Tuesday, November 29, 2005



Once there was a guy named Howard
who entered my life and changed it all around.

It seems as if it all happened a thousand years ago now, but
the truth is that it was only yesterday. But it changed the
world in ways that only now we're beginning to understand.

I don't know how it started. Only that it happened early
And it happened fast!

Everyone on the mailing
lists I was involved in were so frustrated by the
democrats invisibility in the public debate, their willingness
to cede power to the Republicans and their ability to ignore the needs
of the people, that we were primed for someone to come along
to deliver us from our anxieties.

We found this Deliverer in the form of one Howard Dean, a virtually unheard
of Governor from a small state that was never in the headlines for anything.

All of a sudden, this governor was starting to say the kind of things we were feeling and like wildfire we started coalescing around him. This was just around the 9-11 crisis. Before that, a friend and I had started a democratic magazine that was designed to get to the meat that everyone hinted at but nobody reported.

We were doing quite well at getting behind the stories. As a result, we were gathering support from a number of liberal and progressive publications and the support of the Internet. People like high government officials were talking to us and celebrity types like Jimmy Breslin was doing columns. It looked like we had hit a responsive chord in our marketplace; then 9-11 hit and that was the end of us. The funding simply dried up because no one would challenge a War president.

When Howard came along, he seemed like the kind of candidate we could believe in. He was saying the things that resonated with us. And he was becoming a safety valve for our own growing anger at the Republican Right Wing and the Democrats who were not standing up to be counted.

Many of us rushed to help Howard. I handled development of a base in my neck of the woods, recruiting activists and others, raising money, spreading the message and generally serving as a conduit for the Dean message.

And it got through!

Our participation grew monthly; donations were higher than other groups had raised; we were being heard by certain 'influentials' in Wilmington. People were talking us up. And there was a growing body of support throughout the state.

At some point, we were registering about 1,500 parties around the country happening simultaneously. The numbers who had joined the grass-roots organizations for Dean topped 650,000 members.

The press was beginning to follow Howard around; and that was part of the problem. Howard wasn’t allowed to make his mistakes in private or learn the subtleties of his newly adopted course. What we didn't fully realize then was that Howard had heated up too fast. As a result, the rest of the primary candidates saw him as the one to beat and focused all of their money and efforts toward that end. Howard was beaten not by the Republicans but by the same crowd that had dominated Democratic politics for decades.

For all of us, who set up the phone banks, who distributed the signs and did all of the other heavy lifting, the euphoria was gone. We had returned back to earth with a thud! What do we do now, we pondered?

Well, many of us landed on our feet. Several got behind PDA; others decided to run for office themselves and still others infiltrated the existing political system lending their acumen and their fortitude to an organization that badly needed rebuilding.

Some others of us lent our support to Kerry in various ways.

But although Howard left the candidate scene, his lessons were valuable. In the end, we all had seen that the party while still battered by the republicans was coming alive again, there were more vibrant people becoming involved with democratic issues and overall he had had a salubrious effect on what would become a mission to change the party.

Today, Howard is still there; only now he is behind the scenes orchestrating strategy and tactics and raising money for a party that is in the process of being rethought and reshaped to win the upcoming election.

And towards that end, we know that many young people at the grass-roots are working behind the scenes to make that happen!

So, while we didn’t win, we did become the instruments of change. And I wonder how many of us really realize that…

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