Saturday, February 11, 2006

Supporting Howard Dean: Why it's personal

I've been having a hard time trying to think of what I wanted to write on the first anniversary of Howard Dean becoming chair of the DNC. Corinne has a great post ready to go live at midnight, talking about what Howard Dean has accomplished this past year. But I feel like there's something *I* need to write, and I just realized what it is. It's the same thing I was struggling with when I was trying to write up something about the Democracy Bond event in Columbus last month.

In addition to the challenge of finding the distraction-free time to write something up, there was another hurdle to overcome. Throughout the events I attended on that day, I had these periodic flashes of, "Oh my gosh, I am soooo out of my element here. These other bloggers know infinitely more about what's going on in Ohio politics than I do, so they have good questions to ask all these Ohio politicians." And truthfully, I had the feeling that some of those politicians didn't think I needed to be taken as seriously as the other bloggers there. In other words, a significant part of the reason why it was hard to do my writeup is that there were feelings of inadequacy involved. Eventually, I just handled it by leaving that part out.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that's an important part, and it speaks to what's special about Howard Dean compared to a lot of other politicians. So, here goes--following up on some of those thoughts I had last month, and answering them.

Of course I don't know everything about Ohio politics. Where the hell would I find the time to do that with everything else I have going on in my life? It's a freaking *miracle* that someone like me knows as much as I do about politics, let alone that I feel so strongly that I *must* stay involved and keep working to make a difference. In spite of how hard it can be to find the time and energy to keep at it. That, my friends, is Howard Dean's fault. I first got involved in politics, in spite of my overall aversion to it, because Bush was *so* bad, that extreme measures were called for. But Howard Dean is a big part of the reason I didn't just fall back into my normal level of political involvement--pretty much just going to the polls on election days--after the 2004 election was over.

But, you know what was amazing about the Dean campaign? The fact that someone like me--someone who doesn't do any of the traditional political "stuff" like canvassing, making phone calls, etc., was able to somehow create my own niche and feel that I had a valuable contribution to make.

Small digression here... You may or may not know that Demetrius had created the "Flat Howard" graphic. For a long time, we had a printout of that on one of the walls in our house. So, at least a 2D version of Howard Dean lived with us for quite some time before we had our chance to meet the real Howard Dean. (In November of 2003, we got quite a kick out of watching a CBS video of the real Howard Dean reacting to Flat Howard in the hallways of campaign headquarters.)

Different people notice different things about Flat Howard. Some people noticed right away that he is wearing the infamous J. C. Penney suit. What we noticed was that he looked like he was in the middle of saying, "No, thank you!" And that, to us, is classic Howard Dean.

In a post entitled Thank you, Howard Dean, written in June of 2005, I put into words some of the things about Howard Dean that have earned my loyalty and support. Those things still ring true, so rather than repeating them here, I can refer you to that piece. Today there are just two things I'd like to focus on. The first is that "attitude of gratitude" I just mentioned. It's pretty important. When you're working hard just to "put food on your family", and add to that any other challenges your particular family is facing, well, yes, it is a big deal to fit political involvement into all that. Especially now that it's turned out to be a marathon rather than a sprint.

The other thing I really appreciate is that, again and again, Howard Dean has demonstrated that he "gets it"--in the sense of being able to look at root causes and think long term rather than succumbing to the "quick fix" mentality. While I, like many Dean supporters, appreciated his willingness to be blunt and "tell it like it is", his ability to be thoughtful issues was just as important. I recall that, during the presidential campaign, he discussed the importance of investing in education in order to reduce crime down the road. He said something like "Every kindergarten teacher can tell you which kids are going to be a problem..." and went on to say that was why we need to fully fund special education. Too many people just go for the "zero tolerance" approach, and focus on punishing the "bad kids" to "teach them a lesson" or some such. That approach pretty much amounts to writing some kids off at an early age...throwing them away. *And* still not fixing the problem.

Anyway, cutting to the chase. Howard Dean has a tough job--I know I sure couldn't do it. But he's earned my support many times over. If I had my druthers, I would be supporting Dean for President in 2008, but he ruled out that possibility when he decided to pursue the job of DNC chair. (I *think* I've forgiven him for making that decision...most days.) But I respect the decision he made, and understand the thinking behind it. And, given the sacrifices the job involves (including *continuing* to take crap from people in both major parties as well as the media), I feel like it's the least I can do to support his efforts in any way I can.

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