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