying attention. And Edwards spoke straight to us. Clearly, someone needs to take up the slack.

In December, John Edwards gave a speech he called "Lifting Up the Middle Class."

Here's what's happened -- corporate greed and political calculation have taken over our government and sold out the middle class. Washington isn't looking out for the middle class because Washington doesn't work for the middle class anymore…That is wrong. It doesn't say life, liberty and the pursuit of endless corporate profit in the Declaration of Independence. America is about opportunity for you... and your families, your children. But our government is selling out their future at the command of lobbyists and their corporate clients and we have to rise up together and stop it. We have to rise up and say, no more. Not on our watch.

FCC Votes to Ease Media Ownership Restrictions, Reuters, Dec. 2007:

The Federal Communications Commission narrowly approved on Tuesday a loosening of media ownership restrictions in the 20 biggest U.S. cities, despite objections from consumer groups and a threat by some U.S. senators to revoke the action.

The FCC voted 3-2, along party lines, to ease the 32-year-old ban on ownership of a newspaper and broadcast outlet in a single market.

In addition, the FCC action exempted 36 newspaper-broadcast ownership combinations that had been grandfathered under the previous rule. It also gave exemptions to six combinations that were pending before the agency.

The FCC's Republican chairman, Kevin Martin, called the move a "relatively minimal loosening of the ban" and said it "may help to forestall the erosion in local news coverage."

The vote came over the objections of the FCC's two Democratic commissioners and in the face of opposition from lawmakers in Congress.

We need a president who will take these powers on and fight to get you your voice back, and your government back. We need a president who is going to fight every day to make sure that all Americans can find good jobs, save for the future, and be guaranteed health care and retirement security. We need a president who is going to lift up the middle class. That is why today, I am proposing my Middle Class Rising agenda, a comprehensive plan to help hardworking families get ahead, and make sure that all Americans have a fair shot at the American Dream.

Bush Tax Cuts Widen US Income Gap, Christian Science Monitor, May 2001:

President Bush's tax cut promises to have a side effect that bothers many Americans: widening the gap between rich and poor.

The wealthy benefit a bit less under the Senate bill - expected to pass yesterday - than under the House version, and in both plans these benefits are phased in slowly.

But the benefits are big, and they will come at a time when income inequality has already been growing, by most measures, in the world's flagship capitalist democracy.

None of this is going to be easy. I hear all these candidates talking about how we're going to bring about the big, bold change that America needs. And I hear some people saying that they think we can sit at a table with drug companies, oil companies and insurance companies, and they will give their power away. That is a fantasy. We have a fight in front of us. We have a fight for the future of this country. And the change we need will not happen easily. We need someone who is going to step into that arena on your behalf, someone who is ready for that fight.

Higher Oil Prices Help Exxon Again Set Record Profit, Washington Post, Feb. 2007:

It was a hard act to follow, but Exxon Mobil has managed quite an encore.

After ringing up the biggest annual profit figure in U.S. corporate history in 2005, Exxon Mobil yesterday announced that it topped that number in 2006. Riding the wave of high crude oil and gasoline prices, the company reported a profit of $39.5 billion, up 9 percent from the year before.

Its revenue of $377.6 billion exceeded the gross domestic product of all but 25 countries.

I could do this all day, Point by point by point, Edwards was right. This nation belongs to the people, not just those who can pay-to-play. Our government should not be for sale and the common good should not be a secondary or tertiary or quaternary concern. The people should not be viewed as merely a resource to be exploited. The Constitution begins "We the People," not "We the Corporate-Owned" or even "We the Consumers."

Edwards has not officially ended his campaign -- rather, he's "suspended" it. Which means he still controls his delegates. If these are enough to make or break the nominee after Super Tuesday, expect candidates to start to address the core Democratic Party's values of social justice, fairness, and populism.

The conscience of the Democratic party may have stopped campaigning, but he hasn't gone anywhere. Here's hoping the remaining candidates listen to their conscience.


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