BB’s Bar and Restaurant was packed, with barely any room to stand (or get to the bar), last night for John Edwards‘ $15 a head “Small Change for Big Change” fundraiser. I admire most of Edwards’ progressive policies, and the event featured a lot of them.
Joe Costigan, Treasurer of UNITE HERE Chicago & Midwest Region, did the introductions, which began with the ending the Iraq war, including things like universal health care for all Americans and America fighting against global poverty, and ended with the more expected union appeal for protecting worker rights and the middle class. Then, with Joe introducing the “next president of the United States,” the music, “Walk of Life,” kicked up and John Edwards strode down the length of the bar to the podium to the sounds of
“Here comes johnny singing oldies, goldies
Be-bop-a-lua, baby what I say
Here comes johnny singing I gotta woman
Down in the tunnels, trying to make it pay
He got the action, he got the motion
Yeah, the boy can play
Turning all the night time into the day”
It’s a good tune for the Edwards campaign.
John Edwards started off with some preliminaries, including mentioning that his wife Elizabeth was in Chicago the previous day and is doing well (and when she’s doing well in her fight against cancer the Edwards family is doing well). Then it was on to policy where John first mentioned getting out of Iraq. He followed up with other issues he’s running on, and often connecting the dots between them. For example, renewable energy will benefit America through creation of 1 million “green collar” jobs and through our farmers, since we will grow much of it (biomass). Renewable energy also will benefit Africa, with its vast expanses of land, because land-poor Europe’s strong energy demands will lift African farmers out of poverty.
Edwards also offered an implied contrast with his two top rivals, saying he was proud to be the first candidate to offer a detailed health care plan and how to pay for it – and that the difference in his health care plan is that it has mandatory coverage for all Americans (an implied contrast with Barack Obama’s health care plan that isn’t mandatory – Hillary Clinton (the other top tier Democratic candidate) has not yet released her plan). Edwards also made numerous references to America restoring its moral leadership in the world by leading in providing elementary education to all children overseas and by making sure necessary drugs, like the $4 drugs to prevent mothers from transferring HIV to their children, are available.
As strong as Edwards is on progressive policies, the presentation last night needed work. I was reminded of catch phrases from the Howard Dean campaign (like “You’ve Got The Power”) and while it’s early, Edwards needs more of these to bond with his audience, which at times seemed unsure when to clap. The campaign theme seems to need tightening. More also could have been made of the fundraiser theme “Small Change for Big Change” which disappeared in a long (if important) list of policy proposals. Edwards’ speech impressed me more this time than at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner that I saw him at in 2003 – but despite my agreement with him on many of the issues, Edwards just doesn’t seem to connect with me (at least yet). Post-speech John took a long time signing things and shaking hands with supporters – showing an appreciation of them that was enthusiastically reciprocated.