You don’t hear much about Howard Dean’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in the newspapers or on television, which is not surprising given the way the corporate media has been towing the government’s pro-war line. However, the Dean campaign is definitely picking up support in the East Bay and particularly in Berkeley. At a “meet-up” of 85 Dean supporters at an Oakland rally in early April, over one-third of the participants were from Berkeley.
A physician by profession, Howard Dean is the former governor of Vermont. He came out early and vociferously against Bush’s unilateral invasion of Iraq. His speeches question why so many Democrats in Congress are going along with the administration’s policies not only on Iraq but also on tax cuts, health cuts, civil liberties, the environment and education. Dean has also been a consistent supporter of women’s reproductive rights, unlike the only other anti-war candidate, Dennis Kucinich, who has a miserable voting record with regard to a woman’s right to choose.
As governor of Vermont, Dean acquired a reputation for courage and integrity by supporting civil unions for homosexual couples when the polls showed only 35 percent support for the bill. This stand could have cost him re-election, but it didn’t.
Many people at the April meet-up who had heard Dean speak previously in Sacramento said they were impressed with his forceful delivery, personal presence and sincerity. They seemed convinced he could actually win the presidential election, and this conviction got them involved in the campaign.
The Dean campaign is highly organized, totally grassroots and on-line. Almost all of the organizing is taking place on the Internet. Dean’s positions on the issues are posted on his Web site, http://www.deanforamerica.com, as are his speeches, including an abridged version of the address to the California State Democratic Convention that got so many Bay Area supporters excited about his candidacy. The Web site also enables contributions and sign-ups for local meet-ups, where people can schmooze with other Dean supporters and get involved in the campaign.
For UC students, there is a Berkeley Students for Howard Dean organization on campus. The student contact is Adam Borelli (email@example.com). People with Internet access who want to be informed about Dean organizing in the Berkeley/Albany area can subscribe to an e-mail list at http://lists.solanoave.net/listinfo.cgi/dean-bay-area-solanoave.net, which was born as a list of Berkeley and Albany residents who attended the last Dean meet-up in Oakland.
Four liberal members of Congress have already endorsed him: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). A Franklin Pierce poll published in early April showed Dean tied with John Kerry at 21 percent of likely New Hampshire voters, with the Democratic hopefuls (Lieberman, Gephardt, Hart, Edwards, Clark and Graham) all below 10 percent.
In the coming months, you can expect more noise about Howard Dean’s platform on and off the Internet as a meaningful alternative to the policies of the Bush administration and the platforms of the Democratic Bush-wanna-bes.
Lynn Davidson is a Berkeley resident.