Keynote Speech at the YearlyKos Convention of 2006
June 10, 2006
[Audience is cheering]
Dean: Thank you.
Thank you very much! Thank you, this is great.
Thank-- this is the unbiased press, right? Thank you. [Laughs]
[Applause finally subsides]
Dean: Thank you very much. Somehow I don't think I would have gotten that kind of an applause at a quote "mainstream" press event.
Let me do some thank-yous, first. I want to thank Gina Cooper and Markos and all of the people who have really worked so hard...
...to put this together.
I want to recognize Suzie Turnbull, who's the vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee, who's here, I know-- there she is, over there. And there's two other people I wanna say something about. One is Simon. [Rosenberg, who introduced Dean] And what Simon said, ha ha... [audience laughs] is actually sort of a segue' into the real people I'm really wanting to thank.
This is really not an individual effort. This is a group effort. And the truth is, that I think we're probably in the this millenial generation, 'cause this is the handoff between the baby boomers and the millenial generation, which I think is as good a way of characterizing this as any.
The truth is, that this isn't about one person or one particular candidacy. This is a movement that is not so different than the movement in the '60's-- to take back America to a better place, or bring America to a better place than where it was. In the '60's, what we fought for was individual rights, equal rights under the law for every single American... and we're still fighting for those things today, but we have lost our way, starting in 1980, when the "Me" party took over from the "We" party.
And interestingly enough, none of the things that the Republicans promised, came true. In fact, they are the party of big government and interfering in individual personal decisions. They are the party of secrecy and dishonesty. And, they are the party of the largest national debt in the history of the United States of America and in fact in the history of the free world.
So now, this is the generation that takes the country back to the high ideals laid before us by Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy, but it is a different generation, and you know more about the world than we do. You are a generation, this generation of bloggers, that understands that we are all citizens of the world. What we understood was that we are citizens of a whole country, and my father's generation understood that they were citizens of a larger country-- a larger world. But you are the first generation, I think, that's citizens of the whole world, because of the 'Net. Because you're able to contact and talk with people all over the world, and have discovered the universal truth that people are people, everywhere.
So, what we...
...What we are now engaged in is a new generation, and a community that wants to restore American values. The best American values. Not the 'American values' put forth by Dick Cheney and George Bush every day, the American values of ordinary people, as Simon said, in the South and the West all over. And what I think Americans really want, I think this has been something that we've also evolved in the struggle, in the last few months, is not just to beat up on the right wing. People are-- look, the President's at 30% in the polls, I think people get it. [little smile] Now, a sentence or two reminding everybody just what they are doing, once in a while, is a very good thing.
But I think people want a unified country again. They really do want to reach out to everybody and understand that we're all in this together. It's why I think the scapegoating politics of the right isn't working, and you're a big piece of that.
Let me tell you-- and lemme say just one other thing about-- sort of a general remark about what our role is. When I lost in Iowa and subsequent 25 primaries in a row that... [smiles] before, thank heavens, the wonderful people from Vermont got me a victory after I had already dropped out.
But there were a lot of disappointed young people. Because young people are always disappointed. Young people have a much shorter time horizon than older folks [bounces eyebrows wryly] like me do.
And I remember once my father told me (which of course I didn't believe, 'cause I was about 20 at the time) the advantage of being 50 is that you can look backward as well as look forward. And that makes a big difference.
Because I knew at that time [after the loss of the primary] that this was not dead. The campaign was not dead, 'cause it wasn't a campaign, it was a movement to take back the country. And that what we had to do was understand, first of all, in the movement to take back the country for real American values, that this was a daily fight.
Now, the Republicans realized this 30 years ago. When the right wing took over the country, they did it by fighting every day for four years. And then their next cycle would start the day after [an] election. That's what we have to do in the Democratic Party.
The reason that I took this job wa-- I do care about the Democratic Party, I do think the Democratic Party is heads above the Republican Party. But the truth is, this isn't about the Democratic Party, it's about the United States of America, and the Democratic Party is the vehicle to reform America.
But this is a tough fight, and you don't win just because you're right. You win 'cause you outwork the other guys, you're tougher than the other guys, but you also win 'cause you appeal to the higher instincts of people instead of to people's worst instincts. Those guys win elections by scapegoating people-- "those people". From Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" to George Bush's gay and lesbian Americans and immigrants, scapegoat, scapegoat, scapegoat is the way they win elections.
We will not do that because it's bad for America, and the one big difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is, they will put the interests of the Republican Party ahead of the interests of the United States of America, and we will not do that.
. . .
If a generation wants to make its mark on politics, you've got to actually participate in politics. Voting is not enough. Voting is the bare minimum. If you don't vote, then you've signed out, really, on any right you have to complain. But voting is not enough. And even giving money is not enough. That's important too, because we can't get our message out so-- you know the arguments. We need people to become active, involved in somebody's campaign, or running themselves.
. . .
This is the new town meeting—except this is the town meeting where everyone gets to speak, not just the people that the President wants to let in. And we have an entire department at the DNC who sits there reading you and what you have to say. This is how to take back America—working to support the people who work everyday to take back this country: by encouraging community participation—and by throwing out the trolls on your blogs who aren’t helping.
This movement is independent and self-starting. Simon Rosenberg’s organization is doing Spanish-language ads during the world cup. Pretty smart! If you trust people in their own neighborhoods to do the right thing, it generally works out, instead of having the supposed moral high ground in Washington do it all for them.
We need your help. There is more to this than just doing what you all do. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Democracy Bonds: sign up at Democrats.org. If we have 30,000 giving us $20 a month, any time some special interest comes out and says that he would like to give us a bunch of money in exchange for a stand on a certain vote, we can say, “We don’t need your money. Look at all of these contributors.”
Most people agree with our issues, and not the Republican issues. If you just poll issues, more people believe that it is immoral to let a child go hungry at night than let two loving people get married. Most people believe that it is immoral to send our troops to a foreign country without telling them why they are there. Most people stand with us on most things.
But there is one more thing we need you to do: run for office. The more decent people there are in office, the harder it is for the sleazebags to be there. Ultimately, if your generation wants to make its mark on politics, voting is not enough; giving money is not enough; you’ve got to get engaged in helping out campaigns and running them yourselves. Become a library trustee. Get involved in your communities.
We want a different America: we want open and honest government back in our country again. We want a strong defense that tells the truth about what we’re doing with them. We want a public school system that works. We want a pension system that isn’t being raided. I want our party to stand for a living wage and a balanced budget.
We can do these things. And we’re not going to be perfect. First of all, thank you for coming to my defense every time a Washington politician said we should do it the old way: you guys are the best.
And you know what? The Washington politicians are around: Harry Reid was a middleweight boxer. This guy knows how to fight. He shut down the Senate. Not all those Washington politicians are what you think they are, and you’re going to hear from a good one tonight.
The other thing I want you to do is to keep doing what you’re doing. Most people get their news from the Internet. We’re the REAL free marketeers. And by the way, I don’t think the telephone companies should be preferentially charging to let people in!
It may not always feel like this to you, but you are the vanguard of real change in America. You are the way we eliminate the corporate stranglehold. You are the way that ordinary America can talk back to us. Television changed the process in 1960, and now it’s strangling the process.
The people in this room have the responsibility for leading this revolution. But the perspective I want to leave you with is this: there will be things within the tent that we disagree with. We’re not a healthy movement if we don’t have those disagreement. But healthy movements managed to maintain their effectiveness in spite of disagreements; the unhealthy ones succumbed to personal disagreements and backbiting.
But real reform is here: the people who read your stuff every day and want real change in America. And the goal is far larger than any egotistical or ideological framework it exists in.
That in the end, what we owe is the American people. Not ourselves, not our party, not our movement, we owe the American people to restore American greatness. And that means in the middle of our fighting, we have to put aside whatever it is that we disagree with, and keep together. Because block by block, vote by vote, precinct by precinct, and year by year, we will take America back for the people who built it.
Thank you very much.
(as transcribed by thereisnospoon, see credits below)
QUESTIONS: What can the DNC do to leverage the politicians. When are we going to use our powder, and not keep it dry?
ANSWER: We do have to remember we’re part of a huge team trying to lead America into a better place. You need to keep doing what you’re doing. But there are tactical decisions that need to be made, and they are genuine struggles. What should the plan to get out of Iraq be? Obviously, no one agrees with the President. But there are strategic decisions, and tactical decisions. But know that you have a strong influence; what you write, people in Congress are reading. And I want you to know that.
QUESTION: What can we do to help our people get elected?
ANSWER: We’re interested in long-term. We’re interested in ground game, getting volunteers into campaigns. I think that McCain-Feingold was a good thing, all this considered. But McCain-Feingold is also very strict about what we can discuss openly. We can’t sit and strategize openly about what we’re doing. But we will be on the ground in particular races where we think we have a remote chance.
QUESTION: In your mind, how real is the danger of paperless voting?
ANSWER: Our position is that we should not have black box voting. Optical scan with a paper ballot is the only legitimate form of voting. It is very clear that you cannot trust machines—not even ones with a voter verified paper trail. What you need is a system that we have in Vermont, where you use paper ballot and optical scan, with all the ballots you can count. We have the Democratic Lawyers’ Council, and we fight ID laws that are trying to return us to Jim Crow, we fight against the sort of suppression tactics that Blackwell did in Ohio. These machines cannot be relied on, and the American people know that. We’re going to bring paper trail voting back, just as Governor Bill Richardson did in New Mexico.
QUESTION: I think that all roads lead to publicly financed elections. Is there some way to make this a sexier subject?
ANSWER: It’s not a very sexy subject. We need to get dirty money out of politics—- and not just the Tom Delay type dirty money. The truth is that most politicians don’t just take a check and say I’ll vote for you. But it’s also perception: most people believe that politicians do that. The problem is like the voting machines: it’s not just the real problem, it’s also that there’s a reason to suspect. We need public financing of campaigns, and it’s already started in several states in the Southwest.
Followed immediately by an interview with PoliticsTV.