Saturday, June 04, 2011

When Our Heroes Fail Us....

"If you're looking for heroes,  don't look to me..."   - John Edwards, 2008 campaign ad.

By now the long sad story of the rise and fall of  former Senator, Vice Presidential and Presidential candidate John Edwards  has come to its sadder conclusion  with a federal indictment for violation of  campaign finance laws.  Edwards is charged with using nearly  one million dollars of  campaign funds to  cover up his extra-marital affair, and  child  with television producer  Rielle Hunter.

I supported  John Edwards when he ran for president in 2004, and again when he ran in 2008,  I was even a blogger  for his campaign  on  his  "One America"  website.   I donated money,  I volunteered at  rallies and  worked phone banks for the  Edwards campaign in  California.    When  the news of  the  affair and love child with  Hunter broke, like many people  I was very  angry.

Lots of people asked  me at the time if I "regretted"  supporting his campaign.    That is  complex  question.    At the time  I blogged on here, that the issues and positions  Edwards publicly  championed  in his campaign were still as relevant and important  as ever.    The actions in his private life  didn't change that.

What  angered most Americans about the whole sordid saga, was  what  John Edwards did  to  his wife, Elisabeth Edwards.    I can't say that  I knew Elisabeth Edwards,  but I did have a number of opportunities to  meet her,  and on two occasions  had the chance to talk with her  one on one.   She was an extraordinary person.   In 2007 she was the only national democratic figure  to  speak  at  San Francisco Pride.   That same year, she  gave an amazing speech at the  San Francisco  Human Rights Campaign Dinner.  I was sitting  in the audience  that night.

As I sit  here in London, typing this blog entry,  I think of my political scrapbook.  It is a very odd bi-partisan  collection,   The photos and  autographs range across the political spectrum.  From  Ronald Reagan,  George HW Bush,  Dan Quayle,  Liddy Dole,  Bob Dole,  to  Al Gore,  Bill Clinton, Barack Obama  and  yes,  both John and Elisabeth Edwards.    Stapled to the page  that has autographed blog entries from  the Edwards  Campaign  blog,  is a small note  I received  from  Elisabeth Edwards in  early February, 2008.

I had emailed  the Edwards campaign asking  the Senator to take a stronger stance  on  the repeal of the  Defense of Marriage Act.   I wrote telling   Eric's and my story of  how this  horribly bigoted, discriminatory law denied basic civil rights to us  and  thousands of  other bi-national  same sex couples just like us.

I went on to explain how  DOMA was  forcing me to choose between  my country and the person I love.   I included  a link to  the youtube video Eric and I had made to support the  Uniting American Families Act,  a proposed law that would right  that wrong, and grant  immigration equality to couples like us.

I honestly didn't expect to hear anything back.  Maybe one of those generic "thank you for your feedback, and support", emails.    What  came in the mail  two weeks later  was a one page  handwritten note  from Elisabeth Edwards.    She  wrote ;

"David,  thank you  for  sharing yours and Eric's story with us,  I can't even begin to imagine  what  it must be like to make the choices you are facing.   Please know  that you and Eric are in John's and my thoughts.  Like you ,  We  hope to  see the day when  the discrimination against  LGBT Americans is a thing of the past.   Your Friend, - Elisabeth Edwards"

When the  Edwards  campaign  came to end  in the early Spring of  2008,  like many Edwards  supporters,  I  was torn between  supporting  Hillary Clinton  or  Barack Obama.   The night before the California  primary  I called both campaigns  and asked why they should get my vote.    The Clinton campaign volunteer I spoke with  talked  mostly about  what was  "wrong" with Barack Obama.   The Obama volunteer I spoke with   talked about  Obama's  commitment  to  equality and opportunity for all Americans.

I voted for  Obama.

As I watched  the news reports on yesterday's  federal indictment ,  a friend of mine in  Arizona  texted me and asked if I felt  "betrayed' by John Edwards.   No.   John Edwards  didn't  betray  his supporters, he betrayed his family.   He  failed and disappointed his supporters, and  it looks like  he will continue paying  the price for that  failure in a number  of ways,  personal, financial and political.

Yet as with so many other political figures who have fallen in similar ways,    to  expect a candidate to be something more than human is  not realistic or fair.

That being said,  I can't help but wonder about that road not taken.   I wonder  how  different  2011 might have been,  if  John Edwards  had  lived in private the life he portrayed in public

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Dave, Thanks for providing an important perspective on the John Edwards saga. It is indeed disillusioning that his seeming authenticity was surficial at best. Perhaps people sensed this all along. I move through life from a place of believing in the goodness of people. I don't think that will ever change for me and situations like this one demonstrate that not everyone is who they seemed. I think Abraham Lincoln said it best (paraphrasing): "It's better to trust and be disappointed, then to never trust at all."