Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Vote Kerry (or Edwards, or Kucinich)

Voice Writers Make Their Pitches for the March 2 Democratic Primary

Edwards the Performer
It's the Sex Appeal, Stupid

Can we agree that this isn't about "issues"? Can we admit we've never had a grip on NAFTA? Here American union members and non-union chattel are losing their jobs, which hurts all but the richest of us, and there oppressed third-world people are working under (what a surprise) hideously exploitative conditions, but still working, which is better than not working, a/k/a starving.

Out of this moral morass pokes the sharpest distinction between John Kerry and John Edwards, and we're supposed to choose one or the other? If that's what you think, go vote for Kucinich. Or Sharpton. Or Dean. We want you, but until November we can't have you. Vote again then. We're begging.

There is another substantive difference: whose pocket they're in. Forget "lobbyists," although they matter a little. Kerry owes telecommunications, Edwards owes torts lawyers. The lies told about "personal damages" are dwarfed by the lies of the information cartels. One point for Edwards. But that doesn't matter much either. Because make no mistake--if a Democrat beats Bush, which is possible thanks in significant part to how the utterly unpresidential Dean riled his party, he will inherit an economic mess likely to leave him with the lowest approval ratings ever by early 2006. Issues and backers will mean next to nothing. He'll be struggling to keep the government's head above water with his hands tied.

Unlike Bush--whose program continues to be the transfer of wealth to the wealthy and the transformation of welfare state into police state, and who looks forward to shrinking federal services to nothing--both Edwards and Kerry will want the government to survive. Nothing in the record suggests that either man will enjoy any significant edge in mitigating a hellish situation. The only question is who has the better chance of trying. Had he gulled the electorate, Joe Lieberman himself would have been an acceptable alternative, so thank Yahweh he's gone and consider your options.

John Edwards is from the South and, unlike Al Gore, of the South, where trial lawyers are popular heroes. Like most courtroom stars, Edwards is an inspired performer, a quick-witted natural rapper with a Clinton-esque touch. Early on he made class his identity marker, and class is what the election will be about if our side wins. Republicans and, lately, independents have decisively preferred him to Kerry. He has kept his sights on Bush, not other Democrats--even now he's attacking Kerry only on NAFTA and electability itself. Give him more chance than Kerry in North Carolina, Tennessee, and conceivably Arkansas or Georgia as well as Florida, and at least an equal chance in the Midwest. He deserves the opportunity to duke it out with the front-runner on Super Tuesday. Should he win, he's the best candidate, and the party should nominate him, hopefully with minimal bloodshed. Because our eyes should stay on November. Kerry has proven much less of a stiff than he once appeared, and should his fighting style prevail March 2, Edwards should, and likely will, withdraw. If vice-presidential candidates mean anything, he'd make a dandy. Pray he despises Bush enough to put pride aside and give it a shot.

Village Voice, Mar. 2, 2004

Postscript Notes:

This piece was originally published as the second of three pitches for candidates in the March 2, 2004 Democratic presidential primary in New York. The first was by Richard Goldstein, for John Kerry; the third was for Denis Kucinich, by Alisa Solomon. The introduction said: "Editor's note: when voice writers and editors met to consider an endorsement in the march 2 democratic primary, we were a house divided--and after a second intramural debate, we emerged just as splintered. We'll offer no endorsement here, but rather an argument for each candidate who has support at the paper." The entire original article is on the Voice website.