John Edwards in Nashua, NH on 2004/01/03

I just got back from listening to John Edwards deliver a speech and hope to convert a piece of that experience into text for those that could not be there.

The speech was set for 3:00pm and at that time Edwards was not around. So a few of his supporters led chants and cheers in the meantime. The majority of the chants were of the “Let’s Go Edwards! Woooo” variety, but there was an interesting one whose relevance will be revealed later on:

John Edwards–he is our guy
And unlike Bush he does not lie

Sound off–Edwards
Sound off–Edwards

He’ll Win New Hampshire, Yes He Will
Then go South and win again!

Around 3:30pm, An aide put a blue binder on the podium and then John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” came. You could feel the hairs on the back of necks go up as cheers spread through the crowd of 50 or 60 typical New Hampshire citizens (and visitors.) And there to the back came Edwards and his entourage, up to the stage, accompanied by someone–I think New Hampshire State Representative Joe Foster, but I’m not sure.

The person who brought him on stage introduced him and talked a bit about why he thought that Edwards would be a great President. He mostly tried to emphasis how Edwards is such a normal guy, just like you, and because of that he will fight for you. He mostly foreshadowed some of the points of Edwards’ speech: Edwards has been fighting for regular people for twenty years and is focused on the future and optimism, rather than the past and what he sees are problems. To tie this optimism to great presidents of the passed, and to address John Edwards’ age, the speaker talked about Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy–their accomplishments, optimism, and age. He then passed the mic to John Edwards.

After the roar that had erupted was quelled, John Edwards began to thank the crowd and talk about how glad he was to be in Nashua, NH. He said that this was no ordinary campaign stop, it was JFK’s first campaign stop in 1960.

He mentioned that the campaign had just begun and before it was over he will have gone to hundreds of town meetings and spoken dozens of more times. Not only was he optimistic about his vision for the country, but he was optimistic about his campaign.

He said that he was there today to ask the people of Nashua to join him in making his–and their, he assumed–vision of America come real. He said that Americans to exist in two worlds:

  • The world where the richest people get the best health care money can by, and the world where the rest of “us” have to settle for what’s left or nothing at all.
  • The world where the richest people send their children to the best schools, and the world where the other children are not able to get themselves out of poverty without an education.
  • The world where the government is run by those with the deepest pockets: the drug companies, the oil companies, the lobbyists; flexing their muscles in Washington; and then, the world that is slowly going away where the government is run for and by the people.
  • The world where millionaires are taxed less than their secretaries, and the world where people cannot afford their first home because taxes are so high.

He said that many people don’t think that he is ready to fight that kind of fight and make that type of change. They say that he doesn’t have enough experience in politics or in Washington; he’s only been doing both for a few years. Edwards said that this was true–he hasn’t been in Washington for long–but he thinks that is a good thing. He says, ‘Do you think those people in Washington would fight against what kept them there so long?’ He then referred to being ready for the fight itself, ‘I have been fighting the fight against big corporations and corporate interests in courtrooms for the last 20 years! I’ve been ready for this fight my whole life!’ Needless to say, the crowd adored this.

He talked about optimism. ‘This future that “we” see together can be reality, I believe in you! Don’t we want–don’t we need–a president who believes in the American people?’ He said that his campaign is about the future and progress, not about the past and dwelling on the personalities who created those problems. If you look in the paper, or on the news, he says, you can see Democrats sniping at Democrats. ‘Attack ads about Health Care, Attack ads about Iraq, and Attack ads about Attack ads!’

Pausing for a moment and tying these two things together, Edwards says, ‘I have to deal all you people something. I’ve been in New Hampshire a while, and I’ve learned that you are a very direct people, so I’m going to be direct with you: I’m not thatkind of candidate. If you want a candidate who will focus on the past and personality, who will snipe at all the others, you have some fine choices–but that is not me.’

Cue the crowd clapping

Then, he began to talk about the specific things he would do:

  • Fight for health care for every child as a birth right.
  • Fight for better schools and equal opportunity education.
  • Fight to increase the minimum wage and create jobs to lift people out of poverty.
  • Fight to make race and class no longer issues in America, because they sadly are still issues today.
  • (See John Edwards’ Real Solutions For America page.)

And then after these 20 minutes of speech, the song came back on and his pearly whites were flashed. The kids and wife came up onto the stage and the cameras went off. And then they snuck back behind the stage… off to some other stop I imagine.

What is interesting to me is what John Edwards did NOT say. He didn’t say Bush’s name once. He didn’t mention any other candidate by name. He didn’t talk about anything they were doing that he did not agree with, only that he wasn’t going to succumb to competing based on who can pot shot the best. I thought to be strange after listening to Howard Dean at Halley’s House Partyand every other time I’ve heard him. It seems like every other candidate rallies around how they will defeat Bush. John Edwards talks about how he will bring America to the people and make it great–not how he’ll crush some other candidate.

Additionally, I thought this to be interesting given the pre-speech chant against Bush. Maybe there is a disconnect between the campaign supporters and the man?

The other thing that was curious, although perhaps a little understandable given the time constraint of a cold winter day, is that Edwards just talked about what he would do, not how he would do it.

Maybe I don’t necessarily want all the laws and bills he will promote already written but I’d like to know a bit more details about how he’ll make this vision come true. Whether that be in the form of “I’ll seek out advisors like this and try to change these programs”; or, of the form “I’ll have a post election vote about certain decisions”; or, even allude to a bit of the hesitation some may feel (i.e. How will you pay for it?)

And, to address something that is on many people’s minds I’d imagine. As John Edwards was getting off the stage, a woman turned to me and said, “I like him because he’s cute!”

My opinion:

I very much like John Edwards’ attitude. He is not out to make anyone else look bad, but to make himself look good and do what is best for the country. I think this is very important and I cringe every time I hear Howard Dean talk about sending someone “on a one-way ticket back to Crawford, Texas.”

I like most John Edwards’ policies particularly towards cleaning up Washington and education, although I must read his issue page much more to get a better picture. I’m a bit weary of his ideas about the economy and particularly with regards to minimum wage which does nothing good for anyone, although it sounds nice.

I don’t think that Edwards is using the Internet very effectively and doesn’t seem to be making a point of its power for democracy, but as you may realize if you read this blog or The Rhythm Track at all–I don’t think that any candidate is and I think that the one most touted to be an Internet pioneer, Dean, is actually just abusing it and leading it down the road to corruption.