How the Democrats blew it and how to not blow it next time

The Thinker by Rodin

I’m over the initial shock of the election, although it follows me into unwelcome places, like my dreams. The election seemed pretty easy to call in advance. Pollsters were in agreement. Everything had been sliced and diced. Although a two-term president is rarely succeeded by someone from his own party, it sure looked like with the worst Republican candidate ever things were going to break for Team Blue.

Obviously it didn’t, leaving pretty much everyone except Michael Moore and Scott Adams with egg on their faces. Heck, even the Trump campaign was planning for defeat. You could see in Trump’s “victory” speech that he was a bit shell-shocked by the whole thing; it’s almost liked he hoped to lose. Trump’s visit to the White House yesterday was also surreal. He had a stunned-bunny sort of look, like this is the last sort of job he wanted. And it’s worth noting that while Trump trounced Clinton in the Electoral College vote, Clinton still won the popular vote. She joins Al Gore and Samuel J. Tilden in the exclusive club of candidates who won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote (and who had not been president already.) By any standard, Trump’s election is not the will of the people.

In retrospect pollsters failed because no one had come up with a way to model the racist vote. Racists generally won’t self identify themselves but based on the results the unidentified racists were about 5% of voters, all voting for Trump. And the reason they couldn’t be identified before was that Trump was our first modern openly racist candidate, well, at least since George Wallace in 1968.

So it’s important to understand that even with the wind at their backs Democrats had the odds stacked against them. Generally presidents don’t quite deliver the change envisioned, even if they are well liked, so voters will be inclined to try the other party. And Trump was all about change. But he also had people enthusiastic about him. Enthusiastic people vote. While there certainly were Democrats enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, most of us were half-hearted supporters. Those who show up to vote with the most passion get their candidate elected.

It’s not that Democrats didn’t have a change candidate. Bernie Sanders was that candidate. He had amazing crossover appeal. During the Democratic primaries, Sanders generally won the rust belt swing states that normally vote Democratic but were picked off by Trump. It’s impossible to know that if Bernie had been the party’s nominee whether he would have done better than Clinton, but my guess is he would have. At least some of Clinton’s firewall states would have fulfilled their function and that may have been the edge that was needed.

So it’s worth recalling just how Clinton got the nomination in the first place. It’s not that she didn’t do a lot to earn the nomination. But she was the Democratic establishment’s choice. Clinton spent years cultivating these relationships and of course she also had Bill to help her as well. It was obvious that DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz had her finger on the scales for Hillary. But even if she hadn’t, long before Bernie had even entertained the idea of running for president, Hillary had an in with the various Democratic state party establishment. She had banked most of the party’s superdelegates. If every eight years is going to be a change election, it’s counterproductive for a party to have a system in place that discourages change candidates. The Republican Party did not, and it worked in their favor in this election.

So the lesson for Democrats should be clear: get rid of the party’s superdelegate system. To his credit Sanders brought this to the attention to the party after his nomination was out of the question, and sort of won. Superdelegates don’t go away but they will be reduced by two-thirds. This will make it easier for candidates like him to get a foothold in the future, increasing the odds that the eventual party nominee will be a rank and file pick, rather than the establishment’s. It’s a pretty good bet that rank and file will be closer to understanding who can actually win an election than the party’s elite as they won’t be living their lives in the insular political bubble that the party’s elite do.

But can real party change happen? Getting rid of most of these superdelegates helps. It would be better to get rid of all of them. What’s critical for 2018 though is to find a new party chairman that gets this. Howard Dean, who became the DNC chair after the 2004 election is willing to give it another try. His 50-state strategy was very successful. It allowed Democrats to regain control of the House and the Senate just two years later. We need Dean or someone who believes the same things. We don’t need Wasserman-Shultz or Donna Brazile again as both have proven ineffectual.

We also need to say goodbye to the Clintons. Both came with baggage and it dragged down the ticket, even if some of their issues were more smoke than fire. (Hillary’s emails, for example, was mostly a big nothing burger.) They represent the “new Democrat” that Bill Clinton invented in 1992. That business-friendly, Republican-lite branding no longer works and does not distinguish the Democratic Party. Both Bill and Hillary need to exit stage right. The party needs to hear from a variety of voices, hopefully mostly new voices to see what resonates within the party of today. The party is morphing too, but feels moribund. It’s a party that is increasingly diverse and multicultural. But it should not be the party of non-whites. It should appeal to those Trump voters who were sucked in by Trump’s popular and economic message. Whites still form the majority of voters in this country. Elections cannot be won without significant number of crossover white voters. For whatever reason, except for younger white voters, whites and white women in particular failed to deliver for Democrats in this election.

If you want people to vote for you, give them some compelling reasons to vote for you. Democrats failed here, choosing an establishment candidate with baggage and high unfavorables over a change candidate. Voters need to feel like the candidate is someone that gets their concerns, and has a track record of fighting for their issues. It’s hard to relate to a candidate who is a millionaire and gives $250,000 speeches to Wall Street firms. You need someone authentic with fire in their belly instead, someone a lot like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

The only good news for Democrats is that Trump is likely to quickly implode. He brings a lot of baggage to his presidency including a lot of civil suits and possible criminal charges for having sex with a minor. If he chooses to do those things he says he will do, he will piss off his voters who buy his brand but not most of his policies, like throwing undocumented immigrants out of the country. The Democratic Party need not be down for long. But if it is to recover quickly, it must do so with agility and intelligence. It needs to morph into a populist party again.

Democrats are running on empty ideas

The Thinker by Rodin

Writing on politics often feels like déjà vu. After the drubbing (or perhaps it’s more appropriately the shellacking, or maybe even the tar-and-feathering) Democrats took on Election Day, lots of lessons on how to do things differently were busy being debated. It’s 2004 all over again. Democrats beat themselves senseless in 2004 when President Bush won a second term. One thing that was done differently then was for Democratic leaders (primarily to placate the angry progressives) to appoint Howard Dean to the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. Dean famously instituted a 50-state strategy, which meant deploying Democrats in all states, in all races, and putting people in the field to recruit candidates and knock on doors to put them on voter roles.

It’s hard to say if this was primarily responsible for Democrats doing so well in the 2006 midterms. In that election, we had the same dynamics Republicans had in this latest election and we won big. Namely, whatever party the president represents suffers in their 6th year. In Bush’s case though a lot of the animus was due to Bush’s failed strategy in the War in Iraq. Republicans were as demoralized then as Democrats were this time around. They knew their war strategy wasn’t working and it depressed their turnout. Democrats won control of the House and Senate in 2006, and leveraged their advantage to pass the Affordable Care Act.

Just as reactions about what Republicans should do now that they are in power are predictable, so I am sad to say were Democrats proposed “solutions”. Progressive Democrats like me largely spent the week after the election self-flagellating ourselves. Our solutions to rectify our situation were mostly a lot of finger pointing. Do any of these arguments sound familiar?

  • Democrats should have run on Obama’s record, not run away from it
  • Democrats should not have acted like wimps
  • Democrats needed a 50-state strategy
  • Democrats should have said what they would do differently
  • Democrats should have spent more time and money on anti-Koch ads

I didn’t give much in the way of money to campaigns this election cycle. It was in part because being retired I had less to give. But it was also due to a lot of milquetoast candidates, a lot of subprime Democrats simply trying to hold onto power, and a fundamental disagreement on how most candidates were running their campaigns. I was not inspired. In an earlier post, I mentioned my disgruntlement at fundraising strategies I was subjected to. The blistering emails were relentless and they all pretty much conveyed this message: their candidate would fail if I didn’t pony up more money right now. Not one of these emails from candidates and their fundraising managers tried to sell me on how they were going to effectively use the money I gave them.

Blanketing the airwaves with ads, if you have the money, is a time-honored means of getting your candidate’s message out. In truth though voters of both political stripes are inured to these campaign ads. We all think they contain doublespeak and don’t believe any of them are authentic. Mainly though these ads are a piss poor way to spend money. You might as well take that money and throw it down the drain. They speak of desperation.

Here’s what I really want to know about a candidate:

  • How do you stand on the issues I care about?
  • What is your plan for winning the election?
  • How are you going to engage Democrats and independent voters and bring them to your side?
  • What sort of campaign do you have to knock on doors of likely voters and get them to the polls?
  • In a short sentence, what best distinguishes not just from your competition, but also as a Democrat?
  • How will you be spending any money I give you?

Nationally, the Democratic Party has simply resumed bad habits. It quickly abandoned a 50-state strategy the moment Dean left the DNC and most of them were happy to show him the door. Dean changed the dynamics and ruffled feathers. He was not a comfy DNC chair. He tried to actually orchestrate the process of recruiting, promoting and electing Democrats. He worked to find and promote candidates that promised to do things that Democrats cared about and gave them a reason for voting. Once back in power Democrats resumed bad habits: mostly fighting with themselves. This resulted, among other things, in a watered down health care reform bill that principally rewarded the insurance industry. Individual senators became demanding and petulant instead of working cooperatively. It turned off voters and put the Republicans back in charge of the House in 2010, and now the Senate in 2014.

If you want more of the same, keep doing what you are doing. Democrats in Congress are busy doing just that. Harry Reid will keep his leadership post, but as minority leader. So will Nancy Pelosi. A corporation, which had so many years of “bad return on investment”, would toss these “leaders” out on their ears. House and Senate Democrats though simply cannot summon the nerve to do what’s in the best interest of their party. The predictable result will be the usual position papers and talk of new strategies with little in the way of follow through.

Defeat shows that the leadership cannot lead, so new blood is needed. Senator Elizabeth Warren, for example, should be the new minority leader in the Senate because she can articulate a compelling message and has the focus and determination to change the dynamics. Her promotion is to help with the Democratic message. I guess that’s good but hardly sufficient.

Democrats are largely riding on electoral dynamics. The good news is that so are Republicans. With Republicans though you can see where the new energy comes from: its Tea Party wing. They are the ones that really care. For Democrats, the energy is in its progressive wing. Smart Democrats should be fostering progressive candidates. For 2016 though the savvy Democrats and Republicans understand the dynamics will favor Democrats, and Congressional Democrats will be glad to ride that wave. It probably won’t bring them back the House, as the seats are too gerrymandered, but there is a better than even chance that Democrats will reclaim the Senate. That is, unless they nominate more of the same uninspiring candidates they did this time.

I am not as convinced as some that should Hillary Clinton run for president that she will be a shoe in. I was not enthusiastic for her in 2008 and I doubt I will be any more enthusiastic in 2016. It would be nice to have a female president, but I see little likelihood that she could change the dynamics in congress anymore than Obama did.

Savvy Democrats should be looking at 2020 and investing time and money to switch governorships and state houses from Republican to Democrat. In 2020 a census will be held, and it will trigger reapportionment. It will be state legislatures that will redraw congressional districts. Without a power shift there, the 2020s will likely be a lot more of what we’ve seen so far in the 2010s: a general absence of government. If you consider yourself a true patriot, this is where you should invest your time and money.

No More Mr. Nice Democrat

The Thinker by Rodin

The problem with us Democrats in general is that we play by gentlemen’s rules.

What dopes! What morons! No wonder we seem to be a declining party. Large numbers of Republicans may not believe in evolution, but they certainly believe in natural selection in the present. They are predators, devoid of civility and any sense of fairness. Did it bother Sen. Tom DeLay one bit to try to reapportion congressional seats in Texas in 2003, even though it had never been done before? Not at all. While those “play by the rules” weenie Democrats whined, he pressed Gov. Rick Perry of Texas to reapportion congressional seats again. Traditionally states do it every ten years based on the latest census results. Democratic members of the Texas legislature tried delaying tactics by taking up temporary residences in hotels in New Mexico. In response DeLay called the Department of Homeland Security to have their flights tracked. Eventually of course the Democrats had to go home. Once home the state legislature reached a quorum, the bill was rammed through both houses and Perry gleefully and without one moral qualm signed the bill into law.

Did Attila the Hun ask permission before invading and pillaging all those cities and countries? Of course not. Those with the power and the means make the rules. Charge ahead. When you control all three branches of government the likelihood of paying a price is low anyhow. The good news is that Republicans don’t usually kill or maim people in the process these days. They just roll over the rest of us like a steamroller. Perhaps that’s why they admire Israel so much. The Israeli solution to the settlements issue is to keep creating facts on the ground. The rule of law is for weenies. What matters is whether you can get away with it. If you can then it must be okay, is how Republicans apparently see things.

Liberals are morally squishy? Hardly. Republicans are far more morally squishy than Democrats could ever hope to be. It seems Republicans were born with dichotomy in their brains. Liberals who support a woman’s right to choose do so knowing if a woman chooses abortion that the embryo or fetus is killed in the process. Most of us recognize the Hobbesian choice. We are not entirely comfortable with our position. On the other hand it’s not a problem at all for a Republican to be both antiabortion and pro death penalty. State sponsored murder is perfectly okay. And everyone has complete freedom except of course when they find it personally disagreeable. So for those women who operate under the illusion that they control their own bodies, Republicans decide they must choose for them. However that certainly doesn’t mean they will also pay the costs of rearing these unwanted children. I mean, that would be socialism or something.

And on most other issues Republican say one thing and do completely the opposite. They say they want smaller government, but keep expanding the size of government. They say they are against payola but hand it out to their friends. Remember the Contract with America? How many of these congressmen and women elected in 1994 are still in the Congress, despite vows going in on the importance of term limits? Line item veto? Gone. It became politically expedient to do away with it when Clinton wielded it. Fiscal responsibility? Don’t make me laugh. This year alone deficits are expected to be over $400 billion dollars. Personal responsibility? Okay for others, but not for Congress and, oh, red states apparently get a lot more federal dollars than blue states. Laws are still routinely passed that exempt Congress from their provisions. They can’t even get into a war without double checking their intelligence. Their ideas of personal responsibility are charge up our credit cards to the max and pass the debt on to our grandchildren.

If there was excitement a couple years back with Howard Dean’s run for president it was because, finally, there was a Democrat willing to retire fire. Dean is no namby pamby wishy washy liberal. In fact, he’s not a liberal at all. While governor of Vermont he was far more fiscally conservative than any Republican you can point to in Congress.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. The reason Democrats rallied around Dean was not because our party is suffering. We rallied around him because we know he won’t let Democrats get pushed around anymore. If Republicans insist on playing on their rules the Democrats will finally learn that game. And the signs are out there that we are beginning to wake out of our dogmatic slumbers. Where we have political power, and there are plenty of blue states, it is time to use it. Republicans apparently are now trying to redistrict Republican Georgia out of turn. We learn today that Democrats like House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer are realizing two can play this game:

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has spoken with several Democratic governors in recent weeks about the possibility of revisiting their states’ Congressional lines in response to the ongoing Republican-led redistricting in Georgia, according to informed party sources.

Faced with the prospect of Republicans redrawing Congressional lines in a third state since the initial 2001 round of redistricting ended, a faction of national Democrats is urging an aggressive strategy aimed at striking back at Republican House Members in states like New Mexico and Illinois.

“We have to stop playing defense and go on the offensive,” said Howard Wolfson, who served as executive director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2002 cycle and is now a consultant with the Glover Park Group.

“The only way to stop them from doing this is to make them pay a price for it somewhere else,” said a longtime House strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Democrats believe their best opportunities lie in Illinois, New Mexico and Louisiana, where Democrats have seized control of all the levers of state government in those states since the 2001 reapportionment and redistricting.

Democratic Govs. Rod Blagojevich (Ill.) and Bill Richardson (N.M.) as well as high-ranking Louisiana elected officials have been contacted by members of House leadership led by Hoyer since the Georgia legislature began their re-redistricting.

“Some of us who believe Georgia is going to happen think that it will help us strategically, to motivate some governors that weren’t interested in doing it to help us,” said one source who works closely with House Democrats.

At least a few D.C.-based Republicans privately acknowledge they are concerned about the possibility of Democratic retribution over the maneuvers in Georgia, but are not in a position to change the situation.

Politics is no longer a fraternal game of tennis, if it ever was. The Republicans have shown it is a game of rugby, and the referees are very absent minded. Republicans have gained clout and influence by bending and breaking rules left and right.

We were fooled once. Hopefully we are smart enough now to realize we have to dish it out like we are getting it. We can see it emerge clearly from the blogosphere. With the election of Howard Dean as the DNC chair we will also see it on the national level.

I wish it had not come to this. While Democrats played nice guy and tried to do the statesmanlike thing, we were figuratively slapped, kicked around and abused by the opposition. We were given no credit whatsoever. But the times, they are a changing. The Republicans have become the overbearing abusive husband. The Democrats have played the role of weak and submissive wife. The Republicans are about to find out how it feels to have what they have served to us daily for years sent right back at them.

I just hope when this is all over we can revert to our better and more civilized ways. But now is not the time.

Howard Dean for DNC Chair

The Thinker by Rodin

It looks like what passes for our Democratic leadership is at long last waking up and realizing that the Democratic prospects are pretty bleak and getting bleaker. Perhaps it is for this reason that erstwhile presidential candidate Howard Dean looks likely to win post of chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

This is an exceptional opportunity for the Democrats. During the 2004 campaign Howard Dean apparently reported to intimates that he really didn’t want to be president. What he wanted to do was to shake up the Democratic Party. He wanted to get it to refocus so it could win elections again. In becoming the Chairman of the DNC Howard will be where he will do the most good for the Democratic Party and the country.

Us Deaniacs know that Howard Dean is one unique and tough dude. I suspect Howard Dean at the DNC makes the Republicans smile. If they were more politically astute they would not smile. Instead they should be very worried. Because Howard Dean is really the only person right now who can revive the Democratic Party. But he’s not just the right person; he’s the perfect person. So beware Republicans. Howard Dean is no ordinary man. He will give a shot of adrenaline directly into the main arteries of the Democratic Party.

He starts with a passionate and committed base of people who were estranged from their own party. These people drive hundreds of miles to come and see him give speeches in the back rooms of hotels to a handful of members of the DNC. He has already moved many of them from the Dean for American website into his reconfigured Democracy for America web site. And many states have formed their own offshoots of his organization. Here in Virginia for example we have Democracy for Virginia. And although there are only a few Dean meetups where there used to be dozens, Democracy for America meetups are still available locally. In my case they are a bit out of easy commuting range: I would have to travel about 30 miles to Occoquan, Virginia. But I expect there will be more Democracy for America meetups coming soon.

The droves of youth who came out to vote for Kerry in 2004 weren’t there because they were passionate for John Kerry. They were there because they believe in Howard Dean. Although he lost the primaries he told them they had to work to elect John Kerry. Love him or hate him his network was new and it was powerful. At the time (mid 2003) I thought I was the only person I knew who liked Howard Dean. Then I found two young friends of my wife who had been to his rallies when I was still checking him out on the Internet.

And it was Dean who was Internet savvy. He showed he could bring new people together online, get significant wads of money and huge amounts of volunteer time from them. One of the more astounding statistics from the 2004 campaign was that Democrats matched Republicans dollar for dollar in campaign spending. Typically Republicans outspend Democrats two or three to one. That new money didn’t come from the old party faithful. It was largely new money from passionate people who were fed up to here and, like Howard Beale, weren’t going to take it anymore. That we Democrats lost was a shame, but in many ways we created a new base. All it needs now is the right person to leverage that base. And Dean is the obvious person to do it.

So Republicans should be scared. Because Dean is focused, he is passionate, he is savvy, and he is very, very shrewd. It’s hard for a Democrat even to get on TV these days but Howard will be in everyone’s faces. He will be so outspoken, so passionate and so full of common sense that the cameras will just naturally focus on him. The story will be the Dean personality but through the personality will come the true ideas that need to get heard and permeate the brains of more ordinary Americans.

And you can bet he will have his eye not just on the presidential race but also on House and Senate races. He’ll leverage the power of his network to bring in the serious money to create competitive Democratic candidates. You’ll see him Sunday after Sunday on the TV talk shows putting out the message. John Kerry thinks he can leverage his mailing list for a run in 2008. Here’s the thing: most of that mailing list consists of Dean voters like me. And we think Kerry is as exciting as milquetoast. It’s not until Howard backs a candidate that it will truly mean anything. An endorsement from Dean will be money in the bank for these candidates.

Of course this means Dean won’t be a presidential candidate in 2008. I’m okay with that. And so is Howard. The presidency is really not his thing. Shaking up the country and changing minds, hearts and votes is what he was meant to do. I don’t think my faith in Dean is misplaced. Democrats lost the presidential race 48% to 51%. What’s amazing is how close we came with a less than stellar candidate who was voted the most liberal senator in the United States Senate. Dean, despite his perception, is a strong centrist who is as politically savvy as Bill Clinton. He will bring together disparate parts of the Democratic Party and unite them. He stands a decent chance of doing what no Democrat has done before: uniting us under one common banner.

Go Howard! Go!

Why Bush Will Lose in 2004 – An Update

The Thinker by Rodin

It was about a year ago (July 4, 2003) that I wrote what at the time seemed to be a rather fantastic prediction: that Bush would lose this year’s election. Judging from the number of hits and comments it has received this entry turned out to be one of my most popular entries. A year ago even the most rabid Bush haters were stewing in silence. None except perhaps Howard Dean really thought Bush could realistically be defeated. His reelection seemed like a slam-dunk.

I think most of us realize now that Bush’s chances of staying in office are at best 50/50. As I said a year ago (and still believe) there are always last minute factors that could tip the election to Bush. I still think it is possible that some horrible September 11th type event, timed perhaps in mid October, could produce an emotional response that would reelect Bush, though not validate his governing style. We will all be hoping and praying that this does not happen. One of the few positive things I have to say about Bush was that I thought his approach to dealing with terrorism within the United States has been decent. It is by no means ideal. Our borders are still pretty porous. There are significant security gaps in our ports and in our air cargo system. But border security is much better than it was. I’d rate this aspect of the war on terrorism as a B, while I’d give others like securing nuclear stockpiles a D or an F.

The economy perked up a bit more than I expected. Bush hasn’t erased the three million jobs lost during his watch but he has perhaps a 50/50 chance of at least ending his term with no net loss of jobs. It’s unlikely that this is the sort of statistic he can use to ensure his own reelection. As others have pointed out the unemployment rate hasn’t changed much these last few months, in spite of the new jobs. This is because those who gave up hope of finding a job are more hopeful now and have put themselves back in the market. But there is also the disturbing problem that the new jobs tend to pay on average less than the old jobs. And though wages are rising, these don’t feel like good times yet to those who are coming off unemployment. And at least so far this year inflation is rising faster than wages. That of course means a net loss in income for the average worker. Gas prices that are likely to hang around or over two dollars a gallon won’t help Bush either.

Those on the top enjoying Bush’s large tax cuts are living large and have seen real income growth. Those on the bottom end of the income scale pay little or no income taxes and consequently haven’t seen much improvement in their standard of living. Most of them are paying markedly higher housing costs that have actually put them further behind.

Howard Dean has been vindicated on tax shifting. When taxes are cut in one place they tend to rise elsewhere. Most of us see it on the state and local level. I haven’t done a personal study of my own income. But I am willing to bet that my federal tax cut has been offset by other tax increases. Our house just keeps rising in value. Just this year alone I can expect to pay several hundred more dollars in property taxes. Over the course of Bush’s term in office I am likely to see my property taxes go up by about $1000 a year. And then there are those other taxes. For example our Virginian Republican legislature decided to raise taxes effective July 1st, in spite of pledging never to do such a thing. Miscellaneous taxes continue to rise too. My telephone bill is about 30 percent taxes. So for the vast majority of us tax cuts on the federal level have at best kept us even in our overall level of taxation.

Most of the trends I noticed a year ago are still true today. Iraq became the quagmire I predicted. Actually it is worse than I imagined a year ago. Not only is our war in Iraq a failure but also our war on terrorism in general is a failure. Our only success was overturning Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which supported al Qaeda. But despite this Osama bin Laden remains at large. Al Qaeda has launched many attacks on our allies and on us. Liberating Iraq doesn’t really count because it was never a threat to our national security and was never allied with al Qaeda. Our erstwhile “ally” Saudi Arabia is in a virtual state of siege.

Meanwhile the Taliban in Afghanistan are resurging. We don’t really have enough troops in Afghanistan to do more than ensure the Taliban can’t take over the country again. Planned elections in Afghanistan look dicey at best. Female poll workers are being killed. The country, unfortunately, is not yet at a mature enough place where true democracy for all can flourish. Iraq’s culture is more contemporary, but it must fight its own civil war with puritanical Islam before it can take root, if it ever does. Iraqis are more used to strongmen as leaders and are likely to revert to that model. If democracy happens in Iraq it is likely to be a long and violent process. If you can remember what a bloody place Beirut was in the 1970s and 1980s you have a pretty good idea of what Iraq will be going through for many years. And sadly it won’t be alone. Predominantly Islamic Countries all over the Middle East need to complete a soul-searching process. It will likely be violent and last for decades. Much the way the Soviet Union finally got the clue that communism was unworkable, eventually these countries will figure out that theocracy won’t work. Eventually and inevitably these countries will discover what we learned long ago: that a certain amount of secularism is required to enjoy the benefits of a modern state.

But I digress. If you want to know why Bush is likely to lose look not just at his poll numbers. Look also at how Americans are feeling overall about the economy and the war on terrorism. The only area where Bush gets positive marks now is his overall handling on the war on terrorism, and there he holds only a slim majority. When asked about particular aspects, like the War in Iraq, he no longer gets majority approval. And now it is clear that this will not change substantially before the election.

Red states will still vote bright red and blue states will vote bright blue. But Republicans will not vote passionately for George W. Bush. Many of them will stay home out of apathy and disgust, much as Democrats did for Carter in 1980. But apathy won’t be the case with the Democrats in this election. A lot of people, and not just Democrats, really really don’t like George W. Bush. Karmic elements are at work. The sort of rabid hatred Republicans heaped on Bill Clinton for marital indiscretions is about to be returned on George W. Bush doubly by Democrats. Democrats finally have a Republican they just can’t stand. Basically they just hate the guy. And hatred while not the most noble of our emotions can be very strong.

Although it’s too early to say for sure we can perhaps see the future in the weekend’s new box office hit, Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Even in bright red states like Texas shows are selling out days in advance. Many of the people I know who voted for Bush in 2000 have changed their mind and won’t vote for him again. Many are doing so as a protest. They just feel he has totally screwed up.

And we feel that America has changed for the worse. This is not the country we remember. We expect our president to act from deliberation and consideration, not from prejudice and instinct. We expect our president to keep an open mind. We expect dialog from our president, not one sidedness. We expect presidents to find synergy with our international partners, not piss them off. We expect most of all: moderation. Lack of moderation is really the key to Bush’s downfall. Moderates win reelection. Radicals don’t. And the swing voters are, as always, the moderates. Bush promoted himself as a moderate but he was a chameleon. Now they know better. Bush will paint Kerry as a left-winger but Kerry will sensibly steer toward the moderate middle. Bush can no longer claim that territory. Through his actions he has shown that he is not a moderate.

Bush will be hit by a tsunami of disgust from large numbers of very angry voters. They will be telling their friends not to vote for Bush, and their friends will be telling their friends. The moderates will be seeking anyone who will actually steer toward the middle in this election. Kerry is the only choice for them. So I put the odds right now at 85/15 for a Kerry victory. And I predict when the popular vote is counted it will be Kerry 53%, Bush 45%, and Nader (plus miscellaneous candidates) at 2%. This is a minimum. I suspect Kerry’s number will actually trend higher.

Come back November 3rd and see how I did.

No Time for Deaniacs to Sulk … Time to Get Busy

The Thinker by Rodin

Many of us who supported Howard Dean should be having a mixture of feelings right now ranging from hurt, anger, rage and general sulkiness. But if we withdraw from political life at this time we are making a deep mistake. The country, and particularly the Democratic Party needs our talents and energy now more than ever.

Dean always said the campaign was not about him but about us. By “us” he means the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. If we fail to assert ourselves now within the party then we have failed in our true mission. Getting Dean elected was a great goal but the odds were always very long. There were lots of candidates out there and only one can be the nominee. We wanted a revolution but we got an evolution. This should come as no surprise. Now we must complete the mission: we must bring progressives back into prominence in the Democratic Party. We must make the Democratic Party the Democratic Party of old again.

We should not descend into an internecine war. We should not try to topple the Clinton Democrats, or those who follow the Democratic Leadership Council. In truth the DLC has not done well either. Its poster child Joe Liebermann never polled out of the single digits. The DLC wing of the Democratic Party is already a fading memory. We Deaniacs can be proud that we have rushed in and occupied their space.

To start with we need to continue occupying this space. Howard Dean told us it is important to keep voting for him even though he is no longer campaigning. This is because this gives us delegates at the national convention, and that gives us a say in the party platform. It is there that we can make our voices heard. It is in Boston that we can assert that our party should be passionately committed to equal rights for all (and particularly for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trangenders). There we will also stand up and fight for platforms that call for progressive energy policies that emphasize renewable energy sources and conservation. We can insist that our nation do something real to reduce global warming and respect the world ecosystem. We can also press our party to be fiscally responsible and to work for true universal health insurance for all Americans. We should insist on a fair tax code that does not penalize either the poor or the working poor and requires the rich to provide more of their income in taxes again. In doing we also show that Democrats are truly a party of the people again.

It is also crucial that our country become mainstream again. Our country must be eager to work with the United Nations and other countries to create pragmatic broadly supported international solutions to world problems. We must lead the party and our country toward a longer vision that is not so parochial and recognizes the complexity of the world we live in.

In the short term it is important to work to elect not only a Democratic president but to elect a Democratic congress. We should enthusiastically endorse and fund John Kerry’s campaign, if he turns out to be our nominee. We should work among ourselves, but also with progressive networks like MoveOn.org to turn the election into a rout of Republicans in general. We should be inclusive and let bygones be bygones. We should work with the Kerry, Edwards, Kucinich and even the Sharpton camps to push common goals and values. We need to assert our progressive values, but we need to be nice and persuasive about it.

We need new goals. Our short-term goal must be to remove Bush from office and to elect a Democratic congress. We have the ability to seriously tackle both of these with our existing network. Our long-term goal should be to keep America moving in a progressive and mainstream direction.

Dean for America needs to evolve. It needs to become the Democratic Progressive Network. We need to promote the DPN as an alternative to the Democratic Leadership Council. Howard could be our spokesman, but he doesn’t have to be. There is plenty of new talent among us that is there and could be easily harnessed.

As for Howard Dean, John Kerry would be wise to work to have him on his team. Howard Dean has unique talent and energy that no other candidate has. He would be ideal as the new head of the Democratic National Committee. He should be stumping the country not necessarily for Kerry, but to stir up activists to vote for Democrats in state, congressional and senatorial campaigns. If Kerry were elected, as I fully expect, Dean would make an excellent cabinet secretary. He would be a natural as the head of Health and Human Services, but let’s not rule him out for other key posts. I could see him as Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State. From my perspective Howard Dean’s future continues to look very bright. His talent should not be allowed to atrophy.

The Meaning of Dr. Dean

The Thinker by Rodin

It’s not been a happy time for us Howard Dean enthusiasts. I don’t often get excited about a politician running for office. I wasn’t excited about Bill Clinton’s candidacy. Al Gore’s left me wholly uninspired. But I was genuinely excited about Howard Dean’s candidacy. So it just makes me ache to see him go down in flames.

We were close, so close. In retrospect the mistakes are pretty easy to see. Dean placed too much emphasis on the Iraq war when polls showed most Americans did not consider it a burning issue. It had its place in 2003. It got him noticed and distinguished him as a candidate. But it worked against Dean in 2004 when the electorate started paying attention. It turned out they were more concerned about pocket book issues than the war.

We Deaniacs networked well. But we didn’t network as well with our neighbors as we should have. We needed to be knocking on more doors and calling more people on the telephone. Instead a lot of us spent our time posting our latest thoughts of the day on Dean’s blog.

And the campaign made some huge mistakes. It squandered $40M trying to lock in Iowa and New Hampshire. It succeeded in winning neither. I was shocked when I learned how much money the campaign spent. For a fiscal conservative it was a reckless strategy. Had Dean spent less he could now be carrying his message to those states he is now writing off due to lack of funds. Instead the coffers of New Hampshire radio and TV stations are bulging.

And Dean stumbled frequently with embarrassing gaffes. His primal yowl confirmed the doubts of all the Dean skeptics. Even though the incident was overplayed it showed a lack of political judgment. Dean always walked this fine line. He was always completely genuine. But there are times when a politician just has to fake it. He was too genuine for his own good.

Alas, the candidates I really like are almost always unelectable in the end. Perhaps that is because I am more of an idealist than a pragmatist. So I shouldn’t be that surprised by this turn of events. It is par for my course. But still it hurts. I thought, or perhaps wished Dr. Dean would be the exception, just this once.

And we organized, went to his meetups and sent him tons of money. I never gave a dime to a politician before, but over the last six months or so I’ve sent the campaign $450.

I found I wasn’t a lone voice in the wilderness. At his meetups I met plenty of people like me who not just wanted to take our country back into the mainstream but were eager to invest their time, their money and their energy to do so.

But apparently it wasn’t a critical mass of Democrats. I’m not too surprised because in many ways Dean is a revolutionary candidate, not an evolutionary candidate. Dean is the Democratic Party’s John McCain. Voters though appear to like their candidates more on the bland side. Democrats want decaf, not espresso.

The voters may be wiser than I am. John Kerry is a nice man and I tend to agree with most of his politics. As President he will be 1000% better than George W. Bush on his best day. Exit polls have made clear the voters also are determined to nominate the most electable candidate. Thrice wounded in Vietnam, Kerry has proved he is no chickenhawk. The most die hard military guy must respect Kerry’s service to his country.

But still I ache for Howard Dean. I guess it’s possible he could resurrect his candidacy but I think it’s over. This horse just ain’t gonna win.

But while Howard likely won’t be the nominee this time around, what Howard Dean and his campaign accomplished is still amazing. Howard breathed real life into the demoralized Democratic Party. He got people who were marginalized and disenfranchised to care about politics again. He got us to believe we could change the country. And we will change the country. We will just take smaller steps.

Thanks to Howard Dean the real issues have been addressed. No longer do we have candidates who support our debacle in Iraq. No longer do we have candidates in favor of more reckless tax cuts. No longer do we get half hearted position papers from candidates on the need for national health insurance.

Howard is the best citizen this country has seen in the last ten years. He showed us the meaning of courage and leadership. He showed that by taking unpopular positions when you know they are right you can be heard. It just takes a lot of nerve, persistence and chutzpah.

And he has demonstrated a new decentralized way to organize and to fight for what really matters. This candidacy may end but I don’t believe us in the Dean community will fade away. We may sulk for a while, but we will be back. First we will ensure whoever our party’s nominee is will beat George W. Bush. Then we will move this country back into the international mainstream.

We will take this country back. It’s a shame though that our far thinking visionary won’t be occupying the Oval Office. He would have been a great president.

And maybe someday he will be back, purged of his defects but still blazing with the primal energy and determination. I have not given up on Howard Dean. I hope this experience purifies and refines him. And perhaps the next time he will win.

Some Thoughts on the Upcoming Presidential Primaries and the Election

The Thinker by Rodin

The presidential primary season is about to begin in earnest on Monday. That is the day when Democrats in Iowa will caucus. Eight days later New Hampshire voters will go to the polls to select their favorite candidate. Whoever wins these primaries will doubtless hope to ride these early victories all the way to the nomination. However, if history is any guide many of those now campaigning like mad in both states might have been better off skipping these states altogether. That’s because neither Iowa nor New Hampshire has a great track record picking the candidate who ultimately will win the nomination. So Wesley Clark may be smart to avoid Iowa. Let the others throw money at each other while he conserves his cash, organizes the key southern states, then hits them big on February 3rd and on Super Tuesday. It’s a smart strategy.

I found online results of both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary going back to 1972. I excluded those years when an incumbent was running, and looked only at the Democratic primaries in these states. Both states are batting .500 in picking the eventually nominee. In baseball terms this is a great score, but not here. The best that can be said for winning in these early primaries is that the name recognition may improve a candidate’s odds. But that’s about all that can be said for it. It costs a hell of a lot of time and money to even compete in these states. Part of this is because there are a plethora of candidates for the party out of office in these early caucuses and primaries. If Iowa and New Hampshire have a job, it’s to winnow the candidates’ list down.

The primaries on Feb 3rd should be far more telling. Why? Because the states participating are more moderate states than either New Hampshire or Iowa. On that date Democrats in Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Carolina will vote. If I had to pick a bell weather state among these, I’d pick Arizona. Traditionally a fairly conservative state, it has been trending Democratic more and more these days. This is due to a very fast growing population, many of whom migrated from northern states. If I had to bet money (and of course I am rooting for Howard Dean) I’d say the Democrat that wins Arizona will win the nomination.

I proclaim no special prognostication skills when it comes to the primaries and the general election. The tightness of the race in Iowa, according to polls, indicates it is up for grabs. My sense is that Howard Dean will win Iowa. I suspect he will win it by about 5%. I believe it because he has a fanatical youth following. They will turn out for him and work for him in droves. My sense from attending four Dean Meetups is that this will be the real big surprise of the 2004 election. Both parties will wake up and discover that a critical mass of younger adults (those under 30) is now politically engaged. It’s about time Generations X and Y woke up from their lethargy. Maybe they were too young to remember Reagan, and took the wonderful and prosperous 90s for granted. Perhaps now they have woken up to what Republicanism has done to our country. It appears that they don’t find it very agreeable.

In the longer term the odds will still favor Dean simply because he has a network in place and he has the money (and can get a lot more when needed). Dean’s biggest problem will be his mouth. The campaign in Iowa suggests that going negative against his fellow Democrats is turning away voters. He will have to tone down those remarks in the future and direct his anger at the Republicans instead.

I’ve thought for about a month now that the Democratic nomination will eventually be fought out between Dean and Clark. I don’t think we will get run of the mill Capitol Hill politician as the nominee this time around. Voters seem to be saying they want someone different and unconventional. If I have been surprised lately it is how quickly Wes Clark is catching up in the polls after having been drubbed down to near the back of the pack after his initial fast start. His campaign has finally come together. He is generating serious money from a large network of supporters. This is causing the Dean campaign to look over its shoulders in worry. Although Dean is still ahead in New Hampshire, I would not be surprised if Clark ultimately wins in New Hampshire. New Hampshire has a history of loving mavericks, as it did in 2000 when it picked John McCain over George W. Bush. But it likes conservative mavericks more than liberal mavericks. Although Dean is really a centrist, Clark is perceived as a centrist and that may be the critical factor in New Hampshire.

Once the nominee is decided then the real battle for the general election begins. It will be a tough campaign for Democrats to win, but it could easily swing either way based on a number of topical issues, such as the ever-present U.S. economy or happenings in Iraq. As much as I like Dean, I tend to agree with the Clark people that Clark has better odds of fairing better against Bush on national security issues in the general election. So if Clark wins the nomination I won’t shed too many tears for Dean. I could back Clark enthusiastically. He just seems a bit suspicious to me because he only recently became a Democrat. I don’t know where his heart really lies.

Clearly the election will be fought over two issues: national security and the economy. On the national security issue Bush will appear to have the advantage, but either Clark or Dean are smart enough to know how to expose the fraud that is our war in Iraq. Clark is more likely to pick off Southern states for the Democrats. But I am dubious that the Democrats need the South to win this time. Based on the popular vote in 2000 we didn’t need the south, except Florida. If we can hold what we won in 2000 and pick up a couple states we can win the election. Bush is beatable. So don’t give too much credence to polls this far out from the election. The vast majority of Americans can’t yet name a single Democratic candidate for president.

The best issue for the Democrats on the economy will be the large net job loss (likely to exceed two million jobs) during Bush’s term. He will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to have a net job loss in his term, and it’s hard to see how that will work to his advantage. Numbers like the December employment statistics (where jobs grew by only 1000 jobs) must make Karl Rove nervous. This appears to be a jobless recovery. The result is a lot of unemployed people competing for the same number of jobs, playing a dispiriting game of musical chairs with each other. Democrats will need to get them to the polls.

I tend to agree with my friend Frank Pierce that the Democrats need to play up the issue of outsourcing. We’ve been outsourcing blue-collar jobs for decades, but outsourcing white-collar jobs is a new phenomenon and troubling for many of us who felt secure with our college degrees. Those who have been outsourced more often than not find themselves making half of their previous income. Democrats need to paint the vision of a nation of clerks working at Wal-Mart if the Republicans stay in charge.

It is a shame the voters won’t focus as much on the federal deficits (which are the largest in history) or Bush’s exorbitant tax cuts for the rich, or the way he is wrecking our environment. Voters as a class seem to care more about short-term than long-term issues. Doubtless the Democrats will leverage them if they can. Of all these issues the federal deficit is the most compelling. Traditionally voters have agreed that the government should live within its means. It is ironic that the Democrats can make the better claim of being the party with a track record on financially responsibility.

Ultimately the Democratic nominee must simply promise more pragmatic and progressive stewardship like Bill Clinton delivered. His was a legacy of real prosperity unmatched in over lives. It should make the difference in many swing states. An appeal to a return to the “Great 90s” might swing the election.

Report on my January Dean Meetup

The Thinker by Rodin

It felt as cold as January in Iowa last night. We lack the snow, but we certainly have the bitterly cold weather here in the Washington area. That didn’t stop me from bundling myself up in my woolies and heading out to the Reston Regional Library for my fourth Dean Meetup, even though a large part of me wanted to stay somewhere nice and warm and vegetate.

Of the four Dean meetups I have attended, this one was probably the best. About forty people showed up, many arriving very late. There were no donuts this time and for that I was grateful (since I am trying the South Beach diet, and don’t need the temptation). A lady named Jennifer was our host again. Faces are starting to look familiar. I saw Diane, a lady who lives about a mile away from me and who I met at two other meetups. She reported her birthday bash for Howard back in November was a success and she raised over $700 for the campaign.

The attendees this time though were especially sharp and politically astute. Maybe that’s a factor of being in Reston, a community that is relatively liberal by Virginia standards. We had two people there who described themselves as ex-Republicans. The guy at my table spoke eloquently about how the Republican party has moved away from the one he knew. He said it has morphed into the party of big business. He is shocked that traditional values like fiscal constraint were thrown away in a desire to push corporate and religious values at all costs. And he is mad as hell that Bush went to war with Iraq, because in the campaign he marketed himself as an isolationist. If Dean is attracting thinking Republicans, this is very good news. I hope there are a lot more like these two men.

About seventy percent of attendees were at their first meetup. One couple (who recently arrived from Florida) wowed us with their tale of attending a Dean meetup last March.

The big topic for discussion this month was what happened to the Democratic Party. We largely agreed that the Democratic Party had slipped under Bill Clinton into being a quasi-Republican party. We doubted that Hubert Humphrey would have been pressing for NAFTA or would have gone quite as far with welfare reform as Bill Clinton. Don’t get me wrong; I admire Bill Clinton. But he was a very corporate friendly president. In general attendees at the meetup were both appalled and more than a little scared by how far we have gone toward becoming a corporate-ocracy.

We generally agreed that the Democratic establishment saw Dean as a populist and therefore a threat to them remaining in power. We like that Dean is invigorating and bringing new blood into the party, seems to cowtow to no one, and distances himself from the inner beltway Democrats. We see that as Dean’s key ace in the hole. He speaks from his heart, sometimes to his regret, but his passion is real as is his determination. It is that passion that is contagious and keeps his campaign growing, I believe.

The video showed the staff at Dean’s Iowa campaign headquarters. It was good to see a lot of ordinary people, many of whom are much younger than I am, working passionately for the man. It was followed by a couple minute speech from Howard to us. I don’t know how Howard does it, but he connects with me. When he spoke it was like I could feel the empowerment flowing out of the video screen and into me. He told us we would take back our country. And I believed him.

We know a lot depends on the next month in these early primaries and caucuses. Dean is ahead in both Iowa and New Hampshire, but Clark is taking the number two spot in New Hampshire, even though he is not campaigning there. Dean’s margin of victory in Iowa, according to the polls, is pretty slim. So we spent the last part of the meeting writing letters to Democrats in Iowa and New Mexico.

I wrote my letter. (I would have written two, but we ran out of addresses. I’ll write the other one tonight after I get it from his web site.) The theme of my letter was that Dean represented the one person who would truly take our country back to where we were. Elect any of the others, I wrote, and we will effectively have the status quo. The Republicans and Bush have taken us so far to the right that we cannot continue in that direction. We must now stand up for our values and move the United States toward the international mainstream again.

It’s a daunting task. The Republicans have so much more money, and the primaries will drain time, energy and money. Then we must marshal these resources to win the general election. But it will be tough to come close to matching the fundraising by the Republicans. But after watching Dean last night, I believed we could do it. He makes me believe the impossible. He makes me feel empowered and hopeful.

Underlying all of it is a nervousness about Dean himself. Will he implode? Will he make that one fatal gaff that brings him down? His assertiveness is a double edge sword. It gets him attention and draws people too him, but he is often rash and doesn’t think before saying things. In that sense he is the opposite of Bill Clinton, who carefully measured whatever he said. Unlike Clinton though there is no confusion on what Howard Dean feels and believes. His passion and determination is unmistakable and wholly sincere.

It was an exciting meetup and this is an exciting time. In truth if Wesley Clark upstages Dean I can be happily support him as a candidate. Clark might well be more electable. But Dean has my heart and brings out my passion. I feel nothing for Clark. Our task ahead is daunting, but the victory will be all more joyous when we triumph over the odds. And we will triumph!

Report on my November Dean Meetup

The Thinker by Rodin

This Wednesday was Dean Meetup night. Mother Nature did her best to keep me away. Severe weather made my trip home from work a half hour longer than usual. That left me little time after getting home and find something to eat before rushing out to the 7 PM meeting. The Chantilly public library was not available this time, so our host moved the meeting to the Centreville Library instead. This is quite a bit further from my house. The rainy weather and early darkness exacerbated the traffic problem. It took me 35 minutes to make the drive. You would think that with eight lanes of traffic and limited intersections there would be enough room to accommodate traffic on Route 28, but it was almost all stop and go. I arrived a couple minutes late to the meeting, when I had hoped to arrive a half hour early to help set up!

The meeting was quite similar to my last and first Dean Meetup in October and had about the same number of people: 40-50 altogether. There were however some exceptions. The buzz throughout the meeting was on Dean’s comment two days earlier that “White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back ought to be voting with us and not them, because their kids don’t have health insurance either and their kids need better schools, too.”

Several people, including many die hard Dean supporters found his remarks offensive. I thought it was a poor choice of words. What Dean was saying was that for Democrats to win, Democrats had to be more inclusive, and that includes bringing in under the tent people who lean Republican. This makes a lot of sense: many people who vote Republican in the south are Wal-mart workers and live from paycheck to paycheck with no or little benefits. Health insurance is something they cannot afford. Dean’s rivals of course jumped up and down on the remark and tried to imply Dean is a racist, which he isn’t. It was just a stupid remark. Dean can do that on occasion. I sometimes wish he were as careful with his choice of words as Bill Clinton. On the other hand Bill Clinton usually seemed stage managed; Dean comes across as someone who genuinely says what he believes. It is that personality and energy, I pointed out, that is largely responsible for his popularity. He’s not part of the buffed and pampered Washington elite.

There were more people who were undecided or leaning between Dean and Clark at this meeting than the last. The pros and cons of each candidate were discussed at some length. I’m not sure we convinced any Clark supporters. A couple people left early figuring they had heard enough.

One encouraging sign was the presence of an African American family. A young son in the family, about ten years old, was a big Dean fan and waxed eloquently about his favorite candidate.

We also wrote letters to swing voters in Iowa. I wrote two letters to two women at the same address, so I wrote each differently and expressed my opinion that Dean was something truly different. About 80% of the attendees were at their first meetup. Those of us who had been to one before knew what to do and started working on our letters while the debates continued.

One area of contention was whether Dean should foreswear federal matching funds. This is the Bush strategy. With no opponents in his primary Bush has already amassed $170M in contributions from fat cat Republicans. In the last quarter Dean collected $14.8M, a new record, but Dean’s average contributions were less than a hundred dollars each. It is clear that Dean’s support comes from average working people, not fat cats. Even so we will need a lot more people to come close to matching the contribution that Bush will so easily raise. I voted to go without matching funds. It’s not that I don’t believe in public financing for campaigns, it’s just that as long as someone can opt out to their advantage, our campaign shouldn’t be put at a disadvantage.

One person asked how the campaign would reach out to African Americans and other communities. Dean has drawn his support from mostly white and liberal people. Our hostess, Geri, said that it was up to us, not the Dean campaign, to make these connections. She suggested we take up the issue and involve more of our African American friends. This is what is really unique about the Dean campaign: it is genuinely people powered. People don’t follow instructions laid down by Joe Trippi at campaign headquarters. At best Trippi and Dean set broad goals and communicate them through their web sites and web logs. Issues get thoroughly thrashed through by his supporters on his Blog for America web site. I find it remarkable that Dean would let his supporters make his decision on whether to forego matching funds for his campaign.

In the month since my first meetup a few things are becoming clearer. A month ago Wesley Clark was a phenomenon and a worry. Now his luster has been dimmed quite a bit. Clark is still playing catch up, and Dean Supporters have proven to be committed to the man and his cause. I spoke with a very nice lady I saw from the last meetup who lives in my neighborhood. She says instead of spending $30 a week at Barnes and Noble, as she used to do, she contributes this money to his campaign instead. I said I pretty much send him $50 every month when I pay my bills. When a special solicitation comes out I tend to send more. I haven’t added it up but I suspect I’ve given the Dean campaign at least $300 so far.

And so we in the Dean Camp continue to move doggedly forward. We are aware that Howard Dean is not the perfect candidate, but he does offer the personality and creative ideas that we expect from a winning candidate. We do hope though that Howard learns to temper his remarks a bit. There is still a year to the election and Dean can’t afford too many more major gaffes. We’ve got to win this one and take back our country.

You can help by learning more and perhaps contributing to Dean at Dean for America.