With Apologies to John Edwards…

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In 2008 a Presidential candidate stood in the middle of the one dry square mile New Orleans offered and boldly claimed there were two Americas – one for the wealthy folks living in Audubon Place and the other for the poverty-stricken in the Lower 9th Ward. Audubon Place in the days after Katrina was flooded – with heavily armored private “security firms” (read: well-paid mercenaries) like Blackwater and ISI. The Lower 9th Ward was flooded with black water.

Audubon Place had no issues rebuilding. The Lower 9th Ward never returned.

Barack Obama didn’t speak about Two Americas, nor did Hillary Clinton. Instead, Rielle Hunter’s baby daddy John Edwards – the man who conjured the spirits of dead people during closing arguments in bodily injury cases – took on the cause of the marginalized.

We know what happened. Edwards dropped out amid scandal, and though New Orleans is today living laissez les bon temps rouler the city isn’t the same; in fact, half of New Orleans never came back. However, for all of Edwards’s many creepy faults, he was the first legitimate candidate of a major party to run on the platform of poverty since Bobby Kennedy in 1968.

Poverty is a winning issue; when you talk about helping the poor, no one can argue against it, so why isn’t everyone running on it?

Two reasons:

  1. Poor people don’t vote.
  2. Disdain of the poor is woven into the fabric of America.

The first issue is easy enough to solve in the sense that if people voted, policies would be different. The second reason goes deeper into who we are as Americans.

Growing up in Westhampton Beach, the trappings of wealth surround you, and if you’re a kid of lesser means, the lack of wealth is suffocating; just keeping up with the wealthy kids whose parents purchased the Super Nintendo when it was released proved a difficult task. Wealth isn’t waved around in your face, but not acknowledging the gulf between the haves and have-nots is naive.

This brings us to Louise Linton. Now, granted, having grown up in Westhampton Beach, I should know how to pronounce Hermes (thanks to someone on twitter, I now know it’s AIR-mays with a whisper of the h at the beginning). However, when Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s wife descended from her government plane and tagged all her designer items, there was a significant portion of Americans who were disgusted with such a display of opulence.

We get it. You do clothes shopping in France.

One American voiced her opinion, and Ms. Linton excoriated that American for not paying her “fair share” in taxes. Besides being an utterly stupid retort, it revealed how the powerful view the powerless. In fairness to Linton, however, the Scottish actress doesn’t just denigrate Americans, she also wrote a book that was condemned by the Zambian government due to its overt racism. To the powerful such as Ms. Linton and Mnuchin (who famously foreclosed on a 90-year-old widow who owed 27 cents), the powerless exist to be servile and deferential. Need a valet? Not to worry! The poor guy in the uniform will be sure to hustle while fetching the Jag!

Linton’s passing of judgement on an Instagram post serves notice of how many wealthy right-wingers view their role in America. They are the patrons for the poor because they pay taxes. Unlike the other 99%, it’s their contributions that make this country work!

Maybe now is the time to notice that Linton is 36 years old and married a man 18 years her senior whose financial disclosure form reveals a modest savings of half a billion dollars.

Is this where Kanye chimes in about 18 years? At least Mnuchin ain’t drivin’ off in a Hyundai.

Before we start painting all wealthy with a broad brush, there are plenty of billionaires who are generous – Warren Buffett and Bill Gates immediately come to mind. Based on the influx of money into government and that money being used to create a society resembling the Gilded Age, Gates and Buffett are in the minority.

While chewing on Linton, let’s bring in Ayn Rand fetishist/Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. One of the doctrines of GOP logic for lowering taxes is that it increases social mobility. However, during Ryan’s dopey AHCA PowerPoint he actually said taxes were so enormous under the ACA that Americans are REFUSING PROMOTIONS because of the taxes.

Now, granted, the readers of this screed would never turn down more money because of tax implications. Then again, the readers also can’t fathom a guy who talks about destroying Medicaid over keggers in college.

So many more important things to be doing during keggers than killing Medicaid…

How does this all related to failed Presidential candidate and Hair Model John Edwards?

Glad you asked.

Edwards, for all his wealth, attempted to understand the plight of the poor. He listened and empathized. Ask yourself, would John Edwards tout his Ferragamo tie or turn down a raise because of tax implications?

OK! Bad example!

Better example – would Bobby Kennedy be glib about his clothes or taxes?

Kennedy’s campaign in 1968 was notable not just for its brevity but also for its engagement of the downtrodden.

He is the only Presidential candidate to visit the Pine Ridge Reservation – a picture of third-world poverty that shouldn’t exist in America.

He famously told an upset medical student at Indiana University that when the student became a doctor he’d pay for socialized medicine because that’s his responsibility for living in a society that has given the student so much.

He visited Cleveland, Missouri and saw African-American babies with distended stomachs due to starvation and was so moved by what he saw he told his kids that night at dinner to appreciate all they had and live a life serving others.

The attitude of the GOP is poverty reflects moral failure. For the wealthy who spend their time funding Republican campaigns (looking at you, Kochs, Mercers, Ricketts, and Waltons) their goal has nothing to do with elevating American society, just their bank accounts.

Perhaps Democrats need to follow RFK’s example – and to a lesser extent that of John Edwards – by going to the poor and being their voice. RFK believed that all people ever wanted was a job and some hope.

Louise Linton and Paul Ryan prove that wealth is simply a counting stat, yet for them wealth reflects a purity of character. Progressive voices such as RFK’s allowed America to feel empathy for the downtrodden.

For Republicans who wish to pass judgement on the poor, remember, it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich person to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Instead of ridiculing the poor, help the poor. Speaking from experience, it’s a great feeling.

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