Dean Campaign Evolves, Refocuses

Editorial in Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 18, 2004

My run for the White House ended last month. But for me, and for my supporters around the country, our work to take this country back has just begun.

As I have long argued, the Democrats cannot beat George W. Bush by meeting his extreme agenda halfway.

To win, Democrats must stand up strong for our principles, not paper over our differences with this president. We must expose the ways in which Bush's policies benefit the privileged and the far right. We must confidently advance an agenda rooted in hope and real American values opportunity, integrity, community.

I am pleased that in this race candidates, including John Kerry, affirmed that our party must stand sharply against the policies of the Bush administration and stand for real change in Washington.

That is the right way to take on Bush and the most effective way to succeed with voters who might be tempted to support third candidates.

To do our part, we will create out of the Dean for America campaign a new enterprise, Democracy for America, committed to four core principles:

Strong grassroots involvement in democracy. Today, half of Americans don't even vote. People see what the problems are, but they are cynical about prospects for change. Only through doing will people recognize the power they have to change this country.

Promoting an America where candidates and office holders tell the truth and stand up for what they believe.

Fighting against the influence and agenda of the two pillars of George Bush's Washington: the far right wing and their radical, divisive policies, and the selfish special interests who for too long have dominated politics.

Fighting for progressive policies, like health care for all, investment in children, equal rights under law and fiscal responsibility.

To help defeat Bush and his agenda in 2004, our new enterprise will focus on key battleground states. We will mobilize our supporters and use the groundbreaking organizing tools we developed during our campaign, planting seeds on the Internet, meeting face to face at the grassroots, bringing new people into the process.

We will use these same tools to support congressional, state and local candidates across America, candidates who stand for our principles.

And we will encourage grassroots members to run for office, and we will offer them tools to achieve this. We want to change conditions so people no longer think that running for office is only for the well-connected.

We will shine a spotlight on the failed policies of the current administration. On George Bush's watch, America has lost 3 million jobs. The most important state in this election is Ohio, which has lost 275,000 of the best-paying jobs in America.

This administration shuns the labor and environmental standards that would protect more American jobs in the context of globalization. The Bush tax policy, an enormous transfer of money to the richest people and corporations, has turned record surpluses into record deficits, making investment in America a shakier proposition. The administration also opposes fair wage, unemployment and overtime policies that aid our workers in hard times.

Forty-three million Americans are without health insurance. It is now clear to school boards, teachers and members of Congress that No Child Left Behind is not working.

This president has turned his back on the alliances that have helped protect our security for 60 years. He launched a unilateral, pre-emptive Iraqi war whose mission stability in that nation and greater security for Americans remains unaccomplished. In the process, he has misled our citizens about the facts something many Americans will not forgive.

The only promise this president has kept is to make his models for judges Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. His life-tenured appointees are anti-civil rights, anti-choice, anti-consumer and anti-environment.

Despite this record, defeating Bush will not be easy. His strategists are using a $100 million war chest to run from the facts. They seek to fire up their base with divisive approaches to social issues. They want the debate to be conducted on distorted terms that play to Americans' fears. Their first ad sought to blame the weak economy on others even though Bush has been president for more than three years.

John Kerry and the Democrats will win in November if we harness the innovative campaign techniques learned through our nominating process, and if we highlight our stark differences with this failed president.

Dean is the former governor of Vermont.

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