You Have the Power: How to Take Back Our Country and Restore Democracy in America

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9780743291491: You Have the Power: How to Take Back Our Country and Restore Democracy in America

If you are worried about the way America is being governed and want to reclaim the country you know and love, now is the time to take it back. Governor Howard Dean argues that you have the power to change the future course of America.

You Have the Power is an energetic and detailed guide to restoring American democracy. It exposes the radical extremism of today's "mainstream" Republicans and shows Democrats how to be Democrats again. By reigniting hope, by tapping into the energy and ideals of the American people, Dean writes, the Democrats can restore America's strength and standing at home and abroad.

Drawing on his experience in the 2004 presidential election and the hope and inspiration of the people he met on the campaign trail, Dean shows how real people -- ordinary Americans like himself -- can come together to take their party, the political process, and their country back.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Governor Howard Dean is a physician who previously shared a medical practice with his wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg. He became governor of Vermont in 1991 and served until 2003. He campaigned for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election and served as honorary chairman of Democracy for America, an organization dedicated to building a grassroots network for the Democratic Party. He is currently the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two daughters.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PREFACE: FROM DFA TO THE DNC

Election Days are always tense affairs, and Tuesday, November 2, 2004, was no different. I had ended my own campaign for the presidency nine months earlier, but in the weeks that followed, I had devoted myself to barnstorming the country on behalf of John Kerry and scores of other candidates who shared our vision for a fiscally responsible, socially progressive America.

I've been through several Election Days when my own name was on the ballot, and once the voting begins, there's a feeling of powerlessness -- you've done all you can do, and now it is in the hands of others. Even with the radio interviews and get-out-the-vote calls I was making, this day felt the same way, especially given that I had early-voted in Burlington the week before.

I settled into my office at Democracy for America, the grassroots organization that had grown out of the Dean for America campaign, and began engaging in gossip that runs rampant every Election Day. "What are you hearing?" "Record turnout in Philadelphia?" "Some irregularities in Ohio?" "Long lines at the polls in southern Florida." From these disparate tea leaves, you try to divine the mood of 120 million voters and get a sense of what things will look like when the polls close.

By two p.m., we had our first real information -- preliminary exit polling information from the battleground states. Exit polling data comes from the National Election Pool, a consortium of television networks and the Associated Press, and the information is distributed to those sources and other paid subscribers, all of whom have pledged not to divulge it or discuss it until polls have closed.

Inevitably, the data leaks out, and when it got into our hands, this was what we saw:

Kerry, up by one in Florida. Up by one in Ohio. Up by nine in Pennsylvania. Up by five in Wisconsin. Up by four in Michigan. Up huge in Minnesota. Down two in Nevada. Up two in New Mexico. Down two in North Carolina. Up seven in Colorado.

If these numbers held up, and that was a big "if," we were looking at a landslide.

News outlets were seeing these numbers, too. Though experience has taught us that exit polls are not to be trusted entirely, news organizations still use early exit polls to get an idea which way their coverage is going to go later.

Several news outlets, feeling that John Kerry was on the verge of unseating George W. Bush, wanted to talk to me about my feelings concerning the election, what I thought I had contributed and what it would mean for America. I agreed to go on NBC News, which sent a private jet to fly me down from Burlington to their New York studios.

On the flight, Tom McMahon, the executive director of Democracy for America, Laura Gross, my communications director, and I began playing the quintessential political parlor game, asking ourselves, if Kerry won, who would he nominate to be in his cabinet? Would he ask me? Would he tackle the issue of health care -- one of my signature campaign issues -- right away?

After we had landed at Teterboro Airport and were waiting for a car to take us into Manhattan, a flight attendant from another plane came up to me and asked how things were looking.

"Good. Really, really good," I replied.

She handed me a bottle of champagne that I imagine was left over from one of her flights. "This is for later."

I thanked her and held the bottle of champagne. I don't drink, but I felt like we might be able to put it to good use.

In the car on the way to the studio, I called my family and told them things were looking up. By the time we got to the city, we were seeing four p.m. exit polling numbers, which looked as good as, if not better than, those we had seen earlier. I called my family members again to tell them what we were hearing. At NBC's studios, I did a whirlwind series of interviews. I talked about the campaign, and about how I felt the election would be a referendum on President Bush's leadership on both foreign policy and the economy. I couldn't help mentioning that things were looking good for Kerry.

However, as the evening wore on and polls closed across America and the vote count (rather than exit polls) started to come in, things began to look not nearly as good for Democrats across the country.

Florida, Ohio, and Iowa started trending toward Bush. By about eleven p.m., the folks at NBC told me they wouldn't need my commentary anymore. They didn't need someone to talk about the reemergence of the Democratic Party. It wasn't looking like we had reemerged.

Rather than fly home right away, I decided to swing by a party being sponsored by Democracy for New York and several other progressive organizations. I tried to stay upbeat for them, telling them that we were still waiting for results from Ohio, and congratulating them on the work they had done to ensure what would later prove to be a record Democratic turnout. But reality was beginning to settle in.

The flight home was much more subdued. I sat and reflected on all that had happened in the past year: A campaign that was, to many, a quixotic quest when it began had grown into a national movement, one that continued after my own campaign ended. I talked with Tom about what would be next for Democracy for America -- the organization that had grown out of my campaign. I thought about what would be next for me.

When we got off the plane, we learned that Ohio had been called for Bush. I dropped Tom and Laura off at the office and headed home.

The next morning, back at the DFA headquarters, people were telling me that there had been voting irregularities in Ohio and elsewhere. They bucked me up by showing me that several members of the "Dean Dozen" -- progressive candidates our organization supported outside of traditionally Democratic areas -- had won. Still, we had lost the main event.

The days after the election brought a series of predictable recriminations: Where had Democrats gone wrong? What if John Kerry had run a different campaign? Immediately, some people began saying that in order to win, the Democratic Party needed to move more to the center -- that we needed to be more like Republicans. Equally vocal were those who felt that the election had been decided on the issue of moral values.

I felt that we had tried being "Republican-lite," and it didn't work at all. My experience on the campaign trail and the victories I was seeing from some of the Dean Dozen candidates showed that people in so-called red states were hungry for an alternative, and hungry for candidates who were willing to stand up for their beliefs. Over fifty years ago, Harry Truman said of the Democratic Party, "We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing. And we don't need to try it."

As for the issue of moral values, I thought we were letting one question in an exit poll drive the entire Democratic Party into a panic. After all, the American people are more in agreement with our definition of moral values than they are with the persistent Republican invasion of personal privacy.

Beyond that, we seem to have forgotten somewhere that it is a moral value to provide health care. It is a moral value to educate our young people. The sense of community that comes from full participation in our democracy is a moral value. It is a moral value to make sure that we do not leave our own debts to be paid by the next generation. Honesty is a moral value. And yet these values appear to be absent in today's Republican establishment. Instead, they stand for little more than deficits, divisiveness, and deceit. We didn't need to change our values. We needed to start standing up for them.

Even before the election, I had talked sporadically with friends, family, and advisers about what would be next for me if John Kerry didn't win. One of the possibilities that kept coming up was my running for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. At the time, my reaction was "absolutely not."

As a governor, I had seen the DNC as little more than an organization dedicated to electing a president, one that had long neglected cultivating the state and local candidates who would form the foundation of a strong party for generations to come. When I was a candidate for president, my interaction with the DNC was even more frustrating -- it seemed like a bastion of Washington-based consultants who had no interest in hearing what I was saying, much less supporting what I was doing. Did I really want to lead a party that I loved but had been at war with for over a year?

Besides that, there was a lot of resistance within Democracy for America to my even thinking about running for DNC chair. A lot of our followers didn't consider themselves Democrats or have any particular love for the establishment of the Democratic Party.

Finally, I felt that the Democratic Party needed the type of overhaul that couldn't be accomplished from the top down, no matter who was at the top.

I had friends -- both among DFA supporters and within the labor movement -- who wanted me to consider starting a third party. They noted that my campaign had been a movement that went far beyond me; after my campaign ended, Dean for America supporters had set up Democracy for America organizations in just about every state. These people were active, energized, and ready to bring about real change in American politics. Again, I looked to them for leadership.

What I saw was that instead of abandoning the Democratic Party, DFA members began working within the Democratic Party to bring the bottom-up change that I had been talking about.

The first time I saw this was on a trip to northern California, where, along with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, I met with several DFA California activists. They told me that they had been going to California Democratic Party meetings and getting resolutions passed. I hate to say it, but I initially threw a bit of cold water on their work. I told them not to waste their time on internal fights. They didn't listen to me, and I'm glad they didn't. California's Democratic Par...

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