Edwards Challenges Democrats to Stop Defending a Broken System

At Carpenters union endorsement event, Edwards says Democrats must decide if they stand for change or the status quo because “you can’t be for both”

Manchester , New Hampshire Senator John Edwards this morning formally accepted the endorsement of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and called on Democrats to be the party of change and reject money from Washington lobbyists. Edwards was joined by Carpenters President Douglas J. McCarron and a crowd of energized workers in Nashua, New Hampshire for the announcement.

“Actually bringing change starts with telling the truth,” said Edwards. “And the truth is the system in Washington is broken and anyone who wants to defend it can’t change it. Our system of government has been hijacked for the benefit of corporate profits and the very wealthiest. Washington is rigged against regular Americans, whose interests and concerns don’t stand a chance against the onslaught of lobbyists and money that control the place.”

Edwards said that every time somebody proposes a plan to get that money out of politics, special interest lobbyists lead the opposition. “They oppose universal health care to protect their profits,” Edwards explained. “They oppose energy independence, prescription drug reform, and tax reform to protect their profits. So why do they oppose campaign finance reform and public financing? To protect their profits. Because the special interests know that money means influence and campaign contributions is how they move the money. If we want real change in America, then we have toget the money out of politics.”

Edwards discussed his challenge to the Democratic Party to say no to Washington lobbyist money once and for all. He said Democrats must decide if they stand for change or the status quo because “you can’t be for both.”

“Either you are against the lobbyists bribes or you are for them,” he said. “Either you defend the system as it is, or you show the courage to change it. I know it isn’t easy. It takes strength to say no to the lobbyists. It takes strength to say the way we’ve always done it doesn’t work.”

“In the America I believe in, we don’t compromise our principles,” Edwards concluded. “We fight for them with everything we’ve got. And if ending a broken system is where we’ve got to start, then let’s get going because the James Lowe’s of the world, the 47 million uninsured, the 37 million living in poverty cannot wait.”

Full text of Edwards’ remarks included below.

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There’s been a lot of talk about change up here in New Hampshire l ately. And this much is certainly true: change is just a word. Anybody can say it. But it’s what you’re prepared to do that shows how much you mean it.

Actually bringing change starts with telling the truth. And the truth is the system in Washington is broken and anyone who wants to defend it can’t change it.

Our system of government has been hijacked for the benefit of corporate profits and the very wealthiest. Washington is rigged against regular Americans, whose interests and concerns don’t stand a chance against the onslaught of lobbyists and money that control the place.

The evidence is all too clear.

For more than 20 years, Democrats have talked about universal health care. In 1993 we controlled Congress and the White House, with a Democratic president who had the courage to propose a plan. And it was completely killed – run out of town by an army of lobbyists working for the big insurance companies, drug companies, and HMOs. Don’t take my word for it – just ask the person who was in charge.

Dependence on foreign oil is smothering our economy and choking our environment. Everybody knows it – politicians from both parties have been calling for energy independence for 30 years. But the oilmen in the White House handed the keys to the corridors of government to the lobbyists for the big oil companies and let them literally write the energy bill. Now, gas prices are through the roof, carbon emissions are unchecked, and global warming is likely getting worse.

When Congress launched an effort to bring prescription drug prices under control, the lobbyists for the drug companies went to work. And instead of prescription drug reform that brought down the cost of drugs, those lobbyists got us a prescription drug bill that boosts drug company profits but doesn’t cut patient costs. And now the guy who was in charge of moving that so-called reform bill through Congress is the head of the drug company lobbying group, making millions every year to keep drug profits high.

The worst loophole on Wall Street lets hedge fund managers escape paying income taxes on most of their compensation. I was the first presidential candidate to support a plan to close the loophole, but top Democrats – Democrats! – are now showing signs of backing down from asking them to pay their fair share as the hedge fund lobbyists put the pressure on.

And here’s the kicker. Guess who leads the opposition every time somebody proposes a plan to get the money out of politics? Special interest lobbyists. Now, think about that. They oppose universal health care to protect their profits. They oppose energy independence, prescription drug reform, and tax reform to protect their profits. So why do they oppose campaign finance reform and public financing? To protect their profits. Because the special interests know that money means influence and campaign contributions is how they move the money.

If we want real change in America, then we have to get the money out of politics. Because you can’t really be for change if you won’t agree to get rid of the lobbyist money that prevents it.

We can act now. We don’t need to wait for a reluctant Congress and an unwilling president to enact a law to get the money out. We can reform our party right now. A month ago, I issued a challenge to our party – let’s all stop taking money from Washington lobbyists. We know you give money to get influence, but we don’t work for you, so we don’t want your money anymore.

This isn’t about the past – this is about the future. I’m not asking anybody to give any of their lobbyist money back, or to apologize for ever taking it. What I am saying is that from this day forward I want our party to truly be the party of change for the American people. I want our party to offer America a clear choice next November – we’re the party of the people; the Republicans are the party of corporate power and profit.

This election is about whether or not we are going to have real change. The change we need is not just about replacing George Bush – that change is going to happen no matter what. The change we need is not just trading a bunch of corporate Republican insiders for a bunch of corporate Democrat insiders. That’s not change – that’s business as usual. Real change, the kind of change that will deliver universal health care, halt global warming, and put hard-working Americans and their families first, means we have to fix the broken system in Washington that is standing inthe way.

So, let’s take a first step toward reform today. As a party, let’s say no to Washington lobbyist money once and for all. They can make their arguments – they just can’t grease them with bribes.

So once more, I ask all the presidential candidates and every Democrat, will you stop taking money from Washington lobbyists?

Are you for change or the status quo?

Because you can’t be for both. Either you are against the lobbyists bribes or you are for them. Either you defend the system as it is, or you show the courage to change it. I know it isn’t easy. It takes strength to say no to the lobbyists. It takes strength to say the way we’ve always done it doesn’t work.

Look, Senator Clinton is right – you cannot pretend the system doesn’t exist. But you also can’t pretend that it works. And that’s where she and I part company.

Because I believe if you defend the system that defeats change, you can’t be a president that will bring change. When it comes to the Washington influence game, we need to end it, not defend it.

She says you bring change by working within the system established by the Constitution. I think the system has been corrupted by corporate powers never contemplated by the Constitution. This is not the government of, by and for the people that our founding fathers intended.

There is no principled compromise between the way things have always been and the way things could be.

How do you compromise on universal health care? It’s either universal, or it isn’t. How do you compromise on equality? Things are equal, or they’re not. How do you compromise on the American Dream? On opportunity for everybody? When you cut the deal on opportunity, who gets left out of everybody?

In the America I believe in, we don’t compromise our principles. We fight for them with everything we’ve got. And if ending a broken system is where we’ve got to start, then let’s get going because the James Lowe’s of the world, the 47 million uninsured, the 37 million living in poverty cannot wait.