October 31, 2003

Howard Dean has what it takes to be president

It may seem like a safe, calculated, and methodical approach to remain cynical and pessimistic regarding the possibility of a future Democratic presidency, especially considering how futile Democratic efforts were in the previous presidential election. However, there are several compelling reasons why this perspective is incorrect when one analyzes the optimistic campaign efforts of current democratic presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean.

First, Dean has raised nearly $15 million this last (third) quarter, which is the largest filing ever by a Democratic presidential campaign in American history. That in itself should speak to the millions of Americans who never wanted Bush in office in the first place. These donations came from 168,000 Americans who each contributed an average $74. According to the Campaign Finance Institute, Dean gets 54 percent of his contributions from small donors ($200 or less per donor) and only 22 percent from large donors ($1,000 or more per donor). Bush, on the other hand, has raised $83.9 million, collecting 85 percent of it in contributions from large donors and only 10 percent in gifts from small donors The difference in these candidates' broad base of supporters is quite clear. Dean's supporters exist, and in big numbers; they just don't have the large wallets that Bush's corporate supporters have.

Sure, you may think that Howard Dean could be Karl Rove's fodder for negative campaigning against "Leftist Liberal Hootenannies." However, Dean's campaign managers are quite skilled and savvy. They have been successful with their technology-driven, honest, grassroots strategy thus far, as poll results clearly demonstrate. They are quite aware of the Bush camp's predictable, last minute, expensive, and sensational "Shock and Awe" campaign (as well as military) strategy, and have developed plans to address this intelligently and sincerely.

In his recent article in the Maroon ("Why Howard Dean Can't Win," 10/21/03), Andrew Hammond expressed worry about Dean's previous experience. Dean's leadership experience has been exceptional. His record of leadership includes being the longest serving governor in Vermont's history. Having been re-elected five times by Vermont citizens should say enough. They are quite satisfied with Dean's successes, which include removing a legacy of unbalanced budgets, adopting progressive education initiatives, and addressing environmental concerns. As a doctor, he has made health a top priority, and he became a national leader in healthcare when he expanded Vermont programs to cover virtually every person under the age of 18 and over 92 percent of adults in his state.

Hammond may think Dean can't win key electoral votes, but the real campaigning has just begun. According to the most recent polls, Dean is at the top of all the Democratic candidates, with an impressive 17-point lead over next-best John Kerry in New Hampshire, a traditional swing-state. Dean also has a six-point lead over Wesley Clark in swing-state Michigan. The newest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Dean to be the "nationwide frontrunner" with 16 percent, over Dick Gephardt's 14 percent and Clark falling to third at 13 percent.

The reason Bush was elected in 2000 was because Democratic voters didn't have a representative "voice" with Al Gore. Third-party candidates such as Ralph Nader spoke to liberals and laborers specifically, while Gore spoke rather generally to anyone who would hear his voice.

"With me, what you see is what you get. And you're not going to like every bit of it, but you're always going to know where I stand and why I stand there...our party is suffering because we keep nominating people who will say anything they have to say to get elected."

Dean has a very receptive audience. People are listening to his speeches, his plans, and his opinions on the current state of affairs. He has whittled away at the Democratic Party's decade-long identity crisis to bring out its true core: power of democracy through civil duty and power in the hands of citizens-not the government.

Hmm, to me that sounds like the basis of Republican ideology. Perhaps Dean can tap into those "old" Republicans who have been disappointed with Bush's overly centralized, top-heavy government. Dean is a straight-talker, like previous presidential candidates such as John McCain and Ross Perot. He's also a Washington outsider, which just may appeal to the 19 percent of "independents" (who were mostly registered Republicans) that voted for Perot two seasons ago.

Hammond might think Bush can win with his constant supporters, but there is an entire section of the population that has been completely, and quite vehemently, ignored by the Bush administration and is ready for a change. These people believe in the possibility of building economic strength through alternative, environmentally-conscious energy resources (such as windmills and hydrogen gas), instead of Bush's proposed Alaskan Wildlife Refuge oil-drilling. These ignored people also believe in the right of a woman to choose how to manage her pregnancy. This bypassed populace believes that improving the economy begins with creating employment here at home where it is most needed, instead of providing tax breaks to corporate giants who move business off-shore for better profits. Dean speaks to the students whose Pell Grants are dwindling and whose debts are increasing.

Dean speaks to the alienated group of citizens who eat one meal a day in order to afford their medical prescriptions. Dean speaks to the isolated group of American farmers that want agricultural profits to be supported and encouraged on American soil, not imported from somewhere six time zones away. Dean speaks to the millions of medically uninsured, who compose the largest percentage of uninsured people among all developed countries, in spite of America's highest per-capita expenditures on health. Dean speaks to gays and lesbians who have been targeted by the Bush administration's proposed Federal Marriage Amendment and other discriminatory legislation marginalizing same-sex couples.

Dean speaks to the isolated group of citizens who feel lied to about foreign policy in Iraq because of Bush's insistence of invasion upon false "documented" evidence of weapons of mass destruction. He speaks to the group of people who are confused about Halliberton's (a private business affiliated with Vice President Dick Cheney) quick affiliation with Iraqi oil reserves management, just one week after invasion. He speaks to the group of people who believe that global warming is not a construct of fiction, but scientifically proven, industrialization-caused climate change. Dean speaks to the group of people that believe we should be friends with Europe, both "Old" and "New," and create strong foreign relationships for successful global aid and a strong global economy.

Dean speaks to all these groups, to whom Bush has turned a deaf ear. So to the gentleman who believes Howard Dean can't win, I urge you to reconsider. The American people are much smarter than you think. Middle-class Americans are sick of being underinsured, underpaid, and overlooked, and they are frustrated with saccharine political strategy. Americans have had it with embarrassing isolationist foreign policy, misleading facts about weapons investigations in Iraq, and a deficit that has surged higher than ever in history (and even higher after the passing of Bush's $87 billion Iraq Reconstruction request). They are looking for something new. For all these reasons and more, Howard Dean will not only get the Democratic nomination, but will win back the trust of Americans, and with that, the presidential election.