Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Real Thing?

Look, I truly want to believe in you, John. Honest. I do. But one question more than any other keeps nagging at me: are you the real thing? Or do you just talk the talk?

Here’s the deal. You have made the plight of the poor a central plank of your Campaign for the Presidency. No-one forced you to do this. It was your choice. And in my opinion, rightly so.

There is no greater stain on the moral fabric of America than the 50 million of our friends and neighbors who find themselves, through no fault of their own, living below the poverty line (according to the Luxembourg Income Study).

You ask us to ignore the apparent disconnect between your fight against poverty and your multimillion-dollar house; the distance between your "humble beginnings" in a mill town and your life now, after a lucrative law career.

You urge us instead to focus on your statement that your Campaign is not just about garnering votes for yourself; it is about taking action to help the disadvantaged – even before we get to any vote-tallying.

Sounds great. But then, I’m not for one moment doubting your ability to talk a great game. You're a highly successful tort lawyer. You ought to be right up their with the very best talkers.

However, John, I can't help feeling that we’ve been here before.

Two years ago (ironically, the same amount of time left before Decision ’08), you helped to form the Center for Poverty at the University of North Carolina, here in Chapel Hill.

At that time, you promised that you were genuinely concerned with the plight of the poor, and that the Center was not merely a platform to kick-start your eventual bid for the Presidency in 2008.

Yet I’m left wondering exactly what the Center or you have done in the past two years “about taking action to help the disadvantaged.” As opposed to, say, just talking about it? Or traveling around the country, building a Campaign organization…?

To borrow a line…I know the working poor. I’m one of them. They are my friends. And you John…hmm…is it fair to say that you still have a tad more to prove? And it’ll take more than words to do it?

John, you have two years. You can spend that time genuinely helping the poor - both specifically and in general. Making bold proposals, pushing for far-reaching action, doing the right thing. Even if it means taking risks.

Or you can stick to talking, finding photo ops, and doing the safe thing. Simply using the poor as a vote-getting platform; a means to ensure trade union support. The choice, John, and the challenge are yours.

In the meantime, I'll be here, asking the tough questions of you...and poking a little fun. With a ton of good-nature – and my very own brand of English charm.

All the while making sure that Campaign John ’08 produces the action that maybe Center John ’04 didn’t. Making sure that you, John, prove yourself to be a genuine friend of the poor, both during your Campaign, and when you get to the White House. Making sure that you keep it real. Ok?


Robert P said...

As a brit, you might not be aware of this but the American Dream is actually to work as hard as you can to make a better life for you and your family. Regardless of what Republican talking-heads would have you think, most working class Americans, those of us who came from poor starts, do not harbor any ill will to the likes of John Edwards and Bill Gates. It is the John Kerry and Walton clan that we despise, those that are born into wealthy, who feel some sense of entitlement because of which womb spewed them forth.

Sure, John Edwards was a very successful trial lawyer, taking on cases that no one else would, at great financial risk to himself. If those cases were lost his pay would be, nothing. But, he was good and he won, big awards, of which he took a sizable chunk. If the "customers" were unhappy they need only think of what the bigger share of $0 would have been.

As for the Directorship at the Center of Poverty, I would ask you this, what is the purpose of the director? This isn't Weaver Street, where the owners stack shelves and the "directors" are grunts. No, this is an academic unit, whose goal is to survive. How does an academic unit go about this?


John Edwards has traveled the country alright, and all the money he has raised has gone to other Democratic candidates AND, wait for it, his Poverty Center. The Center now has an endowment large enough to guarantee that it will be in existence long after his departure, something that another, more academically gifted director, could not have guaranteed. That is the job of an academic big "C" Center director, and he has accomplished it.

'watch on the ninth' said...

"robert p,"

Thank you for joining in the conversation. It is appreciated.

You know, it is possible to interpret what you have written as meaning:

1) John, the Center and his Campaign are way too important to do anything more lowly than raise lots of money. The grunt work (like actual hands-on helping of the poor) is left to...well...the grunts.

2) I wouldn't understand this because I'm just an ordinary grunt who only understands about stacking shelves.

Now "robert p," before you pop anything, let me say that I am absolutely sure that is not what you meant.

But even if it is a mistake, it comes from a mindset.

As a consequence, I'm bound to say that any doubts I may have had about the potential usefulness of this blog have now been cleared away - and for that, bless your heart, I thank you.

Just think of me as your Campaign's lighting rod, here to keep you all grounded.

Stay in touch - with poor people, and with this blog!

This is only the beginning of this conversation. I truly believe that we will all learn a great deal from each other.

Leslie H said...

Ah, yes ... the proverbial "lightning rod" ... only here to help friends and neighbors. Mr. watch might be the good natured josher who has no other agenda at all. Or, he might not be.

Yes, robert p's response could be interpreted the way you say, but only if you assume some things about his purpose in posting a comment here.

Then again your posts, mr. watch, are full of questions that could easily be answered with a simple google search. This trend can be interpreted to mean:

1) mr. watch lives in Chapel Hill yet he's totally unaware of any of the work the Poverty Center or Edwards has done over the previous years and so he's not a terribly reliable "watch"-man.

2) mr. watch wants to skew Edwards' message and purpose by ignoring the work of the Povery Center and the Edwards online group (OneCorps) over the previous years and so he's not a terribly unbiased "watch"-man.

But then, that's just my friendly observation. :)

Robert P said..., I don't think it could be read that way, by an objective reader.

In fact, I challenge you to find another campaign that will or has ever called for national days of action, where they ask their supporters to go out and do something for their communities, for their state, for their country, or for their planet. And, this isn't new. Before the campaign the One Corps was already involved in this, not asking volunteers for money, but instead to collect cans of food in collaboration with Second Harvest.

As other campaigns ask volunteers to ONLY sign up potential voters, the Edwards campaign will be asking its supporters to do something else - to make a difference now.

'watch on the ninth' said...

...and good for you, "robert p" and the Campaign! It is, of course, just a start, but a great start. And I thank you.