The political significance of yesterday’s endorsement by former presidential candidate John Edwards goes well beyond the 19 delegates he carries. As a matter of fact, his timing couldn’t have been more precise. Edwards was able to score an important victory in regard to the direction of the Democratic party as it gears up for the general election. In a way, even though he was forced to withdraw his candidacy once it was clear that the corporate media was not going to give him an equal opportunity given his populist message, he came out as the real winner in the titanic battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
It seemed clear to me that both Obama and Clinton understood that Edwards’ endorsement would come with a high price tag. After all, both Clinton and Obama represent the centrist current of the Democratic party and, for this reason, it is no surprise that they are the last two candidates left standing. With a pattern all too familiar to the American people, these almost politically indistinguishable candidates began battling each other over issues of no consequence to the voters: flag pins, pastors, race, and gender; and while Obama has been leading Clinton by over 100 delegates for the past few weeks, he has been unable to shake Clinton off his tail and begin to emerge as the clear and undisputed nominee.
Clinton’s 41 point win in West Virginia this past Tuesday helped to further solidify the media’s short “short term memory” narrative of Obama as the candidate unable to win over white blue collar workers. Under such circumstances, Obama had an important and uncomfortable choice to make: stay the course and risk taking the battle to the Convention floor (something that would practically guarantee a loss in November), or give into John Edwards’ demands and bring on board the one ex-candidate who is still getting a sizeable chunk of the vote at the ballot box (7% in West Virginia).
The timing of Edwards’ endorsement couldn't have been better as it overshadowed Obama's somewhat embarrassing loss in West Virginia. And aside from confirming Obama's maneuvering capabilities this decision has finally shown that he is capable of doing what he’s been claiming to be best at: negotiating. He set aside some of his nebulous rhetoric, which had been causing him some trouble with part of the Democratic base, for Edwards’ clear and unequivocal stand on health care and poverty. Edwards, on the other hand, was wise to wait for a clear winner to emerge instead of blindly throwing his support behind Clinton (which seemed likely at some point) thus ensuring that if the Democrats win in November, he will be a major force in shaping the policies of the next presidency.
All in all, it’s a big win for Obama, Edwards, and why not, Clinton as well. It goes to show that Clinton’s tenacity has paid off by forcing Obama to espouse some of the ideals of the progressive wing of the Democratic party which are still resonating in the ballot box months after John Edwards decided to withdraw his candidacy. Edwards’ side of the bargain was to soften some of his rhetoric towards corporations but it’s only a matter of time before the Democratic base catches up to it.
Hopefully, by 2012.