Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yes, We Can. Yes We Can, And We Will.

(with thanks to Karl Blumenthal's OpenLeft post and ACORN's Charles Jackson for giving me permission to post the actual video)

If you've got 22 minutes and could use a fiery refresher on the excitement and importance of this year's presidential election, then check out this June 23rd speech by John Edwards at the annual convention of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

To reiterate:
This is who we are. This is our moment. This is our time to lock arms again and walk through this country. We're going to look at everything that needs to grow stronger, and it needs to start by making sure that no one is ever denied opportunity and justice and an equal chance again... So let's walk together. Let's not stop until we end poverty in this country. We can't get that with John McCain and four more years of that mess. Eight is enough. But if you want change, if you believe in your heart and soul that anything is possible, then lock arms with me, walk hand in hand, and let's march to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and put Barack Obama in the presidency and make America what it's capable of being. We can do this together. Yes, we can. Yes, we can, and we will.

Despite some recent shake-ups, ACORN maintains a number of excellent ongoing campaigns and has a near-40-year history of working to improve the lives of people near and below the poverty line. They have had a close political relationship with Edwards throughout his political career, because both ACORN and Edwards hold to the same central message: poverty of the scale that exists in the United States is absolutely unacceptable.

Edwards's speech, which touches on these issues directly, is one of the best speeches so far in a year of truly fantastic speeches. It's also a perfect example of JJ's remarks to me about how the power of Hillary's concession speech was largely derived from her appropriation of Obama's buzzwords and general frame. Of course, she did such a fantastic job that it was easy to question the extent of her campaign's authorship.

Well, Edwards – who actually has a unique platform – definitely wrote this speech. This endorsement of Obama matches all of the power and prescience of Obama's narrative with all the fire of his own campaign to end poverty. And he's not just falling in line behind the presidential candidate, either. These aren't issues that Obama has been explicitly pressing – on a national level, the alleviation of poverty appears to remain, despite his best efforts, the exclusive concern of Edwards himself. Indeed, if rumors are to be believed, then this has been a consistent point of contention between the two. Nevertheless, Edwards's endorsement here is personal, passionate and absolute.

In short, I think this speech powerfully confirms a welcome trend in progressive national politics: the growing realization that we don't all have to be the same in order to present a unified political front. This sort of individualized yet unified position has long been a latent and largely unused strength of Democrats, perhaps the only true answer to the more consistently lock-step Republican Party. Although the Democrats have a long way to go, as JJ points out, I can't help but be encouraged by this move towards positive debate.

So, enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! It reminds me of the speech he gave at Take Back America last year that Helen and I saw, which was one of the better speeches (if not the best) I've ever seen live. He can definitely command a room as good as anyone.

    Your point in the last paragraph is dead on. The ability to come together as a coalition while still holding different issues and causes is something the democrats have struggled mightily with, so hopefully this is a a sign of things to come. It brings his supporters fully into the fold, but it doesn't leave his issues at the door. Brilliant.