This morning I picked up the newspaper and read this quote from a young woman who had worked as a volunteer for Howard Dean in Iowa:
"All the phone-calling we did, we'd have people who?d say, 'I'm a Dean supporter, I?m a Dean supporter,?" said Kelly Chambers, Dr. Dean's captain in Precinct No. 83. "But when it came to caucus night, we only had 11 people show up for Dean. It just seems like all my hard work's been for nothing."
I was crushed when I read this. Her despair, her sense of "what's the use?" was something I'm sure many Dean supporters are feeling today. I can see, just from surfing the web, the debilitating affect the landslide loss in Iowa had on so many people who had placed so much hope in the man who created a grassroots revolution and was unrelenting in his attacks on Bush and on the war. If having the most volunteers, the most money (all small contributions from average citizens), and the boldest message can't win an election, say Dean's followers, then we might as well just give up.
As one who does not support Dean, I would like to say this to you: DON'T GIVE UP. You have done an incredible thing. You inspired an entire nation to stand up to George W. Bush. Your impact on this election will be felt for years to come. Every bit of energy you put into Dr. Dean's candidacy was -- and is -- worth it. He took on Bush when others wouldn't. He put corporate America on notice that he is coming after them. And he called the Democrats out for what they truly are: a bunch of spineless, wishy-washy appeasers who have sold out the working people of America. Everyone in every campaign owes you and your candidate a huge debt of thanks.
Though I am backing Clark because I personally prefer his manner and his stands on everything from jailing polluters to taxing the rich (not to mention his electability), the worst thing that could happen now would be for the Dean revolution to come to an end. If you have backed or worked for Dean, you must understand the remarkable things you have done and what you have accomplished:
1. 55% of those who voted in Iowa on Monday said that this was the FIRST TIME they had ever voted in a Caucus!!! That is a STUNNING statistic. Although the vast majority ended up going for Kerry and Edwards, I am convinced that the electorate in that state was invigorated by the Dean campaign -- whose entire message was that you CAN make a difference. Just the fact that you have people thinking this way is a gift you have given to America, a nation where the majority, in the past, have given up and refused to vote. I believe that you and Howard Dean will be credited with waking up a near-dead voting public. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
2. On top of first time voters, the overall turnout in Iowa was DOUBLE what it was four years ago. DOUBLE! To double the number of Democrats who showed up in Iowa this week means that many independents, Greens, and former Republicans have seen enough of the mess created by George W. Bush. And it was Dean in Iowa who, until the attack ads against him began, focused his whole campaign on educating voters on what the Bush presidency has truly done to America. The number one reason people gave last night for coming out in zero-degree weather in Iowa, ahead of the war and the economy and health care, was "Bush must go." This can only mean good things for the turnout come next November.
3. The number of young people -- the age group with historically the lowest percentage of voters -- also doubled on Monday night. Again, you have to credit the Deaniacs for this. Thousands of young people from around the country poured into Iowa to knock on doors and talk politics. Although Kerry and Edwards got the youth vote, I believe it was the Dean youth who made it cool to be political again, and the effect of their enthusiasm was contagious.
4. 75% of those voting in Iowa said that they are "anti-war." And who do we have to thank for that? Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich. They put the war and its illegality and immorality on the Iowa map in this election year. They pushed Kerry and the rest to take strong anti-war stands (even though Kerry, et. al. had initially voted for the war). Some changed their positions, which we welcomed (Edwards and Kerry voted against the $87 billion Bush got to continue the war). Although Kerry got the most anti-war votes and Dean and Edwards split the rest, Dean was the man who converted them. Those who chugged through the streets and farms of Iowa preaching peace deserve our gratitude.
Of course, the problem here, as I pointed out with all due respect in my last letter, is that for whatever reason, Dean himself is not going to give middle America the comfort level they need in choosing who they want in the Oval Office. Dean, as good and as right as he is, just isn't the man, on a personal level, to get Job One done: Bush Removal. That's OK. Moses was not allowed into the Promised Land. But he was still Moses.
So, we now have two Democratic candidates at the top who voted for the war. We have two at the bottom who have been anti-war -- Kucinich, who got 1% of the vote in Iowa and Al Sharpton who got 0%. And then we have Howard Dean who, after a year of campaigning in every Iowa county (where it seemed practically everyone met him at least once), could only scrape together 18% of the delegates.
And then there is Wesley Clark, who is backed by George McGovern, the anti-Vietnam War presidential candidate and the conscience of a generation. He said Clark is the one candidate whose plan will end the war and bring the troops home. Clark may be, now, the anti-war vote's best chance. I believe he is.
But in the meantime, let's tip our hats to Deaniacs everywhere. They've set the tone and the bar and have jump-started the movement to save our country. Good friends in the Dean camp, please don't give up. We need you now and we will need you in November. And, to Precinct 83 Captain Kelly Chambers, all your hard work has NOT been in vain. We cannot win without you.
One year from today, at 12:01 PM, Bush leaves office. But only if the revolution you ignited continues beyond this week.
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