Sunday, February 3, 2008

Prog rocks politics

Jeremy Vecchi was never intending for his vote to count towards a primary win for Senator John Edwards, had he stayed in the presidential race.

“I'll be honest, I didn't think he'd actually win it,” said Vecchi, who was an Edwards supporter until his Jan. 30 withdraw. He was going to cast his ballot for the senator from North Carolina anyway.

Vecchi is one of the many leftists in Central New York who looked to Edwards to be a vehicle to bring a more progressive edge to primary debates, and not necessarily win the overall nomination.

Progressive Democrat Aynne McAvoy, of North Syracuse, supported Edwards after her first choice—Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio—exited the primary race.

“There is a community of us in the United States that have backed Dennis right along, but unfortunately it just isn't big enough or strong enough or powerful enough right now to make it happen,” McAvoy said. “I was disappointed that he dropped out but I wasn't surprised.”

According to a Gallup poll taken before the Iowa caucus, 2 percent of identified Democrats said they would have voted for Kucinich, and 12 percent supported Edwards. The day after Kucinich’s withdraw same poll was administered reporting that Edwards’ support had rose to 14 percent.

Vecchi said Kucinich may have been the most progressive candidate out of the Democrats, but Edwards shared the political spotlight with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

“His voice in the campaign, as long as he went, was able to continually push the debate leftward, or at any rate to in a more progressive direction,” the graduate student said.

Progressivism focuses on social justice and workers’ rights, as well as regulation of large corporations.

McAvoy ranks the economy and Iraq high on her list of important issues, but particularly liked Edwards’ focus on “the little guy,” she said.

“He was going to go after big business and pharmaceutical and the whole thing, which I really really wanted to see,” McAvoy said.

Vecchi also liked Edwards’ focus on corporate influence and his plan against it.

"With Edwards, he was willing to take on the fact that Washington is bought and paid for by corporate power in this century, and he was the one who brought lobbyists into the Democratic debates,” he said. “Without him there, Hillary and Obama would not be talking about the fact that lobbyists are one of the main problems here. But because he brought it in, all of the sudden everyone is talking about it.

With Edwards gone, progressives have to look to other candidates, both new and old, to represent their interests.

A national exploratory committee was launched since Edwards’ departure to investigate the feasibility for Independent Ralph Nader to run for president. Found at, the committee involves Peter Camejo, Nader’s 2000 vice-presidential running mate, as well as other politicians. Volunteers can offer time or make the suggested $300 donation, in exchange for free DVDs and books.

It is unclear if Nader started the committee himself. Representatives from were unable to be reached.

Nader’s entry to the race could replace the progressive voice now absent from the campaign trail, but it is hard to gauge its affect within the Democratic Party.

“I'm really not sure how Hillary or Obama would respond,” Vecchi said, who is intrigued by the prospect. “At this point I'm voting for Obama, and I will almost certainly vote for the Democrat in the general election. I have to admit, I may be willing to support Nader's entry to the race to push it more in a progressive direction.”

McAvoy has watched all the debates and remains undecided between Clinton and Obama, she said.

“If they want to pick up his voters, but the mere fact that they jump onto his bandwagon a day after he leaves the race isn't really going to make that big of a difference as far as the voters go,” she said. “We're all going to have to wait and see.”

Kucinich has not made an official endorsement of any of the Democrats, but encouraged his supporters to vote for Obama, according to his presidential campaign website.

Central New Yorkers may gravitate toward Clinton because of her work in upstate New York as well as the state’s senator. Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll endorses Clinton.

“She's been a real leader and she's helped us with technical assistance for my city,” Driscoll said. “She has worked on a number of initiatives with me. Broadband is something she has been very involved with and weaved into discussions year round. Her office has been very helpful.”

Vecchi does not think of Clinton, and her husband, in quite the same way.

In the ‘90s, “there was a big shift away from economic populism and [the Clintons] really embraced corporate interest in the Democratic Party,” he said. “I think overall the legacy of Clintons has been a negative to the Democratic Party and then hence to the country. That sort of the ideology I would not want to be as powerful in the Democratic Party.”

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