Paul Krugman Analysizes How John Edwards Has Shaped the Democratic Political Agenda
One of the rituals of the Jewish Passover meal is that a place at the table is always left vacant for the prophet Elijah. During last night's Democratic Party debate John Edwards still had a seat at the table. Paul Krugman has written an op ed in today's New York Times in which he reflects upon how Edwards shaped the present Democratic debate. One of the problems of his campaign was the alacrity with which both Clinton and Obama adopted the campaign issues that Edwards prioritized, such as universal health care and the rampant poverty of the underprileged majority in this country. Krugman believes, and I agree, that without Edwards contribution things might have been very different. He writes:
But Mr. Edwards, far more than is usual in modern politics, ran a campaign based on ideas. And even as his personal quest for the White House faltered, his ideas triumphed: both candidates left standing are, to a large extent, running on the platform Mr. Edwards built.
To understand the extent of the Edwards effect, you have to think about what might have been.
At the beginning of 2007, it seemed likely that the Democratic nominee would run a cautious campaign, without strong, distinctive policy ideas. That, after all, is what John Kerry did in 2004.
If 2008 is different, it will be largely thanks to Mr. Edwards. He made a habit of introducing bold policy proposals — and they were met with such enthusiasm among Democrats that his rivals were more or less forced to follow suit.
He sums up:
If Democrats manage to get the focus on their substantive differences with the Republicans, ... polls on the issues suggest that they’ll have a big advantage. And they’ll have Mr. Edwards to thank.
I strongly hope that John Edwards keeps the pledge he made when he announced his withdrawal, that he would not give up the fight to shape the progressive agenda.