Howard Dean's speech to Democracy Bond owners in Columbus
January 18, 2006
As I mentioned here, yesterday, January 18, I got to hear Howard Dean give a speech in my home town of Columbus, Ohio. Actually, I got to hear him give two speeches--one at the Ohio Statehouse specifically addressing ethics reform, and a second speech at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Hall. That speech was to Democracy Bond holders, and was longer and broader in scope. Anyway, while there will definitely be more to come about yesterday's events, I decided that before leaving for work today I wanted to at least write up the remarks by Howard Dean at the Democracy Bond event. Bloggers from Live from Dayton, Buckeye Senate Blog, Ohio 2nd blog, and The Seven Cent Nickel were also in attendance, and I invite you to check out what they have to say. And of course, Tim Tagaris, who was kind enough to invite me to attend, will be reporting on yesterday's proceedings over at the DNC blog.
Anyway, here's the speech from the Democracy Bond event...
(As Howard Dean began to speak, he thanked Chris Redfern, the new Chair of the Democratic party in Ohio...)
But you know, the fun thing about this is, it's preaching to the converted, so I don't need to spend a lot of time telling you what's bad about the Bush administration. I think most people in America know what's bad about the Bush administration. But I can spend a little time telling you what we're going to do about it and ask for your help. We are remodeling the Democratic party--you're going to see a very different party in '06 and '08. And it comes from a lot of the experiences I had in the campaign. Because we started out, as you know, in a state of 600,000 people, and 160,000 in the bank, and you built the campaign. A lot of you here were with me, and we learned to trust people who were out in the states and out in the communities, to do what they needed to do, and we felt that they knew best what to do in their own communities. And so you built our campaign from the bottom up. And it was an extraordinary experience because it made me understand that centralized government and centralized anything is not the most effective way to govern a country. It's not even the most effective way to run a presidential campagn. So, with that in mind as I took over the Democratic National Committee almost a year ago, we decided that we needed to invigorate this party. And let people know that they own the party. The idear, since I didn't get the job of my choice, was to change the country by first changing the Democratic party, and then changing the country through the Democratic party. And so, with extraordinary people like Mary Jo and Mary Ann and others who have been so wonderful, we are doing this county by county and precinct by precinct.
We started off first with the state partnership program. We are paying for staffers in every single state, and we have them in every single state now, and they're on the DNC payroll, but they're picked by the local parties, we train them. And their obligation is, one, they've got to sign on for four years. We want the party to be strong. We don't want these folks to get good and then go off and work for a governor or a senator. Two, they have to be diverse. They have to look like the people whose vote we're asking for. The state parties haven't been so good about that always. In Texas for example, they have one state organizer in the whole state party who's Hispanic, in a state which is 40% Hispanic. Three, we train them. They come to Washington, usually for two to three days, and we'll continue to do that. So, everybody knows what the techniques are around the country. And four, there has to be a Democratic organization in every precinct in the state, in every precinct in America.
It has become socially unacceptable because of the propaganda of the right wing, to be a Democrat in about a third of America's precincts. Just like it was socially unacceptable to be a Republican about 40 years ago in the South. We can't do that. We're not going to do that. And it's not a hard thing to fix-- I learned that from my campaign too. There was a woman in a place called West County Missouri, which I wasn't familiar with, but she told me it was the most conservative county in Missouri. She said, "You know, I was a campaign supporter of yours, and we decided we were going to have a Democratic party in West County Missouri. We hadn't had one for a long time. So I had my friends over, and three of us sat in my kitchen, and that was the Democratic party in West County Missouri. And today, we have 250 people meeting every week."
There are Democrats everywhere. Our job is to make sure they're willing to stand up and say so. And that's what these organizers are going to do in every single precinct. We lost Ohio in the rural areas because we didn't get out there. There are Democrats all over in rural Ohio, everywhere. We just didn't get out there and let them be proud of who they were. So that's the number one thing--every single precinct.
Now, the next thing we're going to have is a synchronized voter (bar?) and I'm not going to get into all that because it's technical, but we have to do it. Mostly it's infrastructure. But the next thing we have to do is have a unified message. Now we have done a lot of work on the unified message. I'll tell you what the difference is. We're going to pick up 2 or 3 or 4 seats, or 5 in the House this year. And we're going to pick up 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 seats in the Senate. But we're going to take the House back, the United States House of Representatives back if we can nationalize this election and have a unified message. And you don't have to take my word for this. Newt Gingrich proved that was true. The way we lost in 1994 after years of domination, was the Republicans finally figured out that in order to win, you have to not be like the other party. Because even when America wants change, if they have to choose between two parties that look the same to them, they're not going to make that change. We need to differentiate ourselves from the Republican party and be clear about what we stand for (applause). Because America wants a change, and they can't have a change without having a choice. And it's our business to provide them with a choice, and that's exactly what I intend to do. And that's exactly what I'm hoping the Democratic party is going to do.
It's not easy. The Washington folks, they get complacent, they enjoy their life. They don't enjoy their life in the minority very much, and that's where they are now. The truth is, nobody cares what Democrats say in Washington right now, because we're in the minority. In the House, I don't care what Hillary Clinton said-- she was right. The fact is, they are treated like dirt, and you know who said that first? It wasn't Hillary Clinton, it was Newt Gingrich twelve years ago. It's true, they get treated like dirt. It is outrageous. FIfty percent of Americans have been disenfranchised in this country by the right wing, who don't believe fundamentally that they are to represent Americans. They only believe they are there to represent themselves. And we think that the other 50% deserves some say too, and when we get back in power, we're actually going to listen to those folks.
When I was governor, I believed that everyone was my boss. Including the Republicans who didn't vote for me, because they were part of the hiring process. So when I had meetings around the state, I used to include everybody. If they asked me some tough questions, they asked me some tough questions. I got paid to answer them. Imagine the embarrassment having a president of the United States who only lets people talk to him if they already agree with him ahead of time. You wonder why this country's in trouble? It's because the president doesn't respect half of us. That's what we're going to change. And when we get back in power, we're going to reach out to those folks who disagree with us, which is what I'm going to ask you to do right now.
There's two things I need you to do. One is to get a Democracy Bond if you don't already have one, which I know a lot of you do. Go to Democrats.org, and we ask you to sign up for what you can afford-- ten or twenty or thirty dollars a month. If you're a wealthy attorney, give us a hundred or two hundred dollars a month. Whatever it is, it gives us a steady stream of income and it buys back America from the special interests. The only special interest that matters, is you. And the only special interest that we ought to raise our money from is you. If we've got a million people giving us $20 a month, that means that we don't ever have to depend on any special interests, or any money that there might be some quid pro quo for. Now the truth is, most of you know me well enough to know that there's not going to be a quid pro quo anyway. Because if they want one I say 'the quid is over there out the door and you can take yourself with it'. But we need that sustaining membership of ordinary Americans to make this party work. The truth is, we are the party of ordinary Americans.
The second thing I need you to do, which is in some ways even tougher... It's fun to come here when we're all of like mind, and maybe we can have a little fun at the president's expense. But what we really need you to do is reach out and talk to those who didn't vote with us the last time. People who disagree with us. Because the truth is, we have something in common with a lot of those folks.
Evangelical Christians. People think they're all Republicans--it's not true. Because their values include making sure no child goes to bed hungry at night. A lot of Republicans are cutting school lunch programs. Their values include not leaving more debt to our children than we found ourselves. The Republicans are the largest borrow and spend-thrift group I've ever seen. The largest deficit in the history of the country and going up. Evangelical Christians believe it is immoral to treat the earth that God gave us the way that this administration is. That's something that we have in common.
In fact, there's a lot that Americans have in common. You know what the greatest sin of George Bush and his administration is? It's not the Iraq war. And it's not even the enormous budget deficit which going to hurt us for years and years. It's the fact that he has chosen to deliberately divide America in order to win elections. To separate ourselves from each other. He's done more harm to this country, even than his lame-brained foreign policy, his incompetence in terms of the budget, by being willing to use divisive tactics to win elections. We can't do that any more, and when we get back in power we're not going to do that, because it's bad for America. (Applause.)
So I need you to reach out to people who you maybe don't know very well and who don't agree with you. Now, I'm not talking about the hard right, the intolerance of the hard right. But I am talking about a lot of the people who vote for them. Because, guess what? They're not that different from us. I'm going to tell you one quick story and then I want to get on to finish this up.
When Katrina hit, there were a lot of people at the DNC who had relatives and friends there and so forth. It was a very upsetting time as you can imagine. It was upsetting even for those who didn't know anybody there, to see how incompetent the federal government was in dealing with it. It was a really bad time at the Democratic National Committee. So we shut down our fundraising operations because we didn't think it was proper to raise money for politics while that kind of thing was going on. And we said to everybody, we will pay your salary for three weeks if you feel like you need to go down to the Gulf and help out.
So, a bunch of people did, including two young women who work in our finance department. And they went down there and they got teamed up with five ladies from the Southern Baptist Conference. Now, for those of you who know anything about the Southern Baptist, they're a somewhat conservative, to put it mildly, denomination, who often have preachers who preach that it's a sin to vote for Democrats. So, these two young ladies from the finance department sort of had a debate among themselves, "Should we tell them who we work for?" And they decided they would, in the interests of standing up for who they were. So they fessed up that they worked for the Democratic National Committee, and they sort of got this reaction, and thought that maybe they were thinking the word "Satan" when they heard that pronouncement. But everyone got along pretty well, and they were handing out food and water to people who really needed it. At the end of the time, one of the women said, "You know, we're all here together, and we're just trying to do things for our fellow people."
Now, I'll tell you why this is important. About a year from now, I can tell you that when these ladies from the Southern Baptist Convention go back to their home churches, some pastor in that church is going to stand up and say it's a sin to vote for a Democrat. And they're going to think back to the two young women who worked for the Democratic National Committee and say to themselves, "Now, wait a minute. I know two Democrats who work for the Democratic party. We were all in this together when we worked together." Personal experience trumps what the pastor tells you, and personal experience even trumps what your parents tell you.
That's why I want you to reach across the aisle and talk to people who didn't vote the way you did, but they are good, decent people who want to do the right thing for their country. Yeah, we won't agree on everything. But if they come to know you, they're going to listen to you more than they're going to listen to me, more than they're going to listen to Bill Clinton or John Kerry, or certainly George Bush. Because your point of view is going to be from somebody they've worked with, and they trust and they know that they have something in common with.
I want to finish this off by talking a little bit about our message. The message really is about values. It's not about issues. We're going to build our message around five issues that we've all agreed on--the House, the Senate, the governors, and the mayors.
And those are, one, we want honesty and integrity back in our government again.
Two, we want a strong national defense that depends on telling the truth to our citizens, our soldiers, and our allies.
Three, we want American jobs that will stay in America. And those will be built around a new industry. An energy independence industry where we'll retrofit people's houses with decent construction jobs, where we'll create alternative energies such as solar and wind and ethanol, and we'll have clean coal technology. These jobs will have to stay here as we reduce the amount of energy we use in this country from 25% of the world's energy for 5% of the population. It's a huge potential industry, where the Republicans will never do it because they're married to the oil industry.
We want a health insurance system that works for everybody. Just like 36 other countries, and I could name every one of them. We can do that in this country. Thirty-six other countries manage to balance their budget and provide health insurance for everybody. We ought to be one of those countries. Because we're in deep trouble. And this is not some Democratic do-gooder piece of socialized medicine, as the president accused John Kerry of. This is a business proposition. (Applause) I was in Michigan the other day, and the headlines in the two biggest papers, "General Motors invests $2 billion in Windsor, Ontario". Moving jobs to Canada because they can't pay their health care bills in this country. You want to keep jobs in America? We've got to have a national health insurance program that works for everybody. (Applause).
Finally, we need a public education system that works for everybody. Public education is a basic source of opportunity and optimism in this country, and Republicans don't stand for opportunity or optimism. They stand for taking what's theirs... you know, George Bush talks about the "ownership society". His version of the ownership society is, "If you have a problem, you own it!" We're going to rebuild our community so we're all in this together. We want optimism and we want opportunity restored to those people who are willing to work hard. The public school system allows folks who work hard to get ahead.
The last piece of this, is about values. Because the truth is, Democrats are different than about 75% of American voters. We are cerebral people. We think about our issues, we choose our candidates based on issues. And issues are important. But if you have a twenty-five page environmental plan, which is wonderful, I tell candidates-- put that on your web site. I don't want to hear more than about five seconds of that in a speech. Because you know what people care more about than issues? Issues are important to everybody. But what they care more about is what kind of a human being are you? Who am I going to feel most comfortable to have in my house with my spouse and my kids? What kind of a person is going to be a model for my children?
Moral values do matter. Not in the way the right wingers are all obsessed with gay marriage and abortion and all these divisive issues. They matter, because here's what Americans are really worried about. They're worried about what's on television, that their kids are seeing and they don't have any control over. They're worried about what happens between 3 and 6, because they have to work an hourly job and they can't change their schedule, when theire junior high and high school kids get home, because they know what every parent knows. That an unsupervised junior high or high school student after school is probably heading in the wrong direction. Or that they've got to be nervous about it in any case.
They're worried about the methamphetamine lab the sheriff just found two counties over and they know that's going into their schools. We need to speak to those folks, and we need to speak to those folks with some empathy. That's what values really are about. We actually did a poll on values. Gay marriage, the president's idear of values... half way down. Abortion, lower than half-way down. I'm not saying that it doesn't matter what people think about those things, it does. We should never be the party of pro-abortion. We're not the party of pro-abortion. Republicans said that, it's not true. I don't know anybody who's pro-abortion. The difference between the Democratic party and the Republican party, is they think Tom DeLay ought to make personal decisions for individual women, and we think those women are capable of making those decisions for themselves. (Applause).
But we need to speak about the real values of the American people. The values that say that we need to support families in raising kids in a moral way. The values that talk about no child going to bed hungry, while they cut the school lunch program. The values that say that if you work hard all your life and you play by the rules, and you work hard for your family, then you should not have a health problem send you to bankrupcy court and lose everything that you have. Those are American values, and those are not Republican values. They are Democratic party values, we need to remind people of that. This debate ought to be about moral values, in every single race, because if it is, then we win.
So I'm going to finish by saying what we started with. This is a debate about values. Do you want a corrupt, immoral government in Washington and in Columbus, or do you want honest people back in government again? We will pass what we were talking about this morning. Lobbyist reform, elimination of influence peddling, insistence that people reveal what their conflicts of interest are. And we will do that...the Republicans have a pathetic imitation of a reform package that they announced yesterday, because they found out we were announcing ours today. That won't fly any more. Their days are done, they have no credibility left. You want real change in America, and the Democratic party will provide it. Thanks very much. (Standing ovation.)