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Why I Support Howard Dean
January 16, 2004
By Mike Schiller

Editor's Note: Democratic Underground welcomes articles promoting individual Democratic candidates for political office. Publication of these articles does not imply endorsement of any candidate by the editors of Democratic Underground.

Before Howard Dean announced his candidacy, I sent out an email to fellow Democratic activists explaining why I felt Howard Dean would be the best candidate to take on the Bush Administration. Rather than reiterate the points made in that letter, I will paraphrase them and then move on to an explanation of why my support for him has only solidified over the past year.

The main thing which initially caught my attention was his defense of civil unions in the face of immeasurable adversity at a time when supporting gay rights was unpopular. I saw the Democrats in the Senate split on issues like that all throughout 2001 and 2002, with the Boxer-Corzine wing vigorously defending human and labor rights, and the Lieberman-Miller wing waffling on the most critical issues. I saw the so-called "moderates" of the party cast indefensible votes for political reasons, rather than reasons of conscience. Interestingly enough, many of these votes saw Jim Jeffords, a true moderate and former republican, siding with the Boxer-Corzine wing of the party. That fact made it clear that the DLC's Senate standard-bearers had moved too far to the right to call themselves moderate. I knew that the Democratic Party needed real leadership, and that void had to be filled by someone with the experience of staring down critics while pursuing some noble, just, cause that was initially unpopular with their own constituents- and succeeding in achieving the goal of justice in that situation (rather than easily conceding defeat and blaming the opposition for their failure, which is what so many in the Senate had been doing over the past year).

Howard Dean fit the exact description of what I felt the Democratic Party needed, and he has since proven himself to be an even better candidate than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. He has done, on the campaign trail with our political system, what he did in Vermont with gay rights. Changed the rules, faced down his critics, and told the American people the truth about things nobody else was willing to talk about - even when doing so appeared to create controversy that could "backfire".

The media tried and tried to create the illusion that Dean's words and deeds were backfiring, just as they tried to do to the Dixie Chicks. According to Billboard Magazine, by the end of 2003 The Dixie Chicks "boycott" did so much damage that smash hit albums by Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Avril Lavigne, Kid Rock, Beyonce, Eminem, Elvis Presley, Coldplay, Missy Elliot, Toby Keith, and Tim McGraw - all sold fewer copies in 2003 than the Dixie Chicks album! (Source: Billboard's 2003: The Year In Music & Touring, Chart: Top 200 Albums Of 2003 - Dixie Chicks' "Home" listed as the fourth biggest selling recording of 2003 in the U.S.)

Likewise, though the media will continue to attempt to make him appear weakened by his honesty, Howard Dean has built a campaign on truth - and as they say the truth will set you free. Dean told the American people the truth about why we really need to know more about September 11th - that the question of responsibility does not merely amount to a question of who "screwed up."

There are some issues on which my views differ from his. I am a survivor of a gun violence incident, and a staunch advocate of gun control. If anyone is in a position to weigh Howard Dean's position on guns against his other positions, and draw a well thought out, objective, conclusion, I am one of those people. It was a tough issue for me, but what ultimately won me over was the fact that he respects the existing laws and wants to let each state pursue the route that's best for its own people. Howard Dean has pledged not to roll back existing regulations and he also pledged not to try to stop state legislatures from passing tougher laws. I feel his position is reasonable. I feel his positions on all the other issues he's campaigned on are a dream come true. So when I weigh the gun control position against his other positions, he remains my favorite candidate for President.

He opposed the fraudulent war that senselessly ended so many young American lives, and he did so in a constructive manner by helping the public to understand why the war was wrong through dialogue - and he has succeeded in educating people about the situation enough to render the Bush administration and the media's incessant spin completely ineffective. The people now know about the lies they've been told and why they were lied to, and they are now able to see through the new lies Bush continues to tell. He agrees that we need to get our troops out of Iraq, but also understands that dictating a timeline to the United Nations at a time when we are trying to repair our relationships with the international community would be unrealistic. We need to work with the United Nations toward a solution which removes our troops from Iraq as soon as possible, but we need to let the UN tell us how and when to withdraw if we want them to help us do it.

Dean has endorsed a repeal of Bush's tax cuts. He's pledged to ensure every American has health coverage, and promised to balance the budget - both feats he simultaneously accomplished as governor of Vermont. He wants to repeal the Patriot Act, and has a detailed, elaborate plan to reduce college tuition costs. He is also the only candidate who's told the truth about the way Bush's tax cuts have actually forced Governors nationwide to raise property taxes, which not only hurts property owners but also harms renters who end up helping the property owners foot the bill. Bush's unfunded mandates have caused such massive tax hikes that stores and offices have been forced to close all over the Nation, and that is one of the leading reasons why so many Americans have been losing their jobs for the past four years, and certainly one of the factors driving companies to outsource jobs overseas. When Bush's tax cuts have been repealed, state and municipal property taxes will go down, and the tax and rent burdens of those in the middle and lower income brackets will all go down as a result.

That is another strength of Howard Dean's. He understands the underlying causes of this recession and knows exactly what needs to be done to restore job growth. He is not going to try and fool people into believing that if they spend their life savings on a Christmas shopping binge the economy will magically recover and employ everyone. He is willing to tell people the truth about the fact that the issue is more complex than that. The world needs global human rights laws in order to have a functional and fair global economy. His solution recognizes that international trade can be economically empowering with the right balance of global regulation and a dose of common sense on the domestic policy end. He recognizes the fact that the most important measure of economic recovery is how many jobs are being created here at home, and that will be the cornerstone of his economic policy just as it has been the cornerstone of his campaign. At the same time, he will try to fix the global trade system to rectify the very complaints held by global trade's opponents. It's not beyond repair, but its repair requires a balanced approach that takes our domestic needs as seriously as the needs of the needs of the global community - without sacrificing one for the other. That's exactly what I've been hoping to see a candidate understand, and Howard Dean understands it better than any other politician whose views I've heard on the subject.

Dr. Dean also did something none of the other candidates would have dared to do - he focused his fundraising efforts on small donations, knowing that the more small donations he gets, the less dependent on large donations he is, and thus, the less beholden he is to large donors. He has been able to raise all his donations from people who are donating because they believe in him, not because they want special favors later on. Rather than taking money from people who are giving because they want him to change his agenda, he is taking money only from those who are giving because they genuinely support his agenda. That is what donations are supposed to be. Signals of support, not signals of greed or power. They're supposed to be a way for people to empower the people they really like because they like them for who they are and what they set out to accomplish.

When I first endorsed Howard Dean last year, if I had said it was because I felt he could win, everyone would have laughed at me. Many people did. Ironically, now some of those who laughed think the only reason I'm backing him is because he has a good chance of winning. Neither of those reactions makes sense to me. I backed Dean when he had fewer supporters than Dennis Kucinich. My endorsement came from my heart and soul, because I see in Howard Dean the courage and conviction to stand up for what he believes in, and even more importantly, I see a person who really does believe in the people of this nation. This is a person who willingly gave his campaign to hundreds of thousands of volunteers and told them they could do anything they want to promote his candidacy. Nobody has ever done that before. He trusts the American people enough to give his campaign to them, allowing them any creative indulgence they feel would be effective. As a result he has empowered these people to discover both the political system, and even discover some things about themselves.

A couple years ago, a close friend of mine told me he was concerned that individual people who are not wealthy cannot make a difference. We had a long discussion about politics and our views, and the only question in which we differed in our opinions was that one question "can one person make a difference if they don't have a lot of money?" My friend thought the answer was no, and I felt the answer was "yes". But the yes was a tough yes because the answer is only yes if those people devote every last mental and creative resource they have towards two goals: 1) making a difference and 2) inspiring others to make a difference.

Howard Dean, and all 500,000 of his devoted supporters proved together that when those two goals are relentlessly pursued by people who believe in themselves and their cause - it makes an enormous difference. Enough of a difference to change the course of American and even world history. What Howard Dean and the countless volunteers and supporters who comprise the Dean Campaign have achieved, and even more importantly, what they want to continue to achieve-is more than enough of a reason for me to re-affirm my support for this amazing human being who I look forward to calling my President.

My only question is, will it be Dr. President Howard Dean, M.D. or President Dr. Howard Dean, M.D.?

Mike Schiller is the founder of Dem-Elections-Strategy, an all volunteer Democratic research and analysis firm, and

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