John Edwards, John Kerry's pick for vice president, will bring likability, special appeal in the South and a gift for oratory to the Democratic ticket, even if he does have negatives, such as the analytically flawed two-Americas theme he struck in primary contests and relative inexperience.
More troublesome is his thesis that America is divided between the privileged rich and everyone else.
The truth is that the average American has never been so well off as in the present age. The widening gap between rich and poor only exists because this country admits more immigrants every year — many of them poor and uneducated to begin with — than other industrialized nations in combination.
Subtract from the mix first-generation Americans still struggling to establish themselves in our rather complicated society, and the gap between rich and poor is narrowing.
Edwards favors expanded and additional social programs at a time when excessive spending poses an economic threat to the economy and therefore to the poor. He opposes the sorts of free-trade initiatives that serve the economy. He proposes to raise taxes on the rich, which would not help the poor.
All that said, Edwards is scarcely a radical and does not seem the least bit mean-spirited. He has demonstrated an exceptional speaking ability that should be considered a substantive asset: Political figures in a democracy must still rely on voice as a principal means of leading.
As a campaigner, he may actually outshine Kerry in some respects. It speaks well of Kerry that he would pick someone as promising as Edwards seems to be.