Yesterday, Democratic Presidential hopeful, John Edwards announced that, if elected to President, he would provide healthcare for all and that he would pay for this by ... wait for it ... raising taxes.
If you're in the U.S., and this is the first time you're reading this, I will give you a moment to compose yourself.
Those of you in the UK reading this, if you heard a collective intake of breath from across the pond yesterday... this was why. While the Blair government seems to add another revenue stream, unchecked, every other day, American society, government and politics operate on entirely the other end of the political spectrum. In the U.S., even those politicians on the left back away from the phrase "raising taxes" like it's a Bernard Matthews Turkey (click here, if this means no sense to you) and generally speaking, saying those very words are indeed the political kiss of death. You see, many Americans either want it all but don't want to pay for it, or don't think that its the government's repsonsibility to provide it period (which essentially amounts to the same thing - don't make me pay for it). Either way "taxes" and "raise" are two words you very rarely hear in the same sentence from a politician - at least those with high ambitions.
So, Edwards' statement sounds pretty "radical" right? Wrong! The completely non-radical thing about this announcement by Edwards is that: (a) What he is proposing is not actually a net tax increase, it's a repeal of Bush's tax breaks and that (b) he's not the only one wanting to repeal these tax breaks out of the Democratic Presidential hopefulls - he's just the only one brave enough to call it a tax increase.
Now, I've got to tell you that, while I always thought that Edwards should have been top of the ticket in the last race for the White House, my allegiences have most definitely been swinging between Hillary and Barack for the Democratic nomination. And while I admire Hillary's political savvy and Barack's charismatic, empassioned speeches, I'm also tired of hearing politicians play verbal gymnastics with words in order to avoid telling it like it is - both Hillary and Barack are adept at this in their own way.
There is nothing more frustrating than knowing that a politician shares your political ideals in principle, but when under questioning, will stop short of drawing their idealogical line in the sand, for fear of alienating this voter or that voter, or losing support from this side of their party or that side of their party. The result is that nothing of any substance ever gets said, real intentions are hidden behind clever rhetoric and ideas are put forth with fudged numbers to hide how it will be paid for. What's crazy is that it always comes around to bite you in the butt - political pundits and your opposition analyze your numbers, read your small print, and then accuse you of the very thing you've tried to pretend you're not doing. Now, instead of leading your issue, you're playing defense and are seen as just another politician lying to the electorate. It just doesn't make sense to me. All because you were too afraid to piss off some redneck in the middle of the country. (Sorry, but look at a map, it's true!)
So, there was something incredibly refreshing in hearing Edwards' health-care stump speech. He said it like it is, created a practical plan based on something he believed in (crunch the numbers if you have the time, but at least he presented a plan that included a way to pay for it). If nothing else, it definitely grabbed the headlines and (at least temporarily) "stole" the issue from under Hillary's nose.
I guess that's just "politics" and of course I'm not so naive as to forget that the goal is to win - of course, if your guy doesn't get the votes, he doesn't win and none of your political ideals become reality - but we could definitely use a little more of this straight-up politiking.
Maybe, at the end of the day, it will alienate too many voters to result in a win, but on the other hand, Edwards could be on to something here.
Pretty much everyone you talk to is tired of the old-guard politics and politicians, tired of the fancy rhetoric, the lies and the half-truths. The appeal of "W" himself is based upon the perception that he is "plain spoken" and talks on a level to the "regular guy". So, maybe it's not so crazy after all to think that people might actually vote for someone who not only isn't afraid to speak up for what he believes in, but isn't afraid to tell us the truth about how he's going to get it done. Maybe, in the end, that's what people will vote on.
Truth over policy? I live in hope!