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N.H. Speech Recap: John Edwards

When the discussion turns to John Edwards, the cable news pundits call him “angry” and a “class warrior.” But, in conceding his third-place showing, Edwards was more the “happy warrior” (as Franklin D. Roosevelt described Al Smith in 1924). Far from packing it in, Edwards delivered the latest, best version of his stump speech--an upbeat populist message that, if he’d delivered it several months earlier, might have appealed to a wider swath of the electorate. While Edwards began his campaign talking about the poor and later seemed to focus mostly on blue-collar workers, his speech now includes professional and technical workers as well. When he talked about working class people who were denied the medical care they needed, Edwards made sure to mention that their doctors and nurses wanted to do the right thing but were overruled by their insurance companies. Thus, Edwards appeals to an important grievance of skilled workers of all kinds: They’re not allowed to do their best work. (Shameless plug: This is a theme of my forthcoming book about workplace conflicts in today’s America, Love the Work, Hate the Job.)

Edwards may favor Obama over Clinton, but the logic of his speech argues against allowing Obama to clinch the nomination early. Equating Democrats from states that haven’t voted yet with people whose voices have been silenced by corporate power, Edwards echoes Hillary’s argument, “Don’t close this campaign up yet.”