Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is featured on the cover of the July 2007 issue of Men’s Vogue. The former Senator, wearing a brown, worn field jacket, sits with his dog Bella on a pickup truck. Quintessential rural Americana is combined with Edwards’s widely discussed good looks (and good hair). Such is the image of the Edwards campaign, the result of Edwards’ rural upbringing and his ubiquitous “˜rural liason’ Mudcat Saunders. (Is there another campaign with a rural liason? Is that like an ambassador?)
But does this picture, and for that matter this man, truly speak to rural America? Edwards’s wealth and surprising indulgences seem to receive more media attention than his Rural Recovery Act and highly detailed policy-based campaign. In the Men’s Vogue cover story, Joe Hagan seems to think Edwards is aligned with rural America — although, the Daily Yonder has to wonder, how many rural men — for that matter men in general — really read Men’s Vogue?
It is undeniable that Edwards is bringing rural America to the attention of the nation. “According to Mudcat Saunders,” Hagan reports, “the campaign isn’t just aiming at poor rural whites in the South—but at poor rural whites across the country. There’s not a 50 cent difference in Bubba in Buncombe County, North Carolina, and Iowa or New Hampshire or wherever else. We are all from basically the same set of circumstances, and a rural campaign is not just a Southern campaign. It’s about the heart and soul of rural America. And John believes strongly in it.’”
(Again, DY wonders, is “rural” in slick magazines simply a synonym for “poor”?)
Edwards campaigns as the candidate who can deliver rural and Southern states. As he was drinking a soda from Bojangles, Edwards told Hagan, “Oh, I’ll win more than one Southern state. I will win more than one Southern state. You remember we had this conversation.”
The article adds, “As much as he declares himself the antidote to George W. Bush, it’s what he shares with the Texan—known for whacking brush in Crawford and using Lone Star State grammar instead of what he learned at Andover and Yale—that could be his best hope for winning: Southern authenticity. And rural authenticity, too?