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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Wednesday, February 04, 2004


Dean Does Madison

posted by Brian Ulrich at Wednesday, February 04, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
I went to my first meet-up tonight, as well as saw Dean in person for the first time. It was a real treat. The event was held in the Club Majestic, and I was standing on the completely full balcony, looking across at another completely full balcony on the other side and above the table area which was, of course, completely full. The volunteers were going around with their sign-up cards, where I signed up for a couple of things, and people all over were talking politics, from the Bush AWOL story to pre-emptive war. The crowd as a whole was so big that, as noted in the comments below, they had to start sending people into nearby buildings, and I think we in the Majestic were less than half the total turn-out.

I didn't recognize the first speaker, but he rocked, listing cities in Wisconsin which we are going to win before letting out the patented Dean "Yearrgghhh!" Kathleen Falk, the popular Dane County Executive went next, introducing the Governor. And then, Howard Dean stepped out. I had a brief period of adjustment, as happens when you've seen someone on TV for ages and ages and then suddenly he appears before you in the flesh, a real live human being with a voice and hair and skin. Yet that only lasted for a moment, for truly had you been there you would not think it too melodramatic to compare him to an avatar of the American spirit, exuding and drawing us into a vision of hope and can-do idealism before he even opened his mouth.

This was a charisma like I have never experienced before, and his presence is such that I say that although Dean is not known for his great height, in the mind's eye he was one of the taller figures around, taking control of the atmosphere in the room as surely as he has the atmosphere of this entire campaign. His only "gaffe" was when he talked about Michigan's affirmative action policy; regardless of the issues, defending Michigan is not permitted in Madison, a fact of which he was quickly informed by the audience. I keep hearing that John Kerry is Presidential because he looks like a President from central casting, but the people who say that do not have a sense of history. I have to admit the Kerry does look like a movie President, but then most movie Presidents are failing at defending us from aliens or something, not being "Presidential."

Howard Dean is a leader. He has led Vermont for over a decade. He has led his supporters to heights no one thought they could reach. He has led the Democratic field to its present stance on the issues. And soon, if all goes well, he shall lead America. For Howard Dean alone among all the candidates carries the aura of vision and the credentials of ability that make a true President. When deciding what counts as Presidential, we should not look at who's been in Congress the longest or who does the best job at following the standard political scripts - after all, Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our greatest President, was elected after a single term in Congress.

Rather, to be Presidential is to make people want the future which you can bring about. I want health insurance for every American according to a plan that will actually pass through Congress. I want to repair our international alliances so that the United States once more stands as the moral leader of the world. I want to globalize human rights and not just corporate rights so that we can have a world where people are more than just business assets to be discarded at will. And I want a country I can be proud of, a democracy where the special interests don't rule from the shadows, and where ordinary Americans once more control the processes of our own lives.

And that is why, when we picture the world 50 years from now, we can see the Howard Dean we've all come to know, a Howard Dean aged by his office, his face cast in marble like the great Presidents of old sitting before a painting of him in the oval office dealing with a crisis today unforeseen And as schoolchildren pass through on their field trips, they are told of how in a time of despair, this man brought the promise of a new beginning; of how when the forces of fear threatened to overwhelm our values this man brought hope and restoration; of how when people said he couldn't do something, he went ahead and proved them wrong, and most of all how he showed that the United States is not just a nation of special interests and pundit-identified population groups, but a community of shared ideals, ideals every generation of Americans has sought to live by and succeeded at just a little more than the one which came before. And then the schoolchildren will file out, anxious to be on with their lunch time, except for one little girl who remembers, and takes to heart the message of Howard Dean, and message which transcends today's issues even as it responds to them. And that little girl will go on to solve the problems of her day, enriched by an understanding of society and an example of how to lead it.

That is what it means to be Presidential. And while I think all the other Democrats are probably electable, I see only one as truly Presidential. And if that's the test for whom we should nominate, then let it be Howard Dean.

(By the way, sorry about not having pictures. I don't have a camera.)


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.