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.

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that John Edwards pulled out of the race. I would hope that his ideas and ideals are embraced by the candidates that remain, but don't have as much faith in them as Krugman apparently does.

I fear the demise of the Edwards campaign is merely a symptom of a larger problem with politics and elections in our country. As long as "we the people" let the media pick our elected officials, we are going to be stuck with the same old ideas and political philosophies that have brought us to the current state.

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If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little. ~ George Carlin

But I don't forsee any eventuality in which achieving a clean sweep that puts the Democratic party firmly in control of the presidency and the two houses, will not be a victory. Conversely I think that there is no question that McCain and Romney if elected will do incalculable damage to the US, the global economy and the ecology of the planet. I don't think there is any way that the present Democratic contenders can come close to the havoc either of them would wreak if elected. (And in the case of McCain one would have to worry about his choice of VP as he is getting on in years and has had poor health.)


Listen carefully to last night's debate if you get the chance. Edwards' ideas have definitely been incorporated into the dialog of both candidates.

I agree but it you didn't have to listen to carefully for the not so subtle pandering for Edwards supporters to join my camp and Edwards to endorse my campaign.

But the shift that Krugman is talking about occurred before. Like Scarlet O'Hara said (remember I am now a transplanted southern gal) "I'll cry tomorrow."