Message to the People: White man’s blues – Strange case of John Edwards

The pundits tell us that we’ll know who the Democratic nominee for the presidency will be by Feb. 5. Maybe so, maybe not. They haven’t been too accurate to this point. Besides, John Edwards has already pledged to stay in the race through the Democratic National Convention no matter what. That certainly doesn’t mean Edwards has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning — he just refuses to concede.

Regardless, I believe Edwards is the victim of a strange convergence of events. Anyone who reads the Message knows that Edwards is my candidate. Some might find this strange. “You there! Ricky Jones! Mr. Black Revolutionary! Yeah, you! Are you telling me you have an election that features a black man and a woman, but you’re supporting a white man?” Well … yes. I like Edwards. So much so that I even contributed a little loot to his campaign. That’s a first for me.

I support him because I moved beyond strictly racial (or gender) politics some time ago. If I hadn’t, I’d support Clarence Thomas, Ward Connerly or fools like Alan Keyes. Can’t go there. At the end of the day, I was trained as a political scientist and always fall back on certain fundamental moorings. While I think diversity is great (even essential), I’m more concerned about ideology. When the glitz is stripped away, I believe Edwards simply has the most progressive ideas on poverty, healthcare, the Iraq war and, yes, in some respects, even race.

I believe John Edwards will be president one day, but not now. He’s simply running at the wrong time. Even though he has the most change-oriented ideas when compared to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, he will win. Why? Because America wants change. I know, I know — it’s all very confusing. Bottom line is Edwards is not a celebrity. Clinton and Obama are. In “style over substance America,” therefore, Edwards is the odd man out. He is the real “change candidate” trumped not only by the rhetoric of change, but also its physical embodiments. For once, being a white male in this presidential race is a deficit.

Edwards suffers this fate even though his black opponent has de-racialized himself and his female opponent has worked so hard to be tough and competitive in the male-dominated world of politics that she has largely been de-gendered. Because of this, many people seem to forget that electing Hillary would be just as groundbreaking as electing Obama. I’m still combing my memory for the last female president.

Beyond their race and gender, both Clinton and Obama (especially Obama) talk a lot about change, though neither will probably deliver very much of it. In my estimation, despite his smooth pseudo-sermons, Obama is even less apt to deliver something different that Clinton. Hillary is trapped by time and tradition; Obama by cowardice, abstractions and compromise.

Obama talks incessantly about what Americans want and need but provides no real game plan on how to get there. At the center of his pitches to voters are constant spiels about change. Admittedly, his “change talk” sounds good, but is it real? More and more people aren’t convinced. The man just doesn’t have much political meat on his promissory bones.
Recently, University of California-Santa Cruz professor Angela Davis commented that many see American support of Obama despite his race as an indicator of great change in and of itself. Davis disagrees, “ is being consumed as the embodiment of color-blindness.

It’s the notion that we have moved beyond racism by not taking race into account. That’s what makes him conceivable as a presidential candidate. He’s become the model of diversity in this period … a model of diversity as the difference that makes no difference. The change that brings no change.” In effect, he offers America the chance to vote for a man of another race without dealing with race.

I can’t believe I’m sayin’ it, but if you really want change, the best chance for it this time is … the white man. Strange times, indeed.

Remember, until next time — have no fear, stay strong, stand on truth, do justice and do not leave the people in the hands of fools.

Dr. Ricky L. Jones is associate professor and chair of the Department of
Pan-African Studies at U of L. His LEO column appears in the last issue of each month. Contact him at
[email protected]