When John Edwards ran for president in 2008 -- before we knew that Elizabeth Edwards' cancer had returned and long before the sordid stories about his marital infidelities were revealed -- I was a big advocate for Elizabeth being First Lady. In many ways she was a mom like the rest of us -- she called herself the "anti-Barbie," loved meatloaf, and had a thing for comfy jammies from Target.
Elizabeth Edwards died this week at the age of 61, the breast cancer she fought valiantly for six years finally taking her from her children and family. But her passing is a loss for more than just her family. Elizabeth Edwards, despite the many vengeful and judgmental things that were written about her marriage and her presence on her husband's campaign trail, was the kind of woman I now think would have made an excellent Mom-in-Chief -- the kind that actually sits behind the desk in the Oval Office.
There's nothing wrong with the more traditional Michelle Obama model of being a "mom-in-chief" -- advocating for healthier children through exercise, better eating, and closer attention to the causes of childhood obesity.
But I think Elizabeth Edwards could have handled that, as well as the wonky policy debates about health care (which we saw her do on Capitol Hill), the economy, the START Treaty, and more. Elizabeth was never afraid to show her intellect (she was always the smarter one in her political marriage) and didn't back down from her opponents -- ever. Just ask Ann Coulter. Elizabeth was one of the few people ever to have the nerve to take on Coulter head-to-head over Coulter's nasty, personal attacks and did it with such aplomb that I don't think Coulter ever felt the knife going in.
That's the kind of woman I'd like to see in the White House as the first woman Commander-in-Chief -- someone who knows how to wield patience and logic to make her points in a way that her opponents never see it coming.
When asked in recent years whether she would ever consider running for President, she made it clear that she had no interest in elective politics and felt that her strengths were better used in advocating for issues she cared deeply about. She was also one of the first political players to see how important women in the world of social media would be for those running for elective office, making a point to engage with the online world while others with more political experience were ignoring it.
Elizabeth Edwards had all the smarts, savvy, compassion, and chutzpah that we could really use to turn things around in our country. She certainly would have had my vote.
I hope we can find another woman to fill her inspirational shoes. Whether you agreed with the decisions she made about her personal life, she was an amazing example to moms who want to embrace the political world. Rest in peace, Elizabeth. We'll keep up the good fight.