Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Howard Dean did for me (1.12.09)

Howard Dean doesn't know me.  But through his campaign he gave me a great gift.

Until the Dean campaign I had somehow been brainwashed into feeling that my disheartened dissent from so much domestic and foreign policy (ordained from on high) was unAmerican and undeserving of the word patriotism. 

The Dean campaign taught me that I was a Patriot.  It encouraged me to speak out.  It gave me a voice.  That was a great gift.

Over 5 years ago I made my first comment on the Dean Blog.  I had read an article in the New York Times Magazine about the Dean Campaign, the grassroots style of organization, the belief that Voters "have the Power."  That article galvanized me.  I joined the campaign.  I saw the blog and began to read.  I had a "vision" of how our country could be, how our world could be.  I don't mean I "saw" a "vision."  I mean that my own vision of the way the world could be was expressed as a comment.

The reaction to that comment blew me away!

Almost immediately a small group of people gathered themselves around that comment.  Adding to it.  Wanting to put it into practice.  Deciding to form a little group and work toward the end of "transforming ourselves" and in the process "transforming our nation."   One person, a person of mixed race, living in Japan, set up a website.  We exchanged emails.  It turned out that our little group, perhaps 7 or 8 of us to start with, were living all over the country.  One was a newly naturalized citizen, who grew up in Africa and married a European.  Another was a lesbian with some native American blood.  One was a retired writer.  One was a computer specialist.  East coast.  West coast.  North.  South.  Midwest.  Single.  Married.  Old.  Young.  All were represented.  And we shared info about our backgrounds via email.  And set about writing up a description of what we valued, how we proposed to work together, what kind of world and nation we wanted.  It's like we were refounding the country in terms of our own values.  Here is a flavor for the document I drew up during that first week, in consultation with the group:
In one week a small band of Dean supporters from across the web -- strangers brought together by one post -- managed to set up a test website, write a mission statement, iron out nuts and bolts of the project, and soon will have a website up and running.

Mission Statement

Howard Dean has called on all citizens to take our country back and renew our society in the process.  People of Wisdom is a response to that call.

We have organized to honor the presence of Quiet Leaders among us - People of Wisdom, exercising quiet moral leadership on a multitude of issues, in ways large and small, individuals who embody values, which reach to the heart and soul, people who exemplify the ideals of peace, justice, equality, brotherhood & sisterhood for All. We seek such quiet leaders in all communities, tribes, races, ethnic, social or religious groups, people who belong to or work on behalf of the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the poor, the disabled or who call us to a wiser use of our resources - clean air, water, soil, food, homes, jobs, healthcare - for All.

It is our mission to find and honor people of wisdom, and to invite them to join us in renewing our society and our world.

Initial Vision for this Project:

What impresses me about the Dean movement is that people have a sense of ownership. 

That's actually what finally convinced me to join - that Dean is allowing people to get involved, encouraging us to be creative, choose how we want to do that -- he trusts us! This has given me great hope after 3 years of Bush!

Working Principles/Philosophy:
We want to find and reach People of Wisdom, exercising quiet moral leadership, calling for peace, justice, compassion and an equitable and wise use of our resources.

More than this, we are about bringing people together.  We are looking to bridge the divides that our social and economic and political establishments are placing between us -without our consent! 

By bringing together People of Wisdom we hope to bridge those divides.  And the very project we are engaged in is already doing that, by bringing us together, by reaching out to all People of Wisdom - in every tribe, race, religion, gender, every social group, every walk of life, every heartfelt gathering of people who embrace our values of peace, justice, equality and the wise use of all our resources.

Because it is uplifting and inspiring to share this wisdom and know about these people, it is entirely possible that this Project could endure well beyond the campaign.  We are sending a healing message and it is humbling to be part of this outreach effort.

We have pledged ourselves to seek and honor People of Wisdom, regardless of their endorsement of Dean, so long as they embrace the values, which we hold dear.  Because we are about bridging divides, we will not allow ourselves to become divided or exclusionary.  We will continue to reach out to them and seek their assistance in renewing America.

That little group, with some people added in various ways, a few dropping out or lost along the way, endures today.  For over 5 years we have been emailing on nearly a daily basis.  It's been a safe place to work through ideas and problems, to discuss domestic and foreign policy.  People from the group went to the Iowa caucuses and got involved in state or local politics.  One person traveled all over the country with his family in a van (for several months)- protesting the war.  We met up with him in a nearby state when he stopped to meet a third member of the group.  Great people in person!  Just as great as over the web!

But that's not all Howard Dean did for me.  The Dean Campaign taught people about the principles underlying the Constitution and exposed us to writers such as Thomas Paine.  It also brought together people who had been independently protesting the war - and gave us a voice and a mission.  We could take our country back.  We were Patriots too.  We could dream of a better country.  And work for that.  We, the Fourth Estate.  We the People.  The government was supposed to work for us.  And here's what we wanted:  Generated by a group of ordinary citizens working together!

Goals Summarized:  

Here is a list of goals which seem to have great agreement:

 1.  Verified voting and direct election of the president.

 2.  Supreme Court restored to its place of honor and respect.

 3.  Constitution and Bill of Rights abided by.

 4.  Clean Energy and Environment.

 5.  Universal Medical Care.

 6.  Balanced Budget and equitable taxation.

 7.  Renew our social contract with each other and the world.

 8.  Ban all forms of torture, abuse, unlawful detention, sexual humiliation.

 9.  Refrain from claiming rights for ourselves which we deny to others.

10.  Work for peace and disarmament.

11.  Respect the Geneva Conventions and international treaties.

12.  Honesty,  integrity and ethics in government, business, and civic life.

13. Job development through education and public policy.

14. Freedom of information and citizen oversight of elected and appointed leaders.

I've often written that it was a short step from You have the Power to Yes We Can A short step in hindsight.  But a long, long wait in reality.  However that long wait was made easier because of this little email group we had.  I really wrote my first blog posts for that group, though I didn't know it at the time.  And the mutual support of that little group - which was not group-think by any means - became a way to share ideas, articles, debate topics, and become more involved in our country in a variety of ways.   The way TPM functions today was what we had in miniature in this little group, but instead of blog posts we had emails - of articles, ideas, our own writing.

I think what happened is that the Dean Campaign and the group strength gave us all courage.  Courage to do more and say more.  And we did!  That's probably how I found TPM.  And maybe why I stayed with TPM.  And why I write here today.  Because of its similarity, though on a much larger scale, to our little email group.  And the group strength we have here.

I just thought it was important, one week from the inauguration of Barack Obama, to pay tribute to all of us, who have worked so hard for what we want to see happen during the coming administration.  Those of us here at TPM.  And those of us who were first inspired by Howard Dean.


I could not agree with you more than I do right now.
Dean was a voice crying in the wilderness and the 'media' took a quick look and seemed to say, no way, just kids and rejects. You cannot talk about the president of the United States that way.
One 'mistake' and they took Howard down.
But two years later, Howard was looking pretty good.
And now, four years later, I would have voted for him for just about any position he sought.
We have not seen the last of this gentleman.
I believe Howard, and Rahm and a few others really got us to 2006. My confidence just kept growing.
This is great history TheraP. I really enjoy this post.
I'll be very interested to see the other comments as I bet many people have fond memories of that campaign. Every time you meet a "Dean Person" you feel an immediate bond. I hug a lady who works as a greeter at Sam's. We go back to the Dean Campaign. We hug like long-lost relatives! Same thing one guy who is a techie at the Apple Store. No hugs with him, but that bond... wow!
Thanks for your lovely comment, DD.
Yes, a voice crying in the wilderness. And it drew all of us who wandering there and didn't realize we had a right to the "land" and didn't need to be in the wilderness.
It was Howard's speech in Sacramento that re-ignited my public spirit. I had been inactive for years, writing an occasional vitriolic editorial, but never really leaning hard against that wingnut wind as it built and blustered.
After Dean's speech, and his courageous stand against the war in Iraq, I became much more active, tabling and phone banking, eventually joining a nearby Congressional campaign based on Howard's inspiration to do just that.
History will look back at Howard Dean as one of the true patriotic bonfires in the darkness of the Bush era, a bright and burning flame that we all could see glowing, that brought us all comfort in those dark times, and gathered us together for the coming battles against those dark forces.
Can even the wingnuts deny that we have made a victory of it?
And another character needs recognition here, all of us hanging out on the blogs owe Joe Trippi a footnote in our Dean stories, because he managed to corral and tame this wild horse we call The Blogs, and threw a saddle on it.
The nearly 1 BILLION dollars that Obama raised to win this historic electin can be quite accurately attributed to the model Joe Trippi created for the Howard Dean campaign.
Joe brought politics kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and the original plan he put together will be emulated ad infinitum, or at least as long as politics remains with us.
Beautiful addition to this thread. So true. :)
Let's remember (and never forget) how the DC Democrats deep sixed Howard Dean the moment they had the opportunity to do so and how upset they were that he became chairman of the DNC. Remember how Rahm Emmanual among others fought the 50 state strategy. Remember how the DC Dems considered and continue to consider him a troublemaker. He is still dislike by them and (thanfully) they will never make him a part of their little club.
Howard Dean is a relatively young man. I hope he runs again after Obama is done. We will need his strength and courage more than ever. He really believed/believes in all the things his campaign was about. I'm convinced (and I am hard to convince)that he was and remains the genuine article.
We have the Power! It lives on. I truly think there is an army of us on the move.
How could we ever forget?
Wonderful comment, oleeb!
Howard Dean's campaign was the beginning of the 2007-08 grass roots movement, I believe, and I wonder if Obama's campaign would have as successful without Dean's breaking the ice.
I had felt totally disenfranchised since Newt and the fundies took over the country in 1994 and Howard Dean was the first one to give me hope. I was terribly disappointed when he didn't make it and I still blame the Party bosses even more than the media.
I would love to know why Dean is getting treated so shappily even now. I don't understand it at all.
Dean identified with the grassroots. I think the establishment was jealous at the adulation he had and his ability to inspire, get donations, use the web. Plus, he set people free. (god forbid!) I agree that Obama benefited mightily from the Dean movement. It wasn't just the 50 state strategy. That neglects the power of the people - which, to me, is why the 50 state strategy worked. We were already waiting around for it - in all 50 states!
It's shocking that Democrats would have that kind of attitude. But their convoluted superdelegate system exposed a lot about how the Party aparatchik think.
My dyslexia is kicking in. I meant to say should have been and also shabbily.
Note to self: start previewing.
The itch to publish... the difficulty of proof reading... my sympathies, I'm often in the same boat.
In the words of Mattie Stepanek, Heartsongs!
Now you're reached right down into my heart....
As one of TheraP's original Dean group I can say the people on the email list have become very important to me - those I have since met in person and those I have not.
Dean brought us together but shared values kept us together. What is wonderful is our surface diversity and our deep down unity. I do believe we are a microcosm of our nation - different skin colors, economic worth, education, ages, gender identities, religions etc but a shared set of truly American values. A belief in civil liberties and civil discourse. A belief that we can overcome problems. A belief that we need to look out for each other. Hope. One nation, indivisible.
Thank you People of Wisdom - our friendship will endure and continue to deepen and be ever more meaningful.
How true. :)
Then I shall consider you part of history, part of those who kept on keepin on when it seemed like Rove was right, that the reps would be full in charge for decades.
Thanks, Thera - I was wondering when someone around here would commemorate Dean. Both his shortlived presidential campaign and his work for the Democratic party. Things would look a lot uglier without him.
I've been writing this post in my mind for nearly a week. I know what you mean. It had to be said. Thanks, Desi.
It was a long dry spell before Dean showed up. When he took over the DNC chair I heard many Democrats piss and moan about it...said his 50 state strategy would put the party completely in the toilet.
Doom and gloom prognosticators are rarely right.
And yes, we WERE waiting around for it.
I liked this post very much, TheraP. Migwetch. That feeling of bonding among the far-flung is very are bound by spirit, which is stronger than any rope.
You are such a wonderful addition to this place, flowerchild! Indeed, your "list of followers" is a pretty prestigious group in itself! Which shows what a splash you've made here:
That feeling of bonding among the far-flung is very are bound by spirit, which is stronger than any rope.
That is very kind of you to say and makes me happy. I did not realize the list of followers was available for all to see and I am still working out how the rec'd thing works. Ah well, everyday I learn a little more. :o)
I still had my head in the sand during the "Dean" days...sorry I missed 'em the 1st time around. I'll pay closer attention this time.
Love the Mission Statement...
You are hereby adopted - retroactively. You were always with in spirit, I think!
I wrote about Dean shortly after the last primary. At the time, it seemed he would get another four years as DNC chairman. Wish it were true.
Thanks for linking to that. I know others have written eloquently here about Howard in the past. Perhaps they will make links as well. It's good to have that here. :)
A wonderful post, TheraP! And I suspect that it's true in some way for an awful lot of people. Dean was the start of a new political activism or at least much more attention.
While my involvement is nowhere as involved as yours(that's what condition my condition is in) I remember that Howard Dean was the first time I hoped we might have some new, better choices in politics in a long time.
The election of Obama shouldn't mean forgetting Howard Dean.
Mooser, how kind of you to stop by! I am honored.
Dean can serve as a voice for those 14 goals, to prick the consciences of Obama and the Congress.
Even before he runs for office again, he can continue to influence the direction in which Democrats and the country move.
May it be so! May it be so.
Dean made it seem reasonable to have a broad majority, with his 50-state goal. He is essential to Obama's success, as are you and your friends, as are everyone that heard the optimism in the Dean campaign.
Amen, Tom. You've done your share of hopeful work!
It was in 2006, through FDL, that I finally begin donating to good Democrats. Howard Dean paved the way for this success.
Going forward, I'll say this: DLC triangulation helped get us into the Cheney-puppet morass. We need to make sure it doesn't get us back into it.
Always, more and better Democrats!
And it was from one of our little email group that I first heard about FDL - when it was just in its infancy!
Peace be with you.
Yeah... I was a Deaniac.
I maybe feel good about it again, thanks Thera.
I think we can look back and feel really good about it now. It was very painful after Iowa. Very painful long years - and more pain ahead of us, but thank goodness not under bush.
I walked precincts for Dean here in Queens, as well as in New Hampshire, and in my home state of Iowa. I still have the orange "Perfect Storm" hat — I kept it as a reminder of mistakes made and hard lessons learned. I am going to the Inauguration on Tuesday and thinking of wearing it, as a reminder to myself (and others) that painful setbacks can bring unexpected rewards.
I just wish the hat weren't so damn f'ugly-lookin'. No wonder we lost that campaign!
I salute you for your hard work for Dean! And thanks for the tip-off of why we lost.... :)
Actually, the hat only symbolizes a number of reasons why we lost:
• Lack of sufficient grassroots organization (REAL grassroots) in Iowa. We had some, but hadn't built it up sufficiently, and the people running it were green and were flying by the seat of their pants.
• The hats drew attention to the swarm of outsiders...rather than the local organization, and this triggered a great deal of local resentment.
• The hats are a symbol of the vast amount of campaign funds that went wasted on merchandise rather than going into real organizing.
All in all, I view the Obama campaign as Dean 2.0. Obama avoided the Dean campaign's mistakes, and understood much better how to organize.
I like your characterization of Dean 2.0.
And I understand that they really were not as well organized as they wanted their supporters to believe. (and maybe they thought the locals would be impressed with so many "supporters" willing to travel... but many who did travel were frustrated with the on-the-ground conditions in Iowa)
Obama was lean and mean in terms of how money was spent. Groundgame was superb! Outstanding!
Nevertheless I think your idea of wearing the orange hat is just so great! We will look forward to your personal report of the inauguration. I'm sure we will have many.
I could have easily gone. I went to college in DC and know many who live there or nearby. But I also know that I'll see more on TV than I would in person. (and besides I've done some Personal History viewing already)
Best wishes as you travel there. May you travel safely. And have the time of your life!!!
I'm proud to have been a Deaniac. I'm still a Deaniac. So what job do we draft him for now?
One of my favorite memories of the Campaign was when Dean bought his wife a flowering bush for a wedding plant, and one of the pundits (MoDo?) raked him over the coals for being unromantic. It was about the time I started watching blogs seriously, and perhaps it was here at TPM where someone wrote a marvelously scathing defense of Howard. Anyone else remember that exchange? I'd love to have my memory refreshed.
As I recall, amike, Josh only had a blog at that point and no Cafe. I dimly recall the event. I bet it's all recorded somewhere on the old Dean blog. Renee from Ohio, as I recall, was gathering lots of historical data. Let us know if you find a link.
I shake your hand across the miles and years...
Oh Thera: What a wonderful post, as always. In the heat of the Presidential race I failed to realize that you came from the Dean School of Politics. I should have known. It seems so obvious now. Perhaps, in a way we all (those of us who became Obama fans) came from Dean, and just don't realize it? Perhaps.
You can count me in with the same goals, and mission statement. Love you, TheraP. Always will.
Skymodem at
I've missed you, dear friend. Lovely to see you here. :)
Um... just one more thing. I've always found it extraordinary that you reply to all of your respondents. Very cool. Another reason I like you so much. Please don't reply to this one though. I would feel like a dick.
Oh great. Look how those words line up right under my photo - avatar (hate that word) whatever... lol...
In inadvertent humor - I love it! :)
It's easy to forget that movements are often started by a couple people, or even one person. Dean figured out how to use a tool, and discovered a way to organize everyone anywhere. I remember reading Gore's 'Assault on Reason' about using the internet to assemble, share ideas, and even govern and thinking that we already do that! (We being us blog-news-political junkies) And this way of organizing is only growing.
My hope is that we can never have a non-transparent government again, but it's up to us to make that happen.
It's up to us.... Yes! We. Can. :)
....still don't understand what all the fess was over Dean's alleged uncontrolled outburst by the media pundits (may be their under handed way of influencing the lowest and greatest common denominator, the American pubic...dohhh)
That was really related to the way the mike picked things up. Instead of also including the crowd noise, that he had to speak loud for (to be heard), the mike only picked up Dean's voice. But we all know they were gunning for him anyway! Looking for him to make mistakes. Wanting to mock him - as DS says below.
Lovely, well-written post, as usual.
I supported Dean, but never felt he stood a chance in the general election. And after he was savaged by the media for his caucus night speech, I just felt cynical and angry.
I wanted to support Dean, because of his stance on the war, health care, and his ability to rally people who had been horrified by what was happening in the country. But I also wanted someone who could beat Bush. And I wanted that more.
And this illustrates the dilemma I've been facing for some time when it comes to politics. Do you support the individual who best reflects your hopes and aspirations for the country, or do you support the individual who has the best chance of winning?
This election, I decided on the former, and supported Obama. And after watching his campaign, and working for it, I've realized that a long-shot candidate doesn't have to be a long-shot candidate, if people can work up the nerve to actually work for that individual, rather than being angry and cynical and complaining a lot.
Dean laid the foundation for Obama. We wouldn't be where we are now without Howard Dean. And honestly? Rahm Emmanuel's response to Dean will always make me suspect him a little. But that's an easy burden to bear.
I totally respect where you were coming from in 2004. At that point we were desperate to win and get beyond bush. It wasn't yet cool to be against the war.
But absolutely the foundation for Obama's internet tactics as well as many, many committed supporters came from people who had been attracted by Dean - even if they did not vote for him in the primary.
Howard Dean was/is the real thing, so of course, like Jimmy Carter, they turned him into a joke.
On this we agree, David. :)
By way of reminder: Dean's famous scream came because he was giving a speech about having come in third in a race where previously he was riding high.
We can't re-run history without the scream, of course, but it's entirely possible that Dean wasn't that race's Obama, he might have been that race's Dennis Kucinich -- very popular with a core group but unable to make a broad appeal.
In any event, I'd prefer that Dean was "relegated" to giving us the 50-state strategy. Sort of the teaching people to fish idea of solving hunger. It's not flashy, but it has been key in the moving of the political discussion today.
Amen, TheraP!
Howard is the reason I'm here, too. He took me from occasionally showing up to hand out campaign flyers at the County Fair in years past to tromping through the snows of New Hampshire, launching a local precinct organization for the first time in years (all but one of the people who showed up to the first meeting were Deaniacs), on through to spending most of the past year getting more and better Democrats elected.
Last summer, my wife and I were marveling about how the things we spend most of our time on now are things we barely knew about five years ago. And through it all, the Deaniacs are the people we can count on.
Our calling for these years has been to save the world. Together, we're superheroes.
Amen! Amen. Wonderful comment!

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