I voted for John Edwards in 2004 in the Massachusetts primary. I voted for him again in 2008 in the DC primary, even though he had already pulled out of the race, as a sign of my continued dedication to his ideals.
(There was no question that Obama was going to win the DC primary, so don't bother giving me a hard time about "wasting" my vote.)
I greatly admired Edwards' eloquence about class in our country. But it was his personal experience — being born "the son of a mill worker" and developing his own personal wealth and privilege in society — that was most appealing to me.
I was raised, primarily, by a single mother who often relied on AFDC and food stamps to care for her two children. Today, I am upper middle class, unconcerned about the cost of groceries or a gallon of gas beyond its impact on our economy and on the lives of others for whom I feel empathy. I have earned my education among children of extraordinary privilege. I have traveled all over the world through my work; seeing, eating, drinking and experiencing things that most never will.
Despite the fact that I am no longer poor, I have never let go of being a kid raised by a single mom, living in federally subsidized housing and buying groceries with food stamps. I can't. There is part of me who feels like an "impostor" as I recline my seat in first class ("if they only knew the truth"), but there is also a part of me who wants to make sure I never forget, to take pride in what I have done to get here.
My support of John Edwards came from my sincere belief that, like me, he could not — would not — forget. It also came from my belief that knowing what it took to change his destiny would make him better at not only creating policies that would effectively address disparities in our society, but capable of inspiring others to follow in his path. He would know that it takes more than money from federal and state agencies to change people's lives. It takes overcoming the ingrained belief that life is defined by obstacles. It takes opening eyes to opportunities and believing that those opportunities are yours for the taking.
Yesterday, when I heard the news that John Edwards had betrayed his family, I was devastated. It felt like the fall of my personal hero. I tweeted, " Oh, John, you ruined the fantasy," incapable of saying anything more.
This morning, I read Elizabeth Edwards' diary from yesterday on Daily Kos.
Although John believes he should stand alone and take the consequences of his action now, when the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him.
I am no longer devastated; I am disappointed.
I am not disappointed that John Edwards violated the "sanctity of marriage" because it is not an institution I revere. I am not disappointed that John Edwards allowed sex to cloud his judgment, because there are few, if any, of us who have not allowed the same. I am not disappointed that John Edwards went back on his word, because his word to me was to dedicate himself to eliminating class disparities in this country and, I believe, he will continue to do so.
I am disappointed that John Edwards reminded me he was fallible. But, mostly, I am disappointed that he hurt his wife — whom I admire greatly — and his children. He stopped, for a moment, being the hero he could be, to them. He forgot who he was and what he had done to get there.
If, as Elizabeth says, his family will be waiting for him when the door closes behind him, I will be there too.