Governor Howard Dean's Speech at Sacramento, California

The California State Democratic Convention, March 15, 2003

(Edited Transcript)

What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq?

What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts, which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States?

What I want to know is why the Congress is fighting over the Patient's Bill of Rights? The Patient's Bill of Rights is a good bill, but not one more person gets health insurance and it's not 5 cents cheaper.

What I want to know is why the Democrats in Congress aren't standing up for us, joining every other industrialized country on the face of the Earth in providing health insurance for every man, woman and child in America.

What I want to know is why so many folks in Congress are voting for the President's Education Bill-- "The No School Board Left Standing Bill"-- the largest unfunded mandate in the history of our educational system!

As Paul Wellstone said-- as Sheila Kuehl said when she endorsed me-- I am Howard Dean, and I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

I want a Democratic Party that will balance the budget. Bill Clinton balanced the budget and, starting in 1993, without a single Republican vote, kicked off the greatest 10 years of economic growth in this nation's history. No Republican president has balanced the budget in this country in 34 years. If you want to trust somebody with your taxpayer dollars, you'd better elect a Democrat because the Republicans can't manage money.

I want an economy in this country where we create jobs that don't move offshore. I want an America that has health insurance for everybody. I want a government that stops passing un-funded mandates and starts funding the ones we've got, like special education. I want a government which will give us a foreign policy so when we walk down the streets of the capitals of our friends we don't have to worry about watching our backs wherever we go as Americans.

We've had two fine people-- United States Senators Edwards and Kerry-- who've done a lot for our country, and they have served us honorably. And if either one of them wins the nomination I am going to support them and do every thing I can to help them win the White House. But I don't think we can win the White House if we vote for the President's unilateral attack on Iraq in Washington and then come to California and say we are against the war. And I don't think we can win the White House if we support the President's "No School Board Left Standing Bill" and then come to California and tell every body that we are going to do all kinds of things for education. And I don't think we can win the White House if we skip the most important abortion vote in the last year and then come to California and talk about pro-choice.

I am not surprised that only 15% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 vote because we have not given them a reason to vote, and we are going to give them a reason to vote now.

I was Governor for so long that I got to serve through not one but two Bush recessions. And in Vermont, I was very proud to balance the budget. We balanced the budget; we set money aside in a "rainy-day fund"; we paid down almost a quarter of our debt. The reason that is important is because it is hard to fund social justice without a balanced budget, which is why this President doesn't have one.

In our state, our budget is still balanced and we are not cutting higher education, we are not cutting K-12, and we are not cutting health care for kids. That's what we need in this country. I am a Governor, and I have done it.

In our state, everybody under the age of 18 has health insurance. We have made Medicaid into a middle-class entitlement. If you make $52,000 a year or less in Vermont, everybody under 18 in your family is entitled to Medicaid. We charge if you are at the upper-end of that: We charge $50 a month that insures everybody in your family under the age of 18. Now, if we can do that in a small rural state which is 26th in income in the entire country, surely the most wealthy and powerful society on the face of the earth can grant all of its citizens health care. I am a Governor, and I am a doctor, and I have done it.

In Vermont, we have conserved hundreds of thousands of acres that will never be developed. And I might add that they're never going to be drilled on either. If I get to be President, I will protect California as well as Florida.

Let me tell you something else. One of Bill Clinton's greatest legacies to this country was the promise he kept to make his cabinet look like America. I thought one of the lowest moments of this President's presidency was about five weeks ago when he used the word "quota" five times on national television on the evening news. The University of Michigan does not now and never has had a quota system and the President knows it.

We need affirmative action in this country, and we ought to stand up and say so and be proud of it as a society. California is a precursor for the rest of this country. You have five big minorities and lots of small minorities. In alphabetical order, you have African Americans, Anglos, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. Soon, all of America is going to look like California. And when it does, I want to make sure that every American is included in the very best institutions that we have in this country. As a nation we either admit that we are all together or we will be divided as the Republicans have divided us since 1968 under Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy.

I don't want to be divided any more by race; I don't want to be divided any more by gender; and I don't want to be divided any more by sexual orientation.

Senator Kerry was reported to have said that he could win without the South. I don't want to win without the South. I want to go to the South, and I'm going to say to white guys that drive pick-up trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back of their car, "We want your vote too, because your kids don't have health insurance either."

I want to end on a personal note. Three years ago next month I signed a bill into law called the Civil Unions bill, which gives gay and lesbian Vermonters the same rights I have: visitations for their significant other in the hospital, inheritance rights, and insurance rights. Vermont clearly is a place where every American is equal in the eyes of the law.

I want the President of the United States to explain to all Americans why he doesn't believe that all Americans should be equal under the law. I signed that bill six months before an election when it was at 35% in the polls. I never had a conversation with myself about whether or not I would sign the bill because I knew that if I was willing to sell out the hopes and dreams of a significant portion of our people, then I had wasted my life in public service.

I have never lost an election, but my career has never been about winning elections. My career -- and this campaign -- is about changing the Democratic Party. It's about changing America. And this campaign is about taking back the White House so we can have health insurance, so we can have a balanced budget, and so we can have an inclusive society where everybody believes in each other and believes in America.

I want the opportunity to work with extraordinary people in California. I will work with California instead of against you. I will work with Nancy Pelosi. I will work with Diane Feinstein. I will work with Gray Davis. I will work Herb Wesson. I will work with Jon Burton. And I'll sure work with another Democratic from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, Barbara Boxer.

We are not going to beat George Bush by voting with the President 85 percent of the time. The only way that we're going to beat George Bush is to say what we mean, to stand up for who we are, to lift up a Democratic agenda against the Republican agenda because if you do that, the Democratic agenda wins every time.

I want my country back! We want our country back! I am tired of being divided! I don't want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore! I want America to look like America, where we are all included, hand in hand. We have dream. We can only reach the dream if we are all together - black and white, gay and straight, man and woman. America! The Democratic Party! We are going to win in 2004! Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Stand up for America, Stand up for America, Stand up for America!!

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