Maryland votes today.
In what some might consider an ironic turn, I received yesterday my official John Edwards ’08 t-shirt. (The magnetic bumper sticker? Still on back-order.) The order was placed, a donation made, and then… Edwards suspended his campaign.
Edwards is still on the ballot here in Maryland. At least, according to the state’s election office, he’s on the ballot. (For that matter, on the Republican side, so too are Rudy Guiliani, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson. Though all three have left the nominating race, I will note that Thompson’s campaign in Maryland is as vigorous as his campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire were.)
If it’s true, that Edwards is on the ballot, then I’ll cast my ballot for Edwards. I’ve been a supporter of his message of economic justice and the “Two Americas” since his last presidential campaign in 2004. (Which is why pundits who said that Edwards’ move to the left in this campaign was inauthentic always bothered me — did they not pay attention to his campaign rhetoric in 2004? Edwards’ message may have been a lot more honed this time around, but it was the same message.)
My friend my friend, Geoff Trowbridge asked a week ago, in reflecting on the Super Tuesday results, “Who is in this retarded 10% of voters that are still casting ballots for John Edwards?” And Edwards did, in places, pull ten percent. Mainly from absentee ballots cast before the suspension of his campaign, but there were voters who consciously pulled the ballot lever for Edwards, knowing that he was no longer actively seeking the nomination.
Geoff asks a good question. Why would people vote for a suspended campaign?
I think it’s very simple.
It’s the message.
In a general election, voting to send a message is a fool’s game — Nader ’00, anyone?
But in a primary? In a primary you’re voting as much for the ideas and the party’s direction as you are for the candidate. The candidate may embody certain ideas, and by voting for that candidate you’re voting for those ideas. In short, a primary vote is about setting the direction of the party.
Voting for Edwards will, I think, show the remaining Democratic candidates that they can’t take the left flank of the party for granted. That economic justice, universal health care, and breaking the corporate hold on government are worthy goals of the Democratic Party. Edwards Democrats will vote for the Democratic candidate in the fall, but it shouldn’t be a hold-your-nose vote.
But what if Edwards is not on the ballot? Who would be my second choice?
Unfortunately, it makes more sense for me to vote Clinton. As a practical matter, she can win the nomination and the White House, while Edwards cannot.
Yet I don’t believe in Hillary Clinton. I believe in John Edwards. I believe in his message.
(And Barack Obama? He’s America’s answer to Harold Saxon.)
I’ve never voted in a primary that mattered. I’ve never had a candidate I believed in. I think everyone needs to feel that, just once in their lives.
Just once. 🙂