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Howard Dean's Speech to Launch Democracy for America

Seattle, Washington, March 18th, 2004

Listen to it here

Thank you.

You have the power. Thank you very much, I really appreciate your being here. And I want to thank you so much, I came to Seattle to announce the formation of Democracy in America in Seattle, because of you. Because you’ve done such a great job, and you’re going to send a bunch of Dean delegates to the convention, and I think that’s neat.

With enthusiasm like this, I’ll scare my staff, and threaten to get back in the race again…. [Thunderous applause and screams]….That was a joke! Only joking. I see Roy Neel over there having a heart attack.

Let me thank you for changing the debate in 2004. You made the Democratic message much tougher, you made this party ready to challenge George Bush, and you’ve changed politics forever by showing that a campaign that’s powered by ordinary Americans can emerge from nowhere and build support to take back this country, which is exactly what we are going to do.

The right wingers in Washington are getting a little nervous, they think we might actually take back America!

I want to talk about how we’re going to do that. I’m going to talk about what we face. It is very clear to me that George W. Bush is a failed President. Under George Bush’s leadership, we have lost 2.3 million jobs, more jobs than any President has lost since Herbert Hoover. Manufacturing jobs going overseas – there are solutions to this, but the solutions George Bush shuns – environmental, labor, and human rights standards around the world that would make global trade work. George Bush has opposed fair wage and overtime policies that would help our workers in difficult times. Today the minimum wage is 30% lower than it was under Richard Nixon. A single mother working full time for minimum wage earns less than $11K a year, $4K below the poverty line.

It’s not right, and we can do better and we will do better.

George Bush is not interested in solutions, what he is interested in doing is making things easier for America’s CEOs who earn 531 times what an ordinary worker makes even as they ship their jobs to Bermuda, and their jobs overseas, and their headquarters to tax exempt places like the Cayman Islands.

We can do better and we Will do better.

George Bush has presided over a tax policy which has been an enormous transfer of taxpayers’ money away from ordinary Americans, to the wealthiest people in America and the largest corporations in the world. He has single handedly turned record surpluses into the largest deficits in the history of America.

We can do better and we Will do better.

The men who run the Bush Enron-style economy are not conservatives, they are reckless right wingers who know nothing about managing our taxpayers’ money, and they don’t care.

And we will do better.

We can create jobs in America but not if we keep piling up new debt. People don’t invest in countries whose balance sheet looks like Argentina’s. People don’t invest in countries where half trillion dollar deficits go on and on and on, driving down the value of our currency and raising ultimately inflation and interest rates. Let’s be clear – the Bush tax cut was not for ordinary Americans. 60% of Americans got an average tax cut of $304. The average tax cut for people who made a million dollars a year was $113,000.

We can do better and we will.

Even if the average wage earner got a few hundred dollars back, here’s what they’re paying for it. President Bush never mentions that over the next 6 years, this typical American family will take on $52,000 more in its share of the national debt. He never mentions that property taxes that his programs like No Child Left Behind have driven up, and are going to go up, hundreds of dollars, even thousands of dollars over the next 6 years.

He never mentions the strain on state budgets, the cuts for local education, the cuts for higher education. He never mentions the fact that he and his programs are responsible for cutting a half a million children off of health care, and a million adults off health insurances. Somebody pays those bills, and those bills are passed on to you in the form of higher health insurance. We can’t afford this president, and he is going back to Crawford, Texas!

43,000,000 people with no health insurance in this country? We are the last industrialized country on the face of the earth that does not have health insurance for all its people, and this President is taking us backwards not forward. The other day he blamed health insurance costs for the fact that he wasn’t creating more jobs. All right, Mr. President, let’s create universal health insurance for every man, woman and child in America, and then we’ll create some jobs in this country!

It is now clear to school boards, governors, and members of Congress that President Bush’s No Child Left Behind education program is not working. It has left every child behind, every teacher behind, every property taxpayer behind. The Secretary of Education calls the teachers’ organizations “terrorists” but the real enemies of public education are in Washington, with a Secretary of Education who presided over a school district that lied about their violence rate in school, lied about their college aspiration rates, lied about their dropout rates. We need to send them back to Crawford, Texas, and let them be left behind, and bring our public schools up to the standard we need to in this country.

As a candidate, GB promised that his models for judges would be Justices Antonin Scalia, expert duck hunter that he is, and Clarence Thomas. And unfortunately, he did keep one campaign promise, and this was it. His appointees to the courts are anti-civil rights, anti-choice, anti-consumer, anti-environment. Let’s send them back to Crawford, Texas to have a big old time in Crawford, Texas!

The President turned his back on the alliances that have helped protect America’s security for 60 years, launched a unilateral pre-emptive Iraq war whose mission, stability in that nation and greater security for Americans, remains unaccomplished. This President is not strong on defense, he has made America weaker, and he needs to go back to Crawford, Texas.

And in the process of sending our people to Iraq, he misled our citizens about the facts, something many Americans will not forgive in November. Because the biggest issue in this campaign is rapidly becoming not jobs or Iraq, it’s rapidly becoming the credibility and the believability in the President of the United States.

The President said Iraq was importing uranium from Africa. That was not true. The Vice President said Iraq was about to acquire nuclear weapons. That was not true. The Secretary of Defense said he knew just where those weapons of mass destruction were. That was not true. Too many other people in this administration now admit the evidence was not there then and it is not there now. The President of the United States said that that we are safer now that Saddam Hussein is in jail, and that isn’t true either.

The President of the United States claimed there were ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. If that was the case, maybe the President should have spent 560 American lives and 160 billion dollars going after Osama Bin Laden, because what he said about the link between Saddam Hussein and Osama wasn’t true either and he has admitted it.

The first round of television ads for this President’s re-election campaign was widely condemned for exploiting the deaths of people in the 9/11 tragedy. But what was troubling about these ads was not only the shameless exploitation of the families who lost loved ones in the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, and on those planes on 9/11 was the attempt to blame the previous administration.

This President has been in office for over 3 years. When Presidents at the end of their term blame the previous administration, they are not leading, they are running from their record, they are running from their own failures. We need a President who is a strong leader, and will stand up for what is right for America, and send this one back to Crawford, Texas.

So, we are going to win in 2004, and let me tell you how I think we can do this. In order to defeat this radical right wing, we’ve got to stand up for our principles, and not paper over differences with the most radical administration in our lifetime. In order to win, we have to aggressively expose the way that GB’s policy benefits the wealthy who are giving him his big campaign donations and forget ordinary Americans. In order to win we have to confidently advance a policy agenda rooted in hope and real American values – opportunity, integrity, community.

The first step in taking back America is to send the President back to Crawford, Texas. And I believe that we ought to do everything that we can to help John Kerry beat George W. Bush in 2004, because the truth is there is only one person who can beat George W. Bush, and that is John Kerry. And I intend to do everything that I can to send GWB back to Crawford Texas, and move John Kerry into the White House.

But that is not enough.

What you built in the state of WA and what we built all across this country is an extraordinary grassroots effort to take back America. Not just changing Presidents, but by fundamentally changing this country and changing the political process. We have to revitalize grassroots democracy, and it is not time to stop now.

Out of Dean for America, we are going to create a new enterprise. On the web today - Democracy for America, DFA, initials that our supporters know well. Democracy for America is going to be committed to some core principles.

First, we are committed to promoting strong grassroots involvement, in campaigns in democracy with ordinary citizens as candidates, donors, organizers, active participants. My campaign for the White House may have ended, but the need to take our country back for ordinary Americans is bigger than ever before.

Today half the Americans in this country don’t bother to vote. People see what the problems are, but are cynical about the system and the prospects for change. Only through DOING will people recognize the power they have to change this country. For some of you that means running for office, and we are going to be there to support you. Running for school board, for city council, for state legislature, for the US Congress. Others can participate as grassroots partners, taking a leadership role in organizing your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, to change your community, to change the state, to change the country, to change the Democratic party locally and everywhere.

Secondly, we are committed to promoting an America where candidates and officers tell the truth about fundamental policy choices, and stand up for what they believe in again. The time when politicians conceal the truth, conceal as this President did, and his administration, the true cost of the Medicare bill, for example – that time when Presidents conceal the truth about fundamental matters like war, and job creation, is over. And the President’s administration is going back to Crawford, Texas.

Third, we are committed to fighting against the influence and the agenda of the two pillars of George Bush’s Washington. On the one hand, the far right wing and their radical extremist policies. On the other hand, selfish corporate interests who for too long have dominated Washington under this administration.

Fourth, we are committed to fighting for progressive policies. We will fight for health care for all Americans just like every other industrialized country in the world has. We will fight for investment in early childhood so we can stop sending them to prison and start sending them to college. We will fight for equal rights under the law for every single American. We will demand fiscal responsibility for government so that social justice can be something that happens not just in good times but also in tough times. And we will promote a national security policy that makes America stronger by working with our allies and advancing progressive American values elsewhere in the world.

The first thing we’re going to do is take back the White House, but it doesn’t stop there. We’re going to stand with every member of Congress who supported us, at some risk to their own political careers, they had the courage and vision to stand with us in our race for the White House and we will stand with them. We have every intention of sending Tom DeLay back to Houston, Texas. And there are two open seats in Washington State, vacated by George Nethercutt, who apparently is going back into private practice in Spokane, after he finishes here, and vacated by Jennifer Dunn. We want those seats to be Democratic seats.

Next, one thing that our campaign has proved for ordinary Americans is that you do not have to be wealthy and well connected, and fund your own campaign to run for office in this country. We ran for office by getting hundreds of thousands of Americans to give us 5, 10, 15, 200, 100 dollars. We want other people to take that lesson so that ordinary people can participate, not just in the political process by giving money in small donations or voting, but by running for office. And we want to duplicate what we did for school board members, and county commissioners, and state legislators to get the right wing out of politics, out of our bedroom, and out of our wallets.

Like the Dean For America campaign, Democracy For America will maintain interactive websites where supporters can plug in, join the discussion, get involved. It won’t be the Cadillac like we had when we were running the $50 million campaign, but it’s a way of keeping us connected. We want folks at the local levels to decide what their priorities are, but we need to keep you connected with the extraordinary grassroots organizations that we have in places like Georgia, and Florida, and Pennsylvania. All over the country – California has a huge and very strong grassroots network. We can change this country together because, guess what, we STILL have the power.

We want to continue the meetups all over the country, so that we can talk to each other about what we are doing, and build our sense of community. We want all our delegates to go to the convention as Dean Delegates. So even though, I plan to endorse Senator Kerry, because we can’t fool around with this and we need him to win. But we need to stick together and look after each other, and gradually grow, and bring the set of ideals and principles that we put together in this campaign, bring that to the national Democratic party because they need to change, too.

One thing we are not going to do is reinvent the wheel. We are not going to have a high profile policy think tank because there are already good think tanks, and we are just going to use their research to help change policies. We are not going to compete for people with dollars and try to get everybody to give to every organization. There are some great organizations that are already on board that have helped us, and one of them is the Service Employees International Union. We will collaborate to promote a campaign of corporate responsibility and the ability of low income people and immigrants to organize for a better life for themselves and their children.

There is a group which some of you may know something about called 21st Century Democrats, a group of young people that coordinate grassroots efforts and train candidates all over America. We are going to collaborate with them. We are going to collaborate with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to bring organization to the forefront again, and make sure that our people have a desire to stay in the Democratic Party because this election is really critical, that we not stray to third party and independent candidates. I know it is tempting, but we cannot afford four more years of George W. Bush.

One of the things we’d like to do is encourage local organizations for Democracy For America to maintain the Deancorps campaign, which we started in Iowa. Young people haven’t voted, this time we hope that’s going to be different, because of this campaign. But young people are intimately connected with their communities, they have the highest percentage of public service and projects of any age group in the country. Because they are connected with their local communities, in Iowa we had Deancorps which simply served the community and the campaign by cleaning up streams and improving the environment, by reaching out to teachers who were taking money out of their own pockets to supply school supplies to kids in low income neighborhoods, by supporting food shelf organizations. In other words, getting involved in the community. There should not be a division for people who want to work locally and improve their communities and the political movement that we intend to maintain, Democracy for America, which ultimately will change the President of the United States.

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to meet with partners and supporters around the country, to hear their views about this new enterprise and to flesh out the details. The website’s up, 2:00 in the morning, Democracy for America, same team doing it, they started their own company, and we’re contracting with them to do all our web stuff. Other people will contract, too. When some of you I hope run for office, we’re also going to have a product called Campaign in a Box. You come to us, we’ll show you how to do it, and if we can afford it, Nicco will design your website.

Campaign finance reform is a big agenda for me, I’ve thought a lot about this. You know what the best way to do campaign finance reform is? To raise money for individual candidates in small donations, because that’s the best way of making sure those who give the big donations never have much of a say. Because if you’re dependent on hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans giving $50 bucks a whack, to fund your congressional campaign, then those special interests, when they come knocking on the door, may not like it when something goes up on the website, saying this is a key interest. Make sure your interest votes the way you ask them to when you gave them those hundreds of thousands of donations of $25 apiece. We’re going to do campaign finance reform. If Congress won’t do it, we’ll do it first, and we’ll make them do it later.

I think we can win in 2004. You know, a lot of people said our campaign was about anger; they never did quite get it right. What this campaign is about is hope. Hope for Americans. Americans really do want their country back, they want the country they believed in, a country that’s a fair country, where middle class people can make a decent living and not have to worry about how to send their kids to college. Where ordinary Americans can depend on government. Did you hear what I said, Ronald Reagan? Can Depend On Government, for basic needs of health care, and shelter, we can depend on each other. We will undo what the right wing has done. Rugged individualism was great, 100 years ago on the frontier. We are in this together, and we are responsible for each other. And we will take our community back, because this country belongs to US and Not the right wing of the Republican Party.

So, let me thank you again, you are all great, Seattle’s a….all right, we’re all great. This is a real opportunity, and we can say we started it here in Seattle. We really do have the opportunity to make this country into what we all believe it ought to be. We have the opportunity to change leaders so our leaders are as good as the extraordinary American people are. We have the power to take Washington back for ordinary Americans and make this country as great as it ought to be. Let’s make that happen.

We’re going to start today, and we’re not going to stop. And we’re not going to stop in November when John Kerry becomes the next President. We’re not going to stop when we send Tom DeLay back to Houston. We’re going to keep at it, because we know what happens in Washington, is that once they get there they get cozy. And it’s your job to make sure that never again does the Democratic Party lay down and die and stop fighting for what we believe in. Thank you very much.

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