October 12, 2010
News & Advance coverage of Howard Dean
The following article was published in the Lynchburg News & Advance Oct. 12, 2010. It is reprinted with permission.
By Ray Reed
Howard Dean, who flirted with the presidency during the Democratic primary elections of 2004, told a Randolph College audience Monday night that politics is a bit like a religion.
“You have to tithe,” he said. “Every day, you have to put something in the plate” in order to preserve democracy for future generations.
Seeming to allude to the under-35 voters who catapulted Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008, Dean said people can’t afford to say “we quit” after one exhausting venture into politics.
“This is still a great country, but the only way to save it is to stay involved,” he said.
Dean described how his brief presidential bid was launched by young campaign staffers who noticed that a movement was building for him on an Internet site called Meetup.
Dean, with the help of “some young, smart kids” using the Internet, was able to convert that energy into two primary wins, he said – mostly because his campaign sent a message to individuals in America “that you matter again.”
A similar sensation is driving the tea party movement, Dean said, but although he likes its spirit, he expects it to fade as the economy recovers and Republicans co-opt the movement’s energy.
Younger voters today appreciate candidates who are sincere in their convictions, Dean said, adding that he likes Rep. Tom Perriello, D-5th District. Perriello talks to all groups, including the tea party, about why he cast controversial votes for the energy and health-care bills, Dean said, to applause from a crowd that included many Lynchburg Democrats.
The audience filled about three quarters of the Smith Hall auditorium.
Dean said his 2004 campaign wasn’t tightly organized, mostly because of its people-driven, bottom-up direction. John Kerry eventually won the Democratic presidential nomination.
As chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 through 2008, Dean used the Internet as a fundraising tool to collect small campaign contributions from many donors.
The party also built data-driven lists of voters and their interests, and used them to conduct successful campaigns in 2006 and 2008 that put Democrats in control of Congress and the presidency.
In 2010, “Republicans have stolen our field strategy” and are using it against Democrats by fielding 423 candidates for Congress, Dean said.
As a former physician who got into politics and served 10 years as governor of Vermont, Dean also said he’s not a big fan of the health-care legislation that Obama signed into law in March.
The bill is not, by itself, health-care reform, Dean said.
“But it will lead to reform,” he added, because he expects it will force small businesses to stop offering health insurance as an employee benefit.
Dean predicted that, as new phases of the plan go into effect in 2014 and later that set up exchanges where people can purchase their own plans, employers will give workers a cash benefit and ask them to purchase their own insurance.
The current, employer-based plan is a drain on companies’ productivity, Dean said.