Return of Senator Handsome

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

We re-embrace an old meme as mole-lipped Adonis John Edwards returns to the national stage, preparing for the ’08 race with lots of class-warfare talking and handsome-being.

This time, though, he seems to have stepped in a big steaming-pile of class warfare, and gotten it all over his shoe. On the same day Edwards was bashing Wal-Mart on a conference call with a bunch of labor leaders, an “aide” was asking one local Wal-Mart if they wouldn’t mind bumping the former senator to the front of the line to get a Playstation 3 for his son.

As Reason’s Jeff Taylor explains, the first lesson in all of this is that the very fact that so many people are lining up for a $600 game console — and that they’re getting them from Wal-Mart — cuts a hole in Edwards’ sorry “Two Americas” theme. The second of course is Edwards’ ass-naked hypocrisy, and the obvious lie that he “didn’t know” the aid would try to purchase the console from loathed Wal-Mart.

The third is that in asking to be pushed to the head of the line, in front of all those average Joes who normally shop at Wal-Mart, he makes clear that for all his sympathy for those poor schmucks who live in the bad half of the “Two Americas,” when push comes to shove, he’s clearly not afraid to excercise good ol’ elite-half-of-the-Two-Americas privilege.

Fourth, here’s more evidence Edwards’ contempt for Wal-Mart has nothing to do with real concern for the poor (it’s more a mix of anti-corporatism and good old fashioned snobbery). If that were the case, he’d at least acknowledge that Wal-Mart has done more for the working poor in America than any government safety net program could ever hope to. When a Wal-Mart opens in a rural, low-income area, household goods, groceries, childrens clothes, hardware, and just about every other staple suddenly becomes available at a fraction of what it cost before. That’s real, tangible, life-bettering stuff. And perhaps Wal-Mart does pay crappy wages. But if those wages aren’t competitive, it’s sort of hard to explain why when a new store opens up, there are typically five, six, and seven applicants for every available position — even in an economy where unemployment is already pretty low.

This passage from the AP story about Edwards’ misstep last week just blew me away:

Edwards, the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate in 2004, spoke Wednesday to supporters of union-backed on a conference call launching the group’s holiday season campaign to pressure Wal-Mart for better labor standards.

In the call, he repeated a story about his son Jack disapproving of a classmate buying sneakers at Wal-Mart. “If a 6-year-old can figure it out, America can definitely figure this out,” Edwards said.

Um, no. What America can “figure out” is that Edwards is a sanctimonious prick, and that he’s training his son in his image. If some son of a swanky trial lawyer taunted my kid because his shoes were purchased at Wal-Mart, I’d give my son the okay to pop the kid in the mouth. I don’t know where Edwards’ son goes to school. Somehow, I doubt it’s a public school, where he might run into actual poor people. But Edwards’ might want to take note that not everyone can afford to clothe their kids in accordance with the prevailing elite liberal standards of the moment. Thing is, Edwards can, and still dispatched an aide to Wal-Mart for the PS3.

Finally, let’s assume that everything Edwards says is true — that he and his wife knew nothing about the aide going to Wal-Mart, and that they had nothing to do with the request that he be bumped to the front of the line. They still concede that a volunteer aide helps them with their Christmas shopping. Edwards’ whole “Two Americas” shtick is supposed to be about how elite, corporate, yacht-owning America preys on hard-workin’, blue-collar, son-of-a-millworker America. And though he’s a multimillionaire, we’re supposed to understand that he got his money the right way — by suing the exploiters, the capitalists, and the elitists, and by holding them accountable. He may be loaded, but in spirit, we’re supposed to know that he’s still part of purer, populist, exploited America.

So I wonder. How many working-class people have unpaid volunteers do their Christmas shopping for them?

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