Kucinich decided to stop his run last Friday, and Edwards today. As I reflect on whether there is any more to say about this, I find that there is. There is around 12 months of these two mens' lives that they spent campaigning, and as the media's cameras quickly turn on to the remaining candidates, I think it's merited to take a minute to consider our view of men such as these.
For the most part, respect for politicians is scattered in America. There's plenty of reason for this, but a broad brush for all politicians just isn't accurate. It is helpful to take a moment to consider those who are adding to (or apathetic towards) what is wrong in this country: the over 100 white supremacists that protested the existence of a Martin Luther King holiday last week; those such as Timothy McVay who killed 168 in Oklahoma City years ago; the VA Tech shootings that left 30 some odd people dead; the more subtle areas of society where subprime lending sharks knowingly set up bad interest packages for low-income home-buyers, and high government officials neglect the development of a solid FEMA program to deal with natural disasters. The list goes on to health care issues, issues of war and taxes, and so on.
With those considerations in mind, a John Edwards standing up for poverty issues, or a Dennis Kucinich calling for a smarter trade program to improve US employment, both take on a different light. We all have imperfections that would face scrutiny in the constant eye of the media, but there is something powerful that comes from considering those who would to better our country, our life experience, our humanity. It is something we easily ascribe to the social workers, the Bill Gates', and other non-politicians, but might there be a more honorable place for some in politics? This is not a new perspective for all, to be sure. But even for those who can look at a given candidate with respect, I believe that perspective more easily diminishes for, in the case of this election, those on the second tier. Perhaps the media's easy categorizing of candidates into the "angry" or "long-shot" statuses is one of the major problems. Similarly, I think the often quick coverage of candidates begets a lesser view of them--e.g., more information, in-depth information, reveals policies and lifestyles that often are worthy of respect. But the public's common view from the media sets them up as horses, and not as those who desire to be change agents (as some certainly do).
There is a related category I find myself in, from which I see Republican lawmakers and candidates as something less than they likely deserve. That is, as a self-professed Democrat, I, and I'm sure many others, would do well to remember that those on the opposite side of us politically often come from genuine intentions. The reality of good intentions not equaling good policy is where the dialogue must happen; but assuming good intentions, choosing respect, and having open ears makes for an honest starting place, for citizens and politicians alike. So I would just end by saying that it has been a healthy thought experiment personally to consider the energy spent by candidates such as Edwards and Kucinich, trekking across our wide country; their engagement with, and difficult stances on, weighty issues; the ugly public scrutiny that they are subject to, particularly when taking principled, but perhaps not popular positions; the months and months of personal time they offer up with the hope of bettering the lives of those outside of themselves (the electorate); and lest we forgot, the disaster that is our campaign financing rigamarole, having to ask for money endlessly just to stay competitive.
With that said, I think both had some solid things to say in their campaigns, as their two exit speeches indicate for any interested:
Update: In a CNN article, it discusses the idea of where Edwards supporters may turn, either via his endorsement or the simple reconsideration of voters. The question is a significant one, and one I would hope Edwards would consider prior to next week's Super Tuesday primary, as that's when it will be most necessary. From the CNN article:
"You could make an argument that the change issue does benefit Barack Obama, that he picks up that support. You could also make the argument that there's a lot of support out there amongst people that will go to Hillary," [strategist Peter Fenn] said. "The big issue here is who will he endorse."
Some political pundits predict Edwards' supporters are more likely to lean in Obama's direction. [Watch analyst Mark Halperin explain endorsement possibilities]
"The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama will pick up maybe 60 percent of them, and in some places, that makes a huge difference," former presidential adviser David Gergen said.
Time magazine journalist Joe Klein said, "I don't think he endorses Hillary Clinton. The question is whether or not he endorses Barack Obama." "