It was sad to see John Edwards bow out of the race.
Because he fought the good fight.
Throughout this campaign, he talked about poverty more insistently than any other candidate. In fact, he brought the issue back onto the public stage.
And so it was fitting that he extracted a pledge from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to “make ending poverty central to their campaign.”
Throughout his campaign, he talked about economic inequality, and he illustrated it with the stories of real live Americans who suffered because of the cruelties of our system.
He stressed the need for universal health care, and brought that issue better than any other candidate, as well.
He wasn’t perfect.
A brilliant debater, sometimes he seemed too good, too canned.
On the issues, his record in the Senate was far to the right of his agenda on the stump. He had voted for the Iraq War. He had voted to give China favored trading status. He had voted for a bad bankruptcy bill.
But to his credit, he came clean, early, on his Iraq vote.
And he focused attention, in speech after speech, debate after debate, on one of the most crucial issues of our democracy: the stranglehold that corporate power has over our economy and our political system.
This is the issue that animated Teddy Roosevelt and Fighting Bob La Follette and the old progressives.
This is the issue that FDR gleefully grappled with.
This is the issue that Ralph Nader has devoted his whole life to.
And John Edwards deserves credit for making it again an issue for the Democratic Party, which under the Clintons became such a cozy roost for CEOs.
Edwards was also outspoken on the urgent issue of global warming, which has gotten too little attention in this election year.
He spoke about global warming in New Orleans as he bowed out.
He spoke about the homeless, he spoke about workers afraid to join unions, he spoke about the need to improve our public schools.
And yes, he spoke again about the two Americas, his signature theme that cuts to the heart of what is wrong with this country.
After he stepped out of the race, I went to his campaign website.
It had yet to be updated with the news of his withdrawal.
And it still had a “To-Do List” on the homepage.
“Global Warming, Iraq, Health Care, Jobs and Poverty.”
That remains our “to-do list.”