On Tuesday, a man who spent $30 million to win the Florida Republican Primary finished in third place with less than 282,000 votes. On the same day, another man, who had been precluded from spending even dollar one to win the Florida Democratic Primary, also finished in third place with less than 249,000 votes. Yesterday, both Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards gave in to the reality of their lots in life--and we, in turn, give in to ours.
As this blog has made clear, I regard the former Mayor as depraved and deranged, a man who would make it his mission in life to execute Muslims around the world, a man who would call this excess of American might, largesse of the American spirit. Sometimes, even this fat, dumb country has a way of surprising me: it took a hard, long look at Mayor McCarpetBomb and realized it didn't like the dithering, slithering mess that it saw. It realized that the highest office in the land--though occupied by a myopic brush-herder--deserves more than a man who stood near the embers of his own astonishingly misplaced Emergency Command Center and took credit for...for what exactly, I'm not sure.
I am a bitter and vindictive person, I know; I am given to ad hominem attacks, but Rudy Giuliani is a horrible person, a union buster, a terror-bater, a Machiavellian gifted at decorating his own legend, and I can only pray that his failed campaign will ruin him professionally and erase him from our national consciousness. My saying this may seem impolitic--perhaps I am trampling on the already down-trodden--but if we are really to move beyond September 11th and heal, we must lay to rest all the myths that surround the narrative of that day: Rudy Giuliani did not stop the attacks , he did not guide us to some new understanding in their wake, he did not show resolve in the face of hardship. He was a man who saw oppportunity in disaster, and for that he deserves to be punished. The end of his campaign should be only the first penance.
If we are to gain anything from the day that made Rudy Giuliani, I hope it is this: tragedy should humble us, sober us, lead us to self-reflection. It did not in the immediate aftermath of the attacks; it has not in the protracted aftermath of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. But when the vilest, rankest of our electorate can look at Rudy Giuliani and see a false prophet, I am heartened. Perhaps, we are not as dumb as I thought.
As for John Edwards, his departure portends different things for our country. Others may despise him for his haircut idiocy, for building his wife an expensive home, for working for those who are blazing a path straight to hell. But I look at him and I see this: a vain man, surely, a flawed one; he profited by helping others profit from their misfortunes; he arrived in Washington a centrist, and then he ran for President, and everything changed. The current administration, its disavowal of its people, its disdain for accountability, shocked this man--this nouveau riche son of a mill worker--into caring, and I--in a way I have not in years--cared about his candidacy.
Edwards rose from freshman obscurity to deliver what I regard--yes, even in the age of Obama--the most stirring stump speech Iowa has ever heard. (Sorry, apparently, there is no youtube of it.) He paraded on the floats of hope. He pandered to the establishment and became his party's vice-presidential nominee. He drank from the grail of establishment politics and became sick to his stomach: John Kerry, insouciant to the last, refused to excoriate the masters of swift-boat politics; he refused to get angry, when in 2004 anger was all that we had left. Edwards got sick to his stomach, indeed, but more important, finally, he got sick of himself: he repudiated his time in the Senate, and he became a left-wing populist.
He crafted an entire campaign about the least politically powerful people in this country, and he brought class issues once again to the fore. For Russ Feingold, for some readers of this blog, the Edwards of today cannot be reconciled with the Edwards of 2004, but as far as I'm concerned, I cannot imagine how a man goes to Washington in 1998, filled with giddy-eyed hope and backwoods moderate ideas, and doesn't come out as enraged as Edwards has. Frankly, it's the narrative of my own political evolution.
As Rudy Giuliani's political demise puts to rest some of the myths of September 11th, John Edwards' signals that there is room in the graveyard for other myths still: specifically, that party politics are about the people and not the party itself. As the warring cults of personality that are the Obama and Clinton camps come into sharper focus, we know now--and we know without a doubt--the poor in this country have no purchase on our political spirit. And the Democratic Party will never again nominate a populist.