When I saw a headline quoting Gov. Dean as saying that the US could not win in Iraq I knew that we would shortly be hearing all the usual noise and complaints about his latest "gaffe." Of course, I was reminded of his definition of a gaffe... "When you tell the truth and the people in Washington think you shouldn't have." Forgive me if I take a moment to smile about that. You see, I don't care much what the people in Washington think. Like most of you, I live in the real world and I am not afraid of nor shocked by the real truth. I'll let you in on a little secret... neither are my Republican and Independent neighbors. What we care about are whether the people in Washington are getting the job done or not. And let me tell you, Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is getting the job done.
From the moment he started asking the question "What I want to know is..." through the end if his Presidential campaign; from the formation of the Democracy for America PAC through his election as DNC Chair; from his promise to help rebuild the State Democratic Committees to his fulfilling that promise by having placed staff in every state by the end of the year; to this moment right now Gov Howard Dean has been in the trenches doing his part to take our country back.
What convinced me to back Gov. Dean for President was the common theme in his campaign to get people active and involved. As Gov. Dean says "Voting is the minimum requirement of citizenship in our democracy." When his campaign ended Gov. Dean immediately turned to his supporters and said, "Get involved locally. Find a candidate to support. Run for office yourself. Fill a seat on your local Democratic Committee."
Like so many others I looked around me and saw an obvious opening. My town hadn't had a Democratic Committee since before I'd moved here 8 years ago. I contacted people I met during the campaign and we formed a town committee. Last month we ran 2 candidates for Town Council and both of them won. Gov. Dean deserves the credit for those victories. Our story is not unique. It is happening all over the country with people inspired by Gov. Dean to get involved. He said "You have the power" and he meant it. And we do and the results of us exercising that power are beginning to show.
In the next town over another Dean meetup member put together a Democratic slate made up of Democrats and Republicans working together. They won both Town Council seats and the Town Supervisor position with a citizen oriented campaign against an entrenched Republican party.
In a county Judge election everyone, including Democratic Party leaders, said a Democrat could not win against the Republican party bosses hand picked crony. We picked Robert Jacon, a former Town Judge and local Dean supporter to run. Robert Jacon is now the new Criminal Court Judge in Rensselaer County, NY.
Gov. Dean's campaign featured the $100 Revolution. The idea was for 2 million average citizens to donate $100 each to match the $200 million of Bush's Pioneers and Rangers. Gov. Dean has turned the same idea Democracy Bonds and has had a major impact on the way that Democrats raise money. So far Gov. Dean's DNC has far exceeded it's previous fund raising efforts and cut deeply into the traditional Republican advantage.
In state after state, county after county, we see reinvigorated Democratic Committees driven by Dean supporters and members of the almost 600 local DFA groups spread out over all 50 states and now in three quarters of the congressional districts across the country. Members of DFA groups that are increasingly providing trained and experienced campaigners. State parties praise his help in raising sorely needed money and rebuild the party infrastructure. We hear candidate after candidate looking to Dean supporters and DFA groups for help in making their campaigns happen. While Howard Dean rebuilds the party from the top down his supporters are helping to rebuild it from the bottom up.
This past Nov. 2005 election cycle showed dramatic gains across the nation by Democrats. Often in places where Democrats never win. Even when we didn't win grassroots driven candidates like Christine Cegelis and Paul Hackett let the Republicans know that there are no safe seats for them anymore. Gov. Dean's 50 state strategy to challenge every Republican held seat is being brought to fruition by the people Gov. Dean continues to encourage to take an active role in our party. Here in New York we have serious challengers lining up for 7 of 9 Republican held Congressional seats. Most of them supported or encouraged by Dean and DFA members. I recently read in Connecticut a DLC Democrat came looking to Dean people for support.
Who is the life of the party? The answer is clear and it is Chairman Howard Dean and the Democratic voters that he has brought into the party. New life. New Blood. Fresh Horses. Big victories for Democrats.
Yet the media, Republicans and even some Democratic officials back away from Gov. Dean when he says things like "The US can't win the war in Iraq." Funny thing is once again what he said was actually correct. The US cannot win in Iraq, only the Iraqi's can win the war in Iraq. And everyone agrees with that. It is only when we allow ourselves to get caught in Republican frames that we have to back away from the truth. Everyone agrees that victory in Iraq will be achieved when the Iraqi people achieve it. Hillary Clinton says so. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid say so. Jack Murtha, Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer agree. George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the United Nations agree! Even Joe Liebrman agrees. And most importantly the Iraqi people agree.
But that's my Howard. The life of the party. Directly because of Gov. Dean I am more encouraged then ever that we the Democratic Party will straighten out the mess the Republicans have made of America. I can see the evidence growing everyday of the rebuilding of our party and I can see in the desperate actions and words of the Republicans that they are afraid of you, afraid of us. Great Job Chairman Dean! Keep it up. We got your back.
Happy Holidays Howard!
Andrew C. White
Stephentown Democratic Committee Chair
Rensselaer County Democratic Executive Committee Member
Democracy for the Hudson-Mohawk Region Organizer