Edwards’ Authenticity Trumps Kerry’s Momentum 

This is the rap on John Kerry: when he stands behind a podium uttering his trademark, troop-rallying “bring it on,” it’s like he’s imitating a Saturday Night Live actor imitating him.

His accent drips with a syrupy ponderousness. His language can be excessively rich and hackneyed. “Kerry can’t ad lib to save his life,” writes William Saletan in Slate. “Physically, Kerry’s repertoire is painfully limited.”

Judging by the verdict of the voters, however, Kerry may be doing slightly better on the stump. And while the man’s style is not enough of a reason to disavow him as a presidential candidate, he’s certainly got larger problems that qualify. John Kerry has got the momentum not because American Democrats are enthralled with his policy positions or his rhetoric, but because they think—and they think everyone else thinks—he’s the guy who has the best chance of beating Bush. That’s just not the case.

We should say something about carts and horses here. The point is, playing the “electability game” is foolhardy presidential politics. It’s a decidedly noncerebral way to go about backing a horse. This mind-set of almost randomly anointing the most electable candidate fancies itself strategic, but it is far from it.

In fact, there’s another candidate who is the better messenger for the Democratic mantra. While we have some misgivings about the class warfare pretty much all of the Democratic candidates are engaging in (“Two Americas”), John Edwards is the guy to shout it from the rooftops if that’s what it’s going to take in the 2004 presidential election season.

Unlike Kerry, a well-bred patrician New Englander who has been in Washington for the better part of his adult life and who is married to the Heinz fortune heiress, Edwards is a first-term U.S. senator who has genuine working-class credentials to back up his Southern-spoken “message of haupe.”

He was born to modest means in the South, the son of a mill worker, and was the first in his family to go to college (a public one). He went to law school too, moved to Nashville for a few years, and then proceeded to make a fortune. At least Edwards did it by representing the Little Guy and sticking it the Man, in the form of insurance companies and big business. This is a respectable, believable Democratic life story. The message—and the messenger—make sense. Perhaps Edwards maintains those boyish good looks because he can sleep at night.

In short, we find not a hint of hypocrisy or inconsistency in Edwards or his positions. Edwards has delivered essentially the same optimistic stump speech for months now with nary a hint of anger or bitterness entering into it. He hasn’t railed against the other candidates; he hasn’t lashed out at the media. Edwards’ message is positive, upbeat and bullish on America.

We believe Edwards represents a positive voice for people of modest means, for people who need child tax credits, for people who have no health care options. We like what Edwards has to say about education—namely, that he would back a “College for Everyone” program to cover the first year of tuition to a public university for any qualified student willing to work part-time. Edwards says he would roll back the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $125,000 a year to try to stem a ballooning and embarrassing federal deficit. And he would reinstate budget caps so Congress can’t spend beyond the country’s limit.

This is a guy who makes sense. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a Southerner who’s working like hell to win Tennessee, promising to campaign here every day until the Feb. 10 primary.

Vote Edwards.

Dan Eisenstein for General Sessions

Voters breathlessly impatient to cast their presidential primary ballots shouldn’t overlook an important local judicial contest. General Sessions Judge Andrei Lee is running to keep the post the Metro Council recently appointed her to fill. She is capable and qualified, and voters would do just fine to keep her.

But there’s another candidate whose skills are more ideally suited to serving as the General Sessions judge who hears the city’s mental health docket, where small-time criminals with mental health issues are assigned case workers and other services. Local attorney Dan Eisenstein began his career developing re-education programs for criminals with mental health problems. In fact, he became a lawyer precisely so that he could help such defendants navigate the legal system, and he’s remained active in the mental health care community, co-founding Park Center and serving on its board of directors.

Unlike the other candidates, who would probably run for any of the handful of General Sessions judgeships, Eisenstein is attracted to this specific seat because it marries his two primary interests—the law and mental health.

Vote “No” on Nashville Gas

Last year, local utility Nashville Gas knew that its costs for providing gas to its customers were on the decline. That’s why its officials hurried through an $18.3 million rate hike request. A report from the consumer affairs division of the state attorney general’s office said the request was inappropriate and helped negotiate a lesser rate hike. Local attorney Larry Woods, meanwhile, is leading a campaign to keep the utility accountable.

He—and we—urge Nashvillians to vote “no” on extending the company’s 30-year franchise agreement here, which would force the company to renegotiate the fees it pays the city and which would give the Metro Council some wiggle room to make demands on a utility that tried to stick it to its customers.

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