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COLUMN

The Howard Dean Appeal

Joseph Duncan

Earlier this year when I first read of Howard Dean on an online discussion board, I had mixed emotions about his candidacy. On the one hand, reading his policy statements gave me hope for a better America; a country that lived up to its founding ideals of freedom and justice for all, not just a select few, a country that was again in the hands of everyday Americans, a country that once again invoked friendly responses from foreign nationals, a country that was all of these things and more. Balancing this, however, was my deep cynicism built on recent history in American politics. Would Dean just be another McCain and lose the primary to the “party’s candidate”? Even worse, would he successfully win the primary and then lose like Dukakis? Despite these doubts, the potential I saw in Dean inspired me to co-found MIT for Dean, a student group dedicated to promoting his presidential candidacy. Over the last six months I have steadily become more confident that Dean can in fact change the shape of American politics and win in 2004. Here are my reasons why.

Despite the extreme liberal light that most media outlets seem to be painting him in right now, Dean is a moderate. He does not support further federal gun control. Any additional gun restrictions would be unique to situations in different states; therefore they should retain the right to decide on any such legislation individually. He supports returning the power to create tailored and appropriate education policies to the states instead of mandating nationwide standards and then utterly failing to fund them.

Dean’s stance on gun control is essentially a Republican ideal and has already earned him an “A” rating from the NRA. This goes a long way toward winning what can often be single-issue states in middle America. His education policy and general philosophy of returning power to the states is perfectly aligned with traditional Republican ideals. Add to this his absolute priority of balancing the budget and it is easy to understand why groups like Republicans for Dean (http://republicansfordean.blogspot.com/) are sprouting up all over the country.

Moving away from these truly moderate policies, Dean has liberal viewpoints in all the policy areas that matter. He supports granting civil union rights to same-sex couples who have long been denied this basic equality. He wants to provide health care for all Americans, thus fixing the moral disgrace that is the 41 million Americans currently unable to access this basic liberty. He took a stance (sadly regarded as a liberal one) in opposition to the war in Iraq right from the beginning, demanding that the Bush administration successfully pursue multilateral solutions on all issues of worldwide importance. All of the other leading Democratic candidates either voted to authorize President Bush to go to war or have stated they would have had they been in a position to vote. Dean’s health care plan will cost less than one third of Bush’s tax cuts. How many Americans would rather have health care guaranteed for all even if it cost the entirety of Bush’s tax cuts? It’s also worth noting that the yearly cost is roughly equivalent to the $87B requested by the Bush administration to continue operations in Iraq.

Dean does not appear as an extreme left candidate within the ever growing group of Democratic nominee hopefuls now that all the other major candidates have changed their positions on the critical issues mentioned above. Since Dean’s entrance into the race, all major Democratic candidates now support a form of universal health care, the claim that the war in Iraq was wrong, and civil unions for same-sex couples.

If Dean’s liberal policies are shared by all the candidates then why is he the best guy for the job? There are two parts to the answer for that question. The short one is that Dean’s particular implementation proposals across the board are better thought out and more likely to materialize. More importantly though, Dean, while maintaining the ability to campaign to moderate voters, has by far the largest capacity to motivate the 50% of Americans who have either stopped voting completely, or began voting for third party candidates, to vote in 2004. The incredible progress of the Dean campaign, beginning with Internet discussions and grassroots meeting, has utterly dominated all other campaigns to this point. In March of this year, polling in New Hampshire placed Dean at 11 percent, behind Kerry (38 percent) and Lieberman (20 percent). By late August, Dean had shot ahead to 38%, 21 points ahead of Kerry and 32 points ahead of Lieberman. His campaign has attracted a previously unheard of volume of donations with an average donation well under $100.

Dean’s exceptional record as governor of Vermont is further evidence that it’s not all just talk. During his 12-year tenure, he managed to cut taxes at the same time as creating a substantial budget surplus that has survived to leave Vermont as only one of two states still in the black. Simultaneously, he implemented policy guaranteeing health care to all Vermont residents under the age of 18 and led the country in granting the right to civil unions for same-sex couples.

Howard Dean has the ability to capture moderate swing voters. He has the power to motivate everyday Americans to take their country back. He has the skills and experience necessary to run America. The 5,000 supporters at his rally in Boston on Tuesday experienced firsthand why Howard Dean will be the next President of the United States when he said, “With mouse pads, shoe leather and hope, we are building an American community strong enough to take on the power of money in politics and deliver the White House to its rightful owners -- We the People.”

Joseph Duncan ’04 is president of the MIT for Dean student group.