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John Edwards for President

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I'm sure most of my regular readers have known I have had a bias for John Edwards in the Democratic presidential primaries for quite a while. While privately I decided who I will vote for, I have yet to formally endorse a candidate, primarily because I like to keep a modicum of objectivity on my blog. So much for that- the time has come to make my case and explain exactly why I think Edwards is the best choice for America.

I'd like to take a minute and try to convince those progressives out there who are still wobbly and looking for the right candidate to attempt to clean up the mess George Bush will be leaving behind. Of all the Democratic candidates, John Edwards is the best choice to reform our broken system and bring ordinary folks back into the political process.

To illustrate my point we'll take a look at the government reform pages on the websites of the top three candidates. In my opinion, the biggest problem since Bush took office (and the biggest change needed to right our wayward system) is the oppressive influence of corporations and the wealthy top 1% of America on our political process. Until the scales can be balanced, with better lobbyist controls, campaign reform, and other measures, the system will always tilt in favor of the very rich, and leave regular Americans out in the cold. Let's start with the supposed national front-runner, Hillary Clinton. I'll list her points on reform, then Obama's, then try to contrast them with John Edwards's substantive and complex plans.

Hillary's Government Reform Plan

On Hillary's site is a bulleted list detailing her plan to curtail a system bloated with money-driven politics;
  • Banning Cabinet officials from lobbying a Hillary Clinton administration.
  • Strengthening whistleblower protections.
  • Creating a public service academy.
  • Ending abuse of no-bid government contracts and posting all contracts online.
  • Cutting 500,000 government contractors.
  • Restoring the Office of Technology Assessment.
  • Publishing budgets for every government agency.
  • Implementing Results America Initiative to track government effectiveness.
  • Tracking and eliminating corporate welfare.
  • Expanding voting access and safeguarding voting machines.

Looks good so far, I guess. It seems like a good plan to eliminate excess in any organization. These points don't convince me this plan will be able to overcome the enormous built-in governmental advantages gained by big business during the Bush years, however. Let's see if Obama can one-up her.

Obama's Government Reform ("Ethics") Plan

Obama's page is called Ethics, and to be fair is far more detailed than Hillary's- I've included just the bulleted points to save space, but there's far more on his page, so go check it out. Anyhow;
  • Centralize Ethics and Lobbying Information for Voters
  • Require Independent Monitoring of Lobbying Laws and Ethics Rules
  • Support Campaign Finance Reform
  • Create a Public "Contracts and Influence" Database
  • End Abuse of No-Bid Contracts
  • Sunlight Before Signing
  • Shine Light on Earmarks and Pork Barrel Spending
  • Hold 21st Century Fireside Chats
  • Make White House Communications Public
  • Conduct Regulatory Agency Business in Public
  • Release Presidential Records
  • Close the Revolving Door on Former and Future Employers
  • Free Career Officials from the Influence of Politics
  • Reform the Political Appointee Process
This list goes a lot farther on issues such as open White House records, but still seems to primarily skirt the big issues. There's a lot of good ideas, but in my opinion nothing really stands out except the "fireside chats," which are a great idea but lack the punch needed to extricate corporate influence from government. On to John Edwards's plan...

John Edwards's Government Reform Plan

I won't preface it, let's see the list- edited as above to just the main points;
  • Create a Citizen Congress
  • Reform Election Laws
  • Promote Open and Democratic Media
  • Reform Presidential Campaign Finance Laws to Empower Small Donors
  • Provide Full Public Financing in Congressional Campaigns
  • Make Corporations Accountable
  • Take on the Lobbyists' Power with a Constitutional Line-Item Veto
  • Prohibit Lobbyists from Giving or Raising Campaign Cash
  • Close the Lobbyist Revolving Door
  • Expose Lobbyist Contacts to Sunlight
  • Prohibit Executive Branch Employees from Accepting Corporate Gifts
There's a great deal more to it- John's plan is quite complex, so go see the page for details on the more vague points above. But right off the bat I see a strong populist influence. Lots of good progressive measures such as full public financing for all candidates, not mentioned on the other candidates sites, and reforming election laws, amongst quite a few singular ideas (at least amongst the top tier candidates.)

My point here is that one person in this race is truly ready with an effective plan to possibly end, or at the least limit, corporate influence on government for the first time in decades by attacking the source of the problem- money. It starts in the fundraising process every elected official must endure, and continues through their careers, with George Bush as the clear evidence of why such reforms are vital to our democracy.

John Edwards has proven his ability to lead for those less fortunate amongst us throughout his life. He showed his political skills by winning the caucuses before, and displayed his electability, despite the loss, by being a major part in one of the biggest election turnouts in American history in 2004. With his detailed plans for meaningful government reform alone it's clear he aims to truly change the system in a fundamental way that his opponents' plans don't come close to matching.

For this reason I wholeheartedly endorse John Edwards for President of the United States of America, for what it's worth. I wish all the candidates the best of luck tomorrow- I know no matter who wins I will be proud to have been a progressive Democrat, and pleased as punch to see the last of George W. Bush.
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Mike Kuykendall is a progressive, patriotic veteran of the U.S. Air Force, fighting hard to save our democracy.
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