Wisconsin: You have a real choice

February 09, 2004

Governor Dean gave this speech in Madison, Wisconsin today. Read it, but then send it to your friends -- and any Wisconsinites you know (wrote Zephyr Teachout):

Wisconsin, let me get right to the point: Over the next eight days, the power to make this country great again is in your hands.

The media claims this contest is over. They say your voice and your vote don't count. They expect you to rubber stamp the choice of others.

But you don't have to listen to them.

Wisconsin: You have the power to keep this debate alive.

You have the power to choose the strongest candidate to beat George W. Bush.

You have a real choice -- let's hear your voice, for real change in America.

Wisconsin, the home of Robert LaFollette, William Proxmire, and Russ Feingold, knows America needs real progressive change. LaFollette changed this state and the whole nation. He and his allies brought tax reform and industrial reform. He stood for electoral reform, so citizens, and not the party bosses, could choose presidential candidates. He said we needed to fight for the people and against what he called "the selfish interests."

But LaFollette's whole legacy is at stake right now. And Wisconsin knows LaFollette's legacy is worth fighting for.

Wisconsin knows that what is on the line in this primary is the very heart and soul of the Democratic Party - and the very heart and soul of this country.

Wisconsin knows that today working families struggle to make ends meet in the Bush economy. Wisconsin knows we need a president who will truly fight for ordinary Americans.

Why don't we have real health care, or a tax system that's fair for our families? The answer is clear: Special interests in Washington stop real change every time. The process is broken. To change America, we must change Washington.

Make no mistake, in 2005, there will be change in Washington. But what kind of change? If we don't stand up strong to George W. Bush, America will certainly change -- and not for the better.

If we don't choose real change, if we don't stand up strong to George W. Bush, no matter who is President, radical Republicans in Washington will accelerate their agenda. A shift of wealth away from the middle class to the rich and corporations. Crushing national debt. Policies that divide us by race and gender and sexual orientation. A dangerous foreign policy that isolates and weakens America. Losing jobs, losing health care, losing ground.

And if we don't choose real change, if we don't stand up strong to George W. Bush, no matter who is President, special interests will tighten their stranglehold on America, so the powerful control the outcomes and the people have no say.

Only if we send to Washington an outsider, a leader with a real record of results, can we strengthen American values and bring real, positive change. Only then can we restore hope and integrity, strengthen our economy and sense of community at home, and rebuild our strength and moral leadership in the world.

The way to beat George W. Bush is with a candidate who already has stood up to him - when it mattered, on issues that matter -- like health care, investing in our children, the national debt, and the Iraq war. Democrats who watched the popularity polls and cut bad deals with the White House are not the right people to stand up to George Bush this fall.

The way to beat George W. Bush is with a candidate who has truly delivered results, not just rhetoric, for working Americans.

The way to beat George W. Bush, whose White House is wholly owned by special interests, is with a candidate from outside Washington, who is independent and brings new people into the process. We won't represent real change this fall with a Washington fixture who plays the insider game.

* * *

Wisconsin, over the next eight days I want to talk with you, and listen to you, about the issues that affect your lives every day and affect our nation's future.

Let's start with something that matters to all of us. Two generations ago, Harry Truman told it straight: We need health care for every man, woman, and child in America. We still don't have it. President Bush's idea of health care is to take care of corporations in the health industry. And Washington Democrats have gone along.

I know about health care, because my wife Judy and I delivered it, one patient at a time, as family doctors. Judy still does. And I delivered as Governor of Vermont. 99 percent of children, 92 percent of adults in Vermont have health care. We expanded prescription coverage for seniors. I can stand up to George Bush and say, I delivered results. Why haven't you?

George Bush offered an education program called No Child Left Behind -- but it's a program that leaves every child behind, every teacher behind, every school board behind and every property tax payer behind. Washington Democrats went along. I spoke out and said American children deserve better.

I know about children and education, because I've delivered as Governor. We lowered child abuse rates and raised graduation rates. Teen pregnancy went way down; childhood immunization way up. If you make me president, we will invest in our children with affordable child care and better schools and a higher education plan that makes the dream of college a reality.

Mine is a record of getting things done, not just talking about getting things done. And we can do it for all Americans if we stand together.
George W. Bush wanted enormous tax giveaways for the richest people and corporations, creating enormous deficits that mortgage our children's future. The Washington Democrats went along. I said America can't afford them -- and that ordinary Americans will end up paying more -- with higher tuitions, higher property taxes, fewer services.

As Governor, I balanced eleven budgets in a row, because I know that getting our fiscal house in order is needed for a strong economy.

America needs tax fairness for the middle class, but first we must roll back George Bush's dangerous policy of borrow and spend.
Wisconsin knows the toll of the Bush economy. Manufacturing provides nearly 19% of all Wisconsin jobs, but you're losing jobs here, not gaining - 75,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the past three years, out of 3 million lost jobs nationwide. The unemployment rate in Wisconsin is 28% higher than the day George Bush took office. Our laid off workers need retraining more than ever, and yet George Bush has proposed more than $1.5 billion dollars in cuts to job training.

In Vermont, we cut unemployment in half. As President, I'll start a fund to create at least a million jobs rebuilding America in the first two years. We'll train workers for the new economy, raise the minimum wage to $7, and give people fair overtime pay and unemployment benefits. We'll invest in small businesses, which create 70 percent of our jobs and don't send them out of their communities. And we'll have a tough policy on trade, to keep jobs here and protect labor and environmental standards.

Protecting America's security is our most important task. And yet it's another area where Washington is broken, and we need to fix it.
George Bush embarked on a unilateral, preemptive, wrongheaded war in Iraq. He misled us about the facts. Washington Democrats looked at the polls and went along. Without asking the hard questions, they gave George W. Bush a blank check. I stood up and said it was the wrong war at the wrong time.

Now America is paying dearly for Washington's failure of leadership and judgment on Iraq. More than 500 brave Americans killed. Thousands injured. More than $160 billion already committed. Our alliances torn. No exit strategy in sight.

And while George Bush and Dick Cheney continue to cling to the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, too many others in the Administration now admit the evidence was not there and is not there. There's also no evidence, as they claimed, of ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Instead of coming clean, the President has swept the problem under the political rug. He's appointed a commission. But he's delaying its report until after the 2004 election.

The Bush Administration has lost all credibility on this issue, and Americans have a right to be outraged. Washington Democrats now say they're outraged, but where were they when it really mattered?

The next President will face tough choices and challenges in Iraq, in the Middle East, in the world. The stakes are high. We need a president who leads, who sees the importance not only of strengthening our military but also of rebuilding our alliances. We need an Administration that focuses on the real threats -- terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. That is how we can make America stronger.

We need to stand up for what's right for working Americans.

In 2005, when the Radical Republicans demand more tax give-aways for the special interests, and more phony health care schemes that only help HMOs and drug companies, who will stand up for you? Who will stand up for fairness and common sense?

When they push efforts to slice away further at the Bill of Rights, threatening a woman's right to choose, rolling back civil rights, and giving government greater power to search our homes, read our mail, monitor our Internet use, who will stand up for you and for American values?

Our campaign provides a way to change Washington for the better. We are fueled by the small donations of hundreds of thousands of people across this country -- not the maximum contributions of corporate insiders. If you elect me President, I won't be beholden to the special interests. I won't owe anything to anyone but you.

And, as President, I'll extend these principles. I'll bring greater reform to campaign financing, including a cap on campaign donations of $250 per person. So we limit the influence of big money on politics, and the candidate with the record and best ideas can win against the candidate who has made the most promises to the rich and powerful.

I'll take on the big-money lobbying at the heart of the corrupt Washington game -- the means by which the special interests buy access and policy. The reason that Congress writes an energy bill for oil companies and a Medicare drug benefit for pharmaceutical makers. Average Americans have no idea that this is happening because the lobbying disclosure system in this country is a joke.

We need to pull back the curtain and let the American people know what is happening in Washington's corridors of power. We need strong reforms:

Disclosure should be more frequent. Under current law lobbyists register every six months. I think they should register on-line in real time, and there should be a lobbying database on the Internet so ordinary citizens can keep an eye on their democracy.

Disclosure should be more specific. Right now, lobbyists only have to report which chamber of Congress or government agency they lobbied. I think lobbyists should be required to report who they met with, when they met, and what issue they discussed.

Disclosure should be more comprehensive. Lobbyists should report how much they spend on advertisements, national organizing, and of course fundraising activities. Registered lobbyists should not make political contributions at all, but beyond that they should be required to report when they facilitate contributions from others.

We will change the way Washington works. We will take our country back.

Let me tell you about the America I want back. I want an America where mothers can take their children to a family doctor, instead of going to the emergency room every time because there's no health insurance.

I want an America where hard-working Americans don't live in fear of losing their jobs because that means losing their health care too.

Where corporations care as much about the communities that make their products and buy their goods as they do about their profit sheets.

Where CEO's don't make 531 times what workers earn, even as they ship their headquarters to Bermuda and their jobs to China.

I want an America where men and women have the chance to go to college, get good jobs, maybe even start their own businesses -- regardless of their background. Where the kitchen table is a place to share dreams -- not to worry and struggle over paying the credit card bills, the mortgage, the tuition payments.

I want an America where no child left behind is something we pay for and guarantee, not an empty promise sold by Washington politicians to the rest of us. I want a fair America that doesn't let soldiers risk their lives for us and then get told they can't get overtime pay for jobs that use the skills they learned in the military.

I want an America where we are more than cogs in a machine, where there is nourishment for our human souls. Where there is true community, and we recognize and affirm that we are all in this together.

That's the type of America I want us to take back.

So Wisconsin: 8 days to go. You have the power to keep this debate alive.

You have the power to choose the strongest candidate to represent the Democratic Party.

You have the power to make America work again for working Americans.

You have a real choice -- for real change and a better America.

On February 17, you can vote for that better America. I ask for your support.

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