As the sticker on my shirt as I left the polling place yesterday proclaimed, I Voted. Specifically, I popped a card into one of the spiffy new Diebold electronic voting machines we now have in Maryland (mine worked just fine), and I touched the screen for John Edwards.
It didn’t do much good.
When I first argued, back in October, that non-Democrats ought to vote in Democratic primaries, I acknowledged that this could only help a candidate who made serious inroads among real Democrats. John Edwards failed to make those inroads, and he lost.
According to exit polls, Edwards won among Republicans and self-described conservatives in Georgia and Maryland, and also among Republicans in Ohio. He lost all three of those, the states he targeted most heavily, because Kerry won among Democrats. Democrats, of course, make up the bulk of the Democratic primary electorate.
Leave it to Democrats to choose the greater of two evils. For me, the choice wasn’t even a close call. Edwards may have made wrongheaded trade policy the signature issue of his campaign, and he may have been a tool of the trial lawyer lobby. But consider the alternatives.
Discount Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich right off the bat. After going to the trouble of changing my party registration (Maryland has a closed primary), I wasn’t going to flippantly toss my vote away on a nut with no chance of picking up delegates.
Then there’s John Kerry. As I’ve watched him frantically straddle every issue of consequence, my disdain for Kerry has reached an uncommon intensity.
John Edwards told Newsweek that “[o]n Iraq, except for the fact that I’m more direct in my answers, there’s just not much difference” between him and Kerry. But that is a difference. Clarity of speech begets clarity of thought. George W. Bush may not always be eloquent, but his speech is direct, particularly on foreign policy; this is symptomatic of the clear stands he’s taken. Edwards could pretty clearly answer the most nagging question on his foreign policy record, his vote against funding the occupation he’d voted to authorize: He wanted to register a protest against the President’s not consulting Congress enough, and was sure that the appropriation would pass a second round of negotiations. There’s a bit of spin to that (a more truthful answer would be “Dean’s momentum spooked me”), but it towered above Kerry’s various non-answers.
I can imagine a large-scale terrorist attack one morning, followed up in the afternoon by President Kerry droning on about his intention to refer this “crime” (he would never call it an act of war) to the international community. Maybe all Edwards could offer would be Clintonian pain-feeling, but that would be far preferable.
Alas, the accelerated primary schedule made it very difficult for Edwards to catch Kerry once Kerry’s momentum got going. (And yes, it might have helped if Edwards weren’t too nice to take the gloves off.) As Democrats got on the bandwagon for Kerry, they repeatedly told pollsters that they went with the Massachusetts Senator because they thought he’d beat Bush.
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