Thursday, December 09, 2004

Howard Dean on the Democratic Party and taking ownership over the Party of the People

Yesterday, Howard Dean gave this speech at George Washington University. (Quick question: why isnt there an Abraham Lincoln University in Chicago?)

Here are some of the highlights:

The destination of the Democratic Party means making it a party that can communicate with its supporters and with all Americans. Politics is at its best when we create and inspire a sense of community. The tools that were pioneered in my campaign -- like blogs, and meetups, and streaming video -- are just a start. We must use all of the power and potential of technology as part of an aggressive outreach to meet and include voters, to work with the state parties, and to influence media coverage.

People will vote for Democratic candidates in Texas, and Alabama, and Utah if we knock on their door, introduce ourselves, and tell them what we believe.

What I want to know is at what point did it become a radical notion to stand up for what we believe?

Over fifty years ago, Harry Truman said, "We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing. And we don't need to try it."

Yet here we are still making the same mistakes.

Let me tell you something: there's only one thing Republican power brokers want more than for us to lurch to the left -- and that's for us to lurch to the right.

We need to embrace real political reform -- because only real reform will pry government from the grasp of the special interests who have made a mockery of reform and progress for far too long.

The pundits have said that this election was decided on the issue of moral values. I don't believe that. It is a moral value to provide health care. It is a moral value to educate our young people. The sense of community that comes from full participation in our Democracy is a moral value. Honesty is a moral value.

If this election had been decided on moral values, Democrats would have won.

It is time for the Democratic Party to start framing the debate.

We have to learn to punch our way off the ropes.

We should not hesitate to call for reform -- reform in elections, reform in health care and education, reforms that promote ethical business practices. And, yes, we need to talk about some internal reform in the Democratic Party as well, and I'll be discussing that more specifically in the days ahead.

Reform is the hallmark of a strong Democratic Party.

Those who stand in the way of reform cannot be the focus of our attention for only four months out of every four years.

Reform is a daily battle.

And we must pursue those reforms with conviction -- every day, at all levels, in 50 states.


His main pitch is that Democrats should compete in Red States. I'll buy that. It also means we should compete for every race that's up for election in Illinois (and with more local elected officials in this state than any other state besides Texas, there are a ton of opportunities). Somehow, we Democrats need to convince people to run for office. Right now. The filing deadline for some municipal offices is this Monday. Most municipal offices have a filing deadline of January 13th.

Chicago isn't holding an election in 2005, but lots of the burbs and lots of Downstate communities are. And if you are one of those people who think the Democratic Party needs to grow stronger and larger and be built with more conviction -- like Barack Obama who at his official kick-off speech in Chicago for his primary campaign almost two years ago said that we need to stop sending Democrats to D.C. who lose their backbone -- then you personally should either run for office or recruit someone to run for office.

This month.

It doesn't matter if they win. It matters that they take ownership over the direction of their government. Running for school board or village trustee or city council or library board makes that nebulous conviction real. We need to be the people who run government -- and reform government to ensure that it serves all the people and not just the insiders. I'm trying to convince people to run, and Dean's speech has inspired me to put some more thought into figuring out who I know that lives in a place with elections coming up in early 2005 that should run for office.

The other thing he hit on was the need to develop a sense of community among Democrats. If you have some ideas for that, comment away. One group is Drinking Liberally which meets every Wednesday at the Red Lion in Lincoln Park at 8 pm or so upstairs. Another is the Young Chicago Lakefront (disclosure: I'm on the board), an offshoot of the 44th Ward Democratic Organization that puts together events for younger people.

And the final thing we should do is get comfortable with the Regular Democratic Party so that we are a part of it. It took me awhile to get to this place, but it's overdue. I didn't think reform and the Democratic Party really went together. I was a Nader 2000 campaign organizer! But, after the 2002 election, I finally saw that the Democratic Party has been the party of reform and raising living standards for people -- but not exclusively. There are people in the Party who are not reformers. There are people in the party who reward insiders over the electorate. And instead of taking that revulsion from the corruption within the party and trying to replace it, I decided to, in the words of one state representative, "move in, and redecorate".

The more I stopped looking at D.C. and some of the corporate Democrats there and started looking at the state and local Democrats here in the Capitol of Blue America, the more comfortable I became with enthusiastically joining the Regular Democratic Organization and working for the political reform that makes everybody better.

So if you live in Illinois (not in Cook County) and you largely agree with Howard Dean, then you should serve as a Democratic precinct committeeman. And you should recruit someone (perhaps yourself) to run for office. Or you should really get involved in someone else's campaign.


Anonymous said...

How can you support elected officials who disagree with you so strongly on issues such as the U.S. relationship with Israel? If most of those officials knew your position they would not want to be affiliated with you.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

I'd say you are wrong on the facts. Israel is a strong US ally, especially in the Middle East. But that doesn't mean they are perfect. When they do something wrong (like permitting those 900-some crazy settlers to inflame the entire Muslim world), we should call them out on their mistake,publicly. That's what friends do. It's in our interest, and Israel's interest, to have a viable Palestinian state with respected borders up and running. I believe that we'll get there faster if we're perceived as an honest broker, and the way to do that is to criticize Israel's mistakes.

Anonymous said...

So what are you running for Dan?

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Touche -- I'm recruiting candidates and trying to support good candidates already. Besides, Chicago doesn't have an election in 2005.

Anonymous said...

If you think the Arab world would be satisfied if the "900-some crazy settlers" were gone, then you are the crazy one. They will never be happy until all of the Jews are out of the mid-east. Plus, I know you support the right of return, which essentially means you support the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. Plus, why do you take such issue with Israel, when there are some many other countries who are doing far worse things. In fact, no other country, faced with terrorism has taken such pains to ensure the rights and safety of the civilian opposition. Why don't you point out the fact that Jews are not even allowed to live in most Arab countries? Why don't you point out that homosexuals would be killed if they came out in Arab countries? Why don't you point out that Arabs who live in Israel have far more rights than they do in any Arab country. Why don't you point out that the Israeli Supreme Court routinely rules against the Israeli government and in favor of the Palestinians? Yet, you focus on 900 settlers. Seems to me you are biased against Israel. You should really read Dershowitz's book. If you are so confident in your position, he has a standing offer to debate anyone who disagrees with him. I could set it up for you. PLus, how can you be such a huge Obama supporter when he categorically disagrees with everything you say about Israel?

Anonymous said...

If you ever do run for anything, I will be the founding member of both the Chicagoan's for Truth and the DJWTruthSquad.

Anonymous said...


When are you going to delete all my comments?

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Man, two more Anonymous friends. That's great. Anyway, I'm glad you read my mind and "know" that I'm for a right of return. If you want to continue to set up straw men arguments and knock them down, feel free. In the meantime, I haven't heard you say whether or not you agree that the 900 some settlers should be pulled back, or whether the U.S. should criticize Israel when they make mistakes. And why are you posting about Israel in the first place? I've flipped through Dershowitz's book, but haven't read the whole thing. I don't think he'd be interested in debating me in Chicago (I'm not sure what we'd debate, besides "Resolved: Criticizing Israel's mistakes is not anti-Semitic", but if you can set it up, I'd have a blast.