Campaign Crawlers

Pie in the Sky

Birthday boy John Edwards enlists friends and family to show that his campaign for sweet social justice isn't half baked.

By 6.8.07

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Last month Joe Trippi sent an e-mail to John Edwards' supporters warning any and all potential adversaries he was "back in the fight," but he didn't want to go to the frontlines alone. His new general, a certain well-known Son of a Mill Worker, needed our help. "Right now," he wrote. "Please do everything you can."

Trippi's new war dance cannot be summarily dismissed as an idle threat. To take the maverick behind the 2004 Howard Dean campaign at his word, after all, is to believe, as he contends in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything, the man single-handedly began a process to reverse "fifty years of political cynicism in one glorious explosion of civic re-engagement," an achievement he modestly appraises as, "nothing less than the first shot in America's second revolution."

Should a feisty progressive volunteer visit the Edwards for President website seeking guidance or marching orders this weekend, however, they will instead find a video of Trippi and deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince taking a break from the trenches of what we are left to presume is America's Third Revolution to bake their candidate a birthday pecan pie.

I knew the Edwards' crew was engaged in a desperate fight against hunger, I just didn't realize it was their own.

Don't misunderstand: There are moments in the video where the fighter in Trippi cracks his docile lavender-shirted exterior like an obdurate chick pecking his way out of an Easter egg. Believe it: The man's a stealthy tiger. Trippi may fling flour at Prince in a playful just-two-guys-baking-a-pie-together way, but observe moments later the stoic fortitude with which he continues to whisk even as Prince tosses an egg at him. A Republican watching Trippi vigorously butter a pie crust is likely to suddenly, vividly comprehend Julius Caesar's account of his first engagement with the Britons in 55 B.C., his "terrified" men "inexperienced in this kind of fighting" and lacking "that dash and drive which characterized" their previous conquests. Pick up your butter, men. The war is on.

Trippi and Price must also be great multitaskers. Hardly an Edwards alert passes without a note about how strenuously Team Edwards is working to "achieve transformational change" on issues including (but by no means limited to) "universal health care, eliminating poverty here and around the world, putting an end to global warming, and ending this war in Iraq." Such lofty ambitions would seem to preclude card games while waiting for the crust to rise. What the women of the 1970s were told must be true: You can have it all!

CAMPAIGN BIRTHDAY PIE is actually not Trippi's first post-Angry Dwarf Internet Campaign big idea. No, John's mother Bobbie Edwards -- or at least a small mass of political consultants and twenty-something campaign flunkies collectively chosen to channel her -- earns the gold star for this one. With the prescience only a Wife of a Mill Worker can truly display, Bobbie understood the widespread unease and consternation throughout both Americas over how to appropriately celebrate her son's 54th birthday this Sunday. (On a related note, these may have been the same signals lesser attuned antennae of Barack Obama mistook for a "quiet riot" earlier this week.) "Let's make John's birthday a celebration for America," Mama Edwards suggests.

What does one give to a plantation-owning multi-millionaire withhis own basketball and squash courts, a swimming pool and an eponymous lounge who loves to raise barns for neighbors in his spare time? And don't even kid about hair salon gift certificates. Remember, Joe Trippi is back in the fight!

To Bobbie, the answer is clear: Give the man money. "We know everyone can't give a lot," she reassures the Other America, so long as we give in a meaningful way. To that end, the online form is comprised of three donation buttons: Give $6.10 if you would like to commemorate John's June 10th birth date. Or $19.53 to acknowledge 1953, the year Wallace Edwards "borrowed $50 to bring me and our new born boy home from the hospital back in Seneca, South Carolina." (Let your inner voice adopt a slow, Southern drawl.) Of course, if you're really dedicated to the Edwardsian worldview you'll pony up $54 -- a dollar for every year this planet has been blessed with his existence.

Poor John Edwards. His personality cult is all personality and no cult. One imagines Kim Jong-il sitting in an undisclosed hermetically sealed room somewhere in Pyongyang lecturing an audience of apparatchiks. "Can you believe this Edwards guy?" he squawks, lifting his sunglasses to show his own wide-eyed shock. "Is his ego out of control or what?"

To help you celebrate John Edwards/America, sweet Bobbie Edwards from Robbins, Nawth Caralina is going to send along the Edwards family recipe for pecan pie -- as already noted, John's favorite! "I wish I could make enough pie to thank everyone who supports my son," Bobbie laments, clearly dreaming of the massive pie subsidies she's counting on President Edwards to sign into law on June 10, 2009 as part of the Everything You Want is a Right Not a Privilege omnibus bill. "But the next best thing is to send you my secret recipe and hope that on June 10th we can both enjoy a slice."

It's baffling. Presumably, John Edwards' supporters believe a former North Carolina senator -- hint: not Jesse Helms -- is going to solve every intractable social, economic and environmental problem on the face of the planet, yet his mother has to promise a pie recipe for his supporters to dole out $6.10. You accept Global Warming may spell the end of mankind, but it's the pecan pie that finally tickles your self-preservation instinct? Iraq is the worst foreign policy blunder in U.S. history, but it's the piece of pie that finally gets you onboard for peace? It's an attitude that certainly takes some of the wind out of their apocalypse sock.

"THIS IS GOING TO BE REAL EASY," Trippi deadpans to the camera as he and his fellow Domestic Male Servant -- sorry, Deputy Campaign Manager -- prepare to bake the Bossman's pie. "We're hoping many of you do a better job of this than we do."

Sorry, Joe. You're going to have to be a bit more specific.

Shawn Macomber is a 2006 Phillips Foundation Journalism fellow.

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