Now that the season of presidential primaries are coming up again, I was looking back at where I was 4 years ago, and how one campaign, no, one movement, transformed my life. This isn't an attempt to push Howard Dean into the presidential field. He gave the country his word when he ran for DNC Chair, and while there is nothing more I would like to see than another Howard Dean for President campaign, I know he will not break his word. So this little diary is to remind myself and all of us inside and outside the Dean camp what a presidential campaign can be.
I remember first becoming interested in the campaign in late 2002 when Dean went around campaigning for governors and other officials in Iowa and New Hampshire. And then, I remember being swept up in a wave of emotion and righteousness in February of 2003, when Gov. Dean declared, in a crowded but subdued audience at the California Democratic Convention - subdued because they have been hearing from Democratic candidates all day about how Iraq "must be held to account" and they were getting tired of the excuses -
What I wanna know, is what are so many Democrats doing supporting the President's intervention in Iraq?
Gov. Dean roared. And the crowd thundered with loud applause, cheers and enthusiasm. They were subdued no more. The little known man at the podium kept challenging the Washington Democratic establishment on supporting Bush's tax cuts while draining the budget, on No Child Left Behind and a myriad of other issues that conventional wisdom had the Democrats cave in on. The entire room rose to its feet several times and interrupted Dean's speech with the birth pains of a movement so amazing, it would rock my boat (and many others) forever. They had found not a candidate but a voice, not a campaign but a movement to change the course of their country. Not a single dry eye was left in the house (well, the usual pundits excepted) when Dean finished.
I could sit still no more. It was time for me to change the destiny of my party and my country. The days of whining about Bush's idiocy and the Washington Democrats' capitulation were gone. A new era of a people-powered movement was emerging, and I had to be - no, already was - a part of it. In around June of 2003, Howard Dean delivered at the steps of Burlington, Vermont, a speech that stopped my heart, and moved my spirit. It was his declaration of candidacy, The Great American Restoration.
We are a campaign of mouse pads and shoe leathers... for the young and the young at heart... I call on all Americans regardless of party to take our country back... Like the founders of our Republic, we seek change!
People watched from rooftops and balconies, on streets and on the Internet. Then came the words that were already sweeping the winds of change like a wildfire:
The biggest lie that people like me tell people like you in election time is, 'Vote for me and I'll fix all your problems." The truth is, power to change this party, and the power to change this country, is in your hands, not mine. You have the power to take this party back, and you have the power to take this country back! YOU HAVE THE POWER!! YOU HAVE THE POWER!!! YOU HAVE THE POWER!! Stand up for America! STAND UP FOR AMERICA!!!
An army of citizens were ready to change the destiny of the greatest nation on earth, armed with mouse pads, keyboards, shoe leathers, and small credit card contributions of $25 at a time.
I and thousands of others like me put our lives on hold went to Iowa and New Hampshire. I went to New Hampshire, for a month. I had a really, really white Christmas. And we braved the snow, made hot chocolate, and stood in a foot of snow with Howard Dean signs. We picked up the phone and called undecided voters. We were fed homemade soup and BBQ and anything else that local supporters cooked and brought into the office for us. All of us, together, we knew that we believed. No, not in Howard Dean. Yes, we believed in him. But more than that, we believed in our own ability as patriotic Americans to shake up the halls of power and take our country back.
The corridors of power in the political and media establishments sensed a hurricane coming. We grew so large and so loud that the Washington establishment took notice and brought out their big guns to quell this grassroots outcry for change - both within the party and the country.
And stop it they did. They stopped Howard Dean's presidential candidacy dead in its tracks. In Iowa. Third place. And the scream. Played over, and over and over on the MSM nearly 1,000 times. Oh boy did they stop it!
But they didn't. They couldn't. They didn't stop us. They couldn't stop us. We are a group of concerned citizens. And the establishment underestimated our power. Yes, there were no more Howard Dean for President, but there still a Howard Dean. No, there were thousands of Howard Deans. I am Howard Dean. And each of us, with thousands and thousands of other activists, believe in ourselves. We believe in the ability of a committed group of citizens to change the course of a great nation. We did not go away and pack our bags, and crawled back into our holes, because our candidate was defeated. We knew what Dean told us was right. WE have the power. WE have the power! WE HAVE THE POWER!!