Yesterday afternoon, just a day after the news came of her doctors terminating her breast cancer treatment and sending her home, Elizabeth Edwards died at age 61.
Social convention is that we do not speak ill of the recently dead, and so I will not. But I will speak the truth about what her life experiences tell us about human nature.
The root difference between Conservatives and the Left is how they view human nature.
Since government is staffed by human beings, how one conceives human nature determines what kind of government is considered ideal or even feasible. To illustrate, if human nature is thought to be inherently good, then no government is needed because people naturally will act honorably toward each other. A political superstructure would be superfluous because the virtuous people govern themselves in a bucolic community of peace and harmony. These are the beliefs of utopians, whether anarchists, Marxists, or the American Left. They are convinced that private property ownership corrupts and that only its abolition and eradication can restore human beings to their original benign nature.
There are other attributes of human nature aside from the moral dimensions of good and evil. There is also the matter of whether one believes human beings have the capacity to attain perfect rationality—the ability to set aside our passions and prejudices and, instead, employ cool reason to evaluate and solve problems. If one believes that certain people possess superior rationality, intelligence and virtue, it would be foolish not to give these special individuals maximal power to remake man and society into a paradise on earth.
Like the Founding Fathers, Conservatives conceive human nature to be flawed: we are both good and bad. Although we have it within us to be good, even the best among us are profoundly self-interested or selfish. As James Madison wisely observed, “If men were angels, there would be no need for government, nor would there be a need for constraints on government.” The ideal government thus should be as small as possible, limited to only those tasks that individuals cannot accomplish on their own, such as maintenance of law and order, mediation and adjudication of disputes, interstate commerce, foreign relations and national defense.
At the same time, although conservatives share the Founders’ belief that we all have the capacity to reason, on which supposition democratic self-government depends, conservatives are dubious about wildly optimistic expectations that human reason and intelligence have no limits. Conservatives are mindful that human beings are fallible and sometimes downright irrational, particularly when they are in a group or a mob. Grandiose schemes of social engineering, therefore, necessarily are doomed because they only create more problems than are solved. Indeed, Conservatives’ skepticism is confirmed by the failure of utopian Marxism wherever it was attempted, beginning in Russia with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, at the cost of millions of human lives.
Implicit in liberalism is its faith that there are certain people possessed of the special knowledge to reëngineer society. Members of this élite are so enlightened that they know what’s good for the people better than the people themselves. As an example, on July 31, 2009, reporter Andrea Mitchell identified the 47% of Americans with health insurance as the main obstacle to Obamacare. Mitchell said these Americans “don’t want change” although “they may not know what’s good for them.”
The Left also believe that they are possessed of other extraordinary attributes—they are supremely rational, able to set aside their own passions and prejudices to devise the best policies to better society; they are virtuous instead of self-serving, and are immune to the corrupting effects of political power.
Elizabeth and John Edwards exemplified the liberal Left mentality. Both were vocal champions of liberalism, big government, and faith in their ability to reëngineer America — if only the American people would put their trust in them and elect John as President.
When John Edwards was first catapulted to national prominence when he was selected to be John Kerry’s VP running mate in 2004, many women were enchanted by the Edwards’ “strong” marriage and especially by John being the seeming exception to Alpha males’ penchant for trophy wives — women who are younger, beautiful, and thin. Elizabeth was 4 years older than John, ordinary looking, plump, and her husband’s intellectual equal.
It turned out that John Edwards, instead of his public image of a faithful loving husband, not only had extramarital affairs but conceived a child with a younger woman (11 years younger) named Rielle Hunter in the 2008 campaign after Elizabeth’s cancer was diagnosed as terminal.
Instead of his public image of being a pro-woman feminist, John Edwards ill-treated the women in his life. He was not only unfaithful to his wife, but was too cowardly to end his marriage even after his mistress became pregnant with child.
Instead of his public image of a righteous champion for the poor and of income redistribution, John Edwards was so stingy with his own multi-million fortune that he used campaign monies to pay salary to the woman he was screwing, the talentless Rielle who pretended to be the Edward campaign’s “videographer,” as well as support her in grand style in a mansion after she became pregnant. Edwards is presently being investigated by a Federal Grand Jury for illicit use of campaign funds.
Instead of his public image of a God-fearing Methodist Christian, John Edwards lied, cheated, and used people, including loyal aide Andrew Young. Edwards had Young pretend to the world that he, Young, was the father of Rielle’s child.
Instead of being so many liberal women’s dream of a knight in shining armor, John Edwards is every woman’s nightmare, his entire persona an elaborate lie. He betrayed his wife of 33 years who had used her lawyer training and skills to assist his political ambitions; had a New Age-spouting mistress who is far less accomplished but 15 years younger, more attractive, and thinner than his wife; and conceived a child out of wedlock.
The life of Elizabeth Edwards is a sobering testimony to just how wrong the Left are about human nature and, by logical extension, about the proper role of government itself.
May she now rest in peace.