The tragedy of the John Edwards affair revelation — beyond the embarrassment for the Edwards family and the fact that this man, once a leading presidential contender, put his party and country at great risk — is that so many of Edwards' supporters hoped and believed he could become a sort of Al Gore for poverty. Just a few weeks ago, Edwards was traveling the country on one of his "poverty tours," saying he expected to speak about the issue at the Democratic convention and move it to the center of the party's platform. The loss of Edwards' credibility is a profound loss for his issues. For now, at least, there won't be a nationally recognized spokesperson for issues of poverty and inequality.
With his image as a new moneyed McMansion connoisseur with elaborate personal grooming habits, Edwards was never the ideal face for this nascent movement. Still, he kept plugging along on his issues, despite the accusations of hypocrisy flung at him. Most of the people who accused him of insincerity, of course, have never lifted a finger to change public policies affecting the poor or call attention to their struggles.
I'm not trying to apologize for Edwards' seamy affair or his lies about it. He's simply not the man so many people hoped he was. But this story has implications beyond the Edwards family and the presidential race.
cross-posted at TAPPED