John Edwards Campaign Raises the Right Issues
Ninth Ward a Platform to Promote Economic Security for All
Last week, John Edwards announced that he was running for President. While few were surprised by his announcement, many were interested by where the announcement took place--in New Orleans' still-devastated Ninth Ward. The connection is clear. Edwards has spent the last four years speaking out about poverty in America, and the Ninth Ward of New Orleans continues to haunt every discussion about economic disparity in America.
That is why Edwards's announcement in the Ninth Ward was so powerful. It serves as a reminder that to make a difference on national problems as big as the hurricanes, as big as guaranteeing decent health coverage for all, and as big as poverty, it will take an active and competent federal leadership.
Edwards understands that the fight to end poverty in America cannot be restricted to platitudes about personal responsibility. We need real leadership, presidential leadership that will set a substantive agenda to work towards economic security and fairness for all. Edwards is right to point out that strengthening the middle class and "ending the shame of poverty" are actually different ways to talk about the same issue. Strengthening the middle class means opening it to more people and keeping them there once they make it. Fighting poverty means creating paths into the middle class and preventing members of the middle class from falling into poverty. Policies such as establishing health care for everyone serve both goals and illustrate the essential fact - that we are all in this together.
It would be an affront to the lives destroyed by the hurricane and to Americans everywhere, if we used the Gulf tragedy only to score opportunistic political points. Rather, from that tragedy, we should take increased devotion to fight for equality, opportunity, and justice for all Americans. In this increasingly unequal time, the fight to end poverty becomes proportionately more pressing, as more and more middle-class Americans feel the uncertainty we once characterized as confined to the poor: stagnant wages, disappearing health care, and educational inequality.
Katrina reminded us of the persistent and deep poverty that exists in our nation, and of the dormant role of the federal government in recent years. The country is hungry for a renewed focus on this set of issues people are demanding that our representatives fight for economic security and fairness for low income and middle class Americans. John Edwards should be recognized for raising the right issues from the very start of his campaign. Let's hope that the other candidates will engage in a vigorous conversation about how best to accomplish these goals.