Politics & Policy

The Two Americas Canard

Dissecting John Edwards's line.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

This article appears in the August 9, 2004, issue of National Review.

Together, John Kerry and John Edwards possess family fortunes totaling probably in the vicinity of $1 billion. If elected, John Kerry would be the richest president in American history, richer even than his hero John F. Kennedy. And unlike other rich men to seek the presidency–Ross Perot, Herbert Hoover, and so on–Kerry is the very opposite of a self-made man: He came by his money by marrying a woman who inherited it from her husband who in turn inherited it from his great-grandfather.

Yet the Kerry-Edwards campaign is audaciously presenting itself as a crusade against unearned wealth and privilege. As the saying goes: Only in America!

Perhaps conscious of the absurdity of the situation, Kerry has left the populist heavy lifting to his running mate, a man whose fortune is estimated in the mere double-digit millions. But even Edwards must choke a little at the preposterousness of his famous “two Americas” speech:

One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America that will do anything to leave its children a better life, another America that never has to do a thing because its children are already set for life. One America–middle-class America–whose needs Washington has long forgotten, another America–narrow-interest America–whose every wish is Washington’s command. One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants, even a Congress and a president.

By my count, that’s actually five different pairs of Americas, and no two pairs overlap.

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