The Good Doctor Speaks

May 19, 2004

We hear a lot of rhetoric from liberals and Democrats about "taking America back" this election year. But what exactly are they talking about? Howard Dean sets his sights beyond the 2004 election, getting specific on a progressive agenda for Eds

I'm proud to welcome you to the new It promises to be more courageous, comprehensive and informative than ever. And it's produced in partnership with the Institute for America's Future—a forerunner of the new breed of organizations that are challenging the conservative dominance of public debate and decision-making.
If Tom Paine were alive, he'd be right at home at the website that bears his name. Born in Britain, he moved to Pennsylvania after he was fired from his job for trying to organize a union. A journalist and agitator, his manifesto  Common Sense inspired the colonists to fight for their freedom against King George III.

In those days, muckraking movement-builders published pamphlets. These days, they produce websites, like And, if the brave band of revolutionaries who founded our republic were with us today, they'd mobilize to take back our country.

What the Founding Generation feared most has come to pass in America today. economic power has seized control of political power. The multinational corporations, financial interests and special interest lobbyists who Harry Truman called the "special privilege boys" are writing the rules for the economy, while the rest of us are struggling to make our voices heard.

Big Oil contributed $26 million to the Republican Party during the 2000 election cycle, and its executives are sitting in the vice president's office and writing the administration's energy policies. The pharmaceutical companies have made $60 million in campaign contributions over the past six years, and they're rewriting the Medicare laws. The financial services industry contributed $168 million to politicians, and the administration has proposed partially privatizing Social Security. And a majority of the reconstruction contracts in Iraq have gone to corporations headed by campaign contributors to the president.

After three years, Americans have seen what happens when Wall Street, Big Oil and Big Pharma dictate economic policies. More than two million jobs have been lost; most working Americans' wages have fallen or flatlined; more than four million Americans have lost their health insurance; and the national debt has soared to more than $26,000 for every family. Meanwhile, the wealthiest 1 percent of the population has received an average tax break of more than $50,000 per person this year alone.

Even the most misguided economic policies can be reversed. But this administration's foreign policies are costing American lives, our moral leadership and our most cherished liberties.

More than a year after the president proclaimed "mission accomplished" in Iraq, fallen servicemen and women keep coming home in flag-draped coffins. Their sacrifices make us simultaneously sad and proud. But the photographs from the Abu Ghraib jail are horrible and once again make us question the reasons behind this war.

Yes, Saddam Hussein was a murderous dictator. But we were wrongly told that he was about to develop nuclear weapons, that he was in league with Al Qaeda and that he was an immediate threat to our nation and the world. And the American people and their elected representatives were denied the opportunity for an open debate based upon accurate information before we went to war.

Almost a year ago, I formally announced my candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Mine was to have been a conventional campaign, stressing the importance of offering health insurance for every family, providing every child with a healthy start and making sure that our government stayed solvent so that it could meet our nation's needs.

But the war, the recession and Americans' anger at being lied to and not listened to made my candidacy into a mass movement to take America back from the conservative ideologues, the corporate interests and the administration that secretively served them. More than 600,000 Americans—many new to politics—contributed their time, their talent and their hard-earned money to our movement.

Now, our campaign is over, but our cause continues. We've founded a new grassroots organization,  Democracy for America. We're recruiting progressive candidates at every level of government, harnessing the power of the Internet, working with other progressive organizations for our common values and common goals, and raising funds for candidates for whom financial support can be the key to winning.

Goal #1 is taking back the White House. But that's just the beginning of taking back America. We're working for the day when every family has health coverage, every qualified young person can go on to college or job training, taxes are based on people's ability to pay—when the public interest prevails over the special interest and our nation is respected for the power of its example as well as its arsenal.

Together, we can keep faith with our Founders, who believed that a people who got informed and got involved could govern themselves. As Tom Paine said, "The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth."

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