From Dallasdoc's diary "John the Baptist", published in the wake of the Iowa caucuses:
It's been clear for over a year that the Democratic primaries would come down to Hillary vs. not-Hillary. Many of us hoped for Al Gore to come into the race and fill in the blank, but he didn't do so. It appears tonight that Barack Obama is The Alternative.
But John Edwards represents something big, something important, something the Democratic party needs to get back in touch with in order to build a durable ruling coalition: economic populism. The ongoing destruction of the American middle class by corporatism disguised as Reaganomics has progressed to the point that political reaction is inevitable. The institutionalized corruption in Washington which has replaced democracy with plutocracy has severely wounded our economy and gutted our Constitutional form of government. Fighting back against these realities is the political work of our time. John Edwards is the messenger of the Gospel of Economic Populism.
Franklin Roosevelt redefined our party and gave it a raison d'etre. His political philosophy was lost in the Cold War consensus, and was one of the casualties of the Vietnam War. The middle class his New Deal built began to fall apart when the ethics of economic democracy Roosevelt preached was forgotten. The economic royalists (as Roosevelt called them) seized their opportunity with a shiny line of bullshit and a soap salesman named Ronald Reagan. They slowly, methodically dismantled Roosevelt's achievements, as far as they could, and persuaded Americans that greed was good.
Roosevelt had a different vision, one we must recapture and honor again. From his Second Inaugural Address:
We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world.
More than Iraq, more than torture, more even than the Constitution, this is the vision the Democratic Party must embrace and offer the country. The middle class is dying and must be revived. Its would-be murderers, the wealthy and big corporations, must be penalized and controlled. That is the vision John Edwards offers the Democratic party. His emphasis on poverty, his fingering of corporate influence as our true enemy, his recognition that recapturing the party will require a long tough fight -- these are lessons the Democrats must truly take to heart.
Barack Obama appears to be the anti-establishment alternative Democrats will be offered. He has a different message to offer, meeting the nation's hunger for change with a different recipe. He has adopted some of the notes in this Rooseveltian symphony, but the feel of his campaign is different. Perhaps he is charting a new winning course, perhaps he is on a detour. I hope Obama realizes that if he takes the mantle of the Democratic party that its soul was defined by Franklin Roosevelt, that Roosevelt's task will be his, and that Roosevelt's enemies will also be his.
John Edwards may not be the party's nominee this year or any year. But John Edwards' message is the one Democrats will need to embrace to build a new New Deal. He may not be the Messiah we need, but he is showing the way.