Senator Edwards was thirty minutes late when he arrived at the packed room in downtown Storm Lake, so he got right to work. Edwards introduced his two young children, then– to their delight– released them for a quick trip down to the lakeshore. Such cute kids. It was the highlight of the event.
Edwards tried. He cut his stump speech …
to under five minutes (about the broken health insurance system and his excellent plan for repair). He took questions for thirty minutes.
The audience did not limit him to local problems. Storm Lake hosts a college, but there were no questions about education. It hosts a meat packing plant with an immigrant workforce, but immigration did not come up. Neither did agriculture.
People asked the Big Questions: about federal deficits, Israel, the rise of corporations at the expense of the middle class, the falling prestige of the USA around the globe. The senator gave lengthy answers, hitting many familiar points. He got applause for wanting to investigate oil companies; for criticizing NAFTA and No Child Left Behind and the Bush tax cuts; for saying the Democrats have a mandate to end the war in Iraq. When someone asked why the DC Dems had capitulated over Iraq, even the questioner was supported by applause.
But there was no theme. Poverty was barely mentioned. His own story as a lawyer who got justice for innocent victims was not mentioned. I know this is old news to caucus goers. I know it is old criticism to say that Republicans. have themes and sound bites while Democrats have only policy wonks and position papers.
But it would have been better to drive home some theme. Even those who have read about the Four Trials could have been touched by the retelling of a story that shows how Edwards fought for someone who needed an advocate. He could fight for us. He could be more than the hard worker Hillary is, more than the audacious hope salesman Obama is. He could have a theme of working class roots battling arrogant corporations in court, promising to do the same for us.
When the next candidate comes to town with different policy positions they will sound pretty good, too. Edwards will be a vague memory with cute kids. Thank goodness for the kids.