The Michigan Daily

February 5, 2004

From the Daily: Vote John Edwards
Hopeful populist candidate the right choice
By the Michigan Daily

The original nine that made up the group of Democratic presidential candidates offered voters something that has become all too rare in American politics: choice. In a system that encourages centrism and homogeneity, rarely are American voters presented with clear, differentiated options on Election Day. Yet in this primary season, nine different candidates from different backgrounds brought their individual experiences, talents and ideas to the table and gave the nation one of its most diverse candidate fields in recent history. Howard Dean, with his fiery style and passionate opposition to President Bush. Dick Gephardt, a career legislator and a Democratic veteran. Wesley Clark, a four-star general, who made an electric entrance into the campaign that instantly thrust him to the front of the pack.

With candidates hailing from so many different professions, it is surprising that the strongest and most dynamic candidate does not come from a particularly unique background. He is not a reverend or a doctor. He is not a combat veteran or a general. He is not a career politician or a former ambassador. At times, his campaign has been written off by critics, his message ignored by the media. Yet, in a time of national crisis, he has chosen optimism over aggression, populism over pandering. Where other candidates have lacked style, substance or both, he has shown uncommon intelligence, passion and charisma that have won him votes, and won him our support. He is, of course, the son of a mill worker, a lawyer and a senator from North Carolina. Because he has run an exciting and positive campaign that has addressed the issues of concern to most Americans, U.S. Senator JOHN EDWARDS is the best Democratic candidate to face President Bush in the general election.

In this time of high unemployment and war, terror and tragedy, it is all too easy for a candidate to trod down the path of pessimism and criticism. Edwards stands out from the pack as an idealistic and optimistic voice. When Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean were spending millions attacking each other in Iowa, Edwards snuck in and clinched a second-place finish by providing an upbeat, uplifting vision of America. By relying on a constructive campaign that entices voters into working toward a greater social and economic change, Edwards offers a unique and thoroughly refreshing perspective in a negatively charged atmosphere.

When Edwards speaks about the two Americas, and the pervasive class inequalities we face, he resonates deeply with many who find themselves disaffected and neglected in Bush's America. After three years of disappointing economic performance and a series of financial scandals, idealistic dreams of equal economic opportunity seem just that -- dreams. Edwards's campaign strives to bring back economic optimism and restore faith in the American dream. His dominant campaign theme is closing the chasm between the two halves of America, and his policies aim to provide hope.

Edwards, who has made bridging the economic divide into a centerpiece of his campaign, has created a series of economic proposals that reward hard work, uphold American business and economic values and encourage growth. His economic plan, based on the premise that middle-class America is the engine that drives our national success, aims to increase its size and strength.

His tax plan repeals the Bush tax cut for the wealthy, replacing it with a series of tax incentives and credits to help average Americans reap the benefits of their hard work. Unlike Bush, whose tax plan was skewed toward the rich, Edwards plans on lifting the tax burden off middle- and lower-class America to create a more just and fair economic system. His "American Dream" tax credit provides a tax credit of up to $5,000 toward a down payment on a house.
Edwards also realizes the necessity of economic innovation and modernization. He has revived the idea of "empowerment zones," providing special incentives to small-business owners who move into areas hit by heavy job loss. In addition to this tax plan, he has proposed ways to draw venture capital toward declining areas, leading to the revitalization and modernization of local economies. With an eye on the future, Edwards has realized that a new generation of leaders will be needed to further American prosperity in coming years. Consequently, he has proposed funding initiatives to encourage investment in education and innovation.

Many candidates made promises during the primaries to reform higher education, but few indicated a staunch commitment on the part of the candidate to the problems facing the nation's public universities. Edwards's "College for Everyone" program not only will help make college available to more young adults, but reflects an understanding and commitment on his part to higher education as a whole. Under his plan, all qualified students would receive one year worth of tuition in exchange for working an average of ten hours per week in their communities. This program would allow many students who would otherwise be unable to experience college the opportunity to see first hand the benefits of higher learning. In addition to his education plans, Edwards wants to eliminate legacy admissions, which prefer the children of alumni, to increase the chances of children who are first in their family to attend college.

Edwards is not a perfect candidate; we endorse him with some reservations. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Edwards's record is his support for the Patriot Act. When questioned about his stance on the act, Edwards has repeatedly taken a confusing position, saying he never expected the Bush administration to use the powers the way it has.

Edwards's record on the war in Iraq is also a cause for concern. While he initially voted to authorize the war, he voted against the bill authorizing $87 billion for the reconstruction effort. By voting against the Iraq appropriations bill, Edwards has attempted to present himself as an opponent of the president's war even though he supported it when the time came for him to vote yea or nay on the Senate floor.

Concerns aside, The Michigan Daily, confidently endorses John Edwards as the Democratic nominee for president.