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Joshua Koenig Endorses Howard Dean

I Want My Country Back

May 2003

I've been looking long and hard at the Democratic field for 2004 over the past three months, and I've come to the conclusion that Howard Dean is the man to back this time around. He is the breath of fresh air that this country needs, and he has the fire and drive to actually take the general election.

This space will feature Dean links and updates every week or so highlighting what I think is newsworthy or worth knowing about his candidacy. For starters, here's an explanation of why I'm a supporter.

Right now the biggest issue facing the Democrats is their lack of an active platform and critical deficiency spine. There are a few bright ideas floating around, but they're hardly communicated in an agenda-setting or energetic way. Partly this is because of a hostile media environment, and partly it's because Team Bush managed to extract such political capital from 9-11 and the subsequent wars, but it seems to me this is mainly because the Democrats lack visionary leadership. They've been largely reactive since the 1994 GOP "Contract With America" barnstorm, picking off ideas here, dodging to the center-right there, but pretty much relinquishing their decades-long affiliation with progress and big ideas.

This is a problem.

While what originally attracted me to Dean was his strident anti-war stance, what's kept me interested is his commitment to policy that makes sense and his driving, personable style. While he's clearly got to put on some polish before the primaries, I really think the former Vermont Governor is a diamond in the rough.

Dean hit all the right notes on the war, as far as I'm concerned: case not made, too many diplomatic bridges burned, too much money spent, dangerous preemptive precedent set, not effective at reducing terror, outcome for the Iraqi people uncertain. These are all the concerns that I had with the unilateral intervention in Iraq, but no one with any kind of national political stature was willing to talk about. I began digging deeper. I watched the California Democratic Convention video on cspan (zoom to minute 24). I read through the campaign site, and a few unofficials. I found some articles. I saw that beyond "getting it" on the war -- and having the fortitude to say it loud and proud -- Dean was far more than a one hit wonder.

He's not part of the political establishment, not a darling child of the ineffectual Democratic Leadership Committee, but he's by no means a far-left starry-eyed idealist. He believes in balancing the budget. He believes in providing health care as a moral imperative. He believes in responsible foreign policy, not global bullying. He realizes that the federal government can't make all the decisions, but that it can lead the way (e.g. national recognition of civil unions).

Most of all he makes the message sing. He gives a voice to all the frustration we've been feeling over the past two years. He's the only one out there saying, "This is bullshit! We can do better!" He wants to take America forward, out of the fundamentalist, jingoistic, divisive darkness that the Bush Administration has laid upon us all.

Dean can get the job done, too. His stewardship is the reason that Vermont has one of today's few functioning state economies (details). When he took over they were deep in debt. 12 years later, when nearly every other state is running in the red, Ben and Jerry country is sitting pretty. His policies make sense. He's a strong center-leftist with a sense of moral purpose. I like to think of him as the first internet-era candidate: all about transparency, participation.

People have talked about how a Dean candidacy could be a rerun of George McGovern's loss to Tricky Dick Nixon. This is a false analogy, mostly based on an uninformed reading of Dean's anti-war stance. The war in Iraq, at least in the eyes of the public, is over. The Democratic party, while not very healthy, is not in a state of implosion. This will not be 1972 redux. People are excited about Dean in ways they've not been excited since Bobby Kennedy was running. His message will resonate with average Americans, even Republicans: fiscal responsibility, social progress, a truly united nation.

Without Dean however, 2004 could very well be 2000 redux: a bland centrist Democrat loses to the charismatic Republican in a squeaker. Take your pick of Gephardt, Kerry, Leiberman; do they really seem like the kind of characters that can excite the base and swing voters away from Bush? Kerry's supposed to be hot because of his military experience, but I haven't heard him beat Bush over the head with it once. Mostly he looks cranky and in need of a nap. Gephardt seems like a nice guy, but nice guys from the Midwest don't win national elections -- though as my roommate (a St. Louis Native) pointed out, racist theocratic brutes can be appointed Attorney General. Leiberman? Does anyone think Holy Joe can stand up to Team Bush's attack dogs?

Howard Dean is the one who's pointing out the elephant in the corner: this country is headed in the wrong direction, and we have some very big problems, and if we don't turn it around those problems are going to get a lot worse. It's time we took our country back. Howard Dean is the leader we need to accomplish that task. I'm supporting him not only because I like his policies and his personality, but because he seems to be the only candidate who can go toe-to-toe with the Team Bush media machine in a national election. It's time the Democrats hewed to the ethos, grew some spine and started standing up for what's right in America. Dean can lead the way.

Get Involved
Official Campaign Website, where you can sign up for campaign alerts, make a donation. I kicked his campaign $25 last month, and might do it again in the summer. If enough little people put the price of one night at the bar in his campaign chest, it will make a huge difference.

Dean Meetups: This is the netroots activism you've all been hearing about. Meetup.com is a neat little venture, designed to allow people to start building local community. As of this writing over 23,000 people have signed up to take part in Dean meetups. There is probably one in your area. If not, start one and see what happens. People gather on the first Wednesday of the month. Go!

If you've got questions, I may have answers. Ask.

Thanks to Frank Robbins and deminVA for editorial support.

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Trips in Space and Time 8/02/03

Big Wheels in Berkeley
I scored a set of west-coast wheels today at the Ashby BART station flea market. It's a very tall schwinn road bike, black, deceptively heavy but smooth-riding. Thirty-five dollars to boot. I oiled and cleaned the works, dialed in the bakes and took it out for a shake-down cruise immediately. Nice riding on a beautiful saturday, realizing how out of shape I am as I wheezed my way though the hilly area behind the Berkeley campus.

After about an hour I started to get the swing of it. Made some minor mechanical adjustments (including a free wheel truing at the bike collective on Shattuck), drank a few liters of water and started finding my groove, cruising up and around and ending up with a beautiful view of the whole bay. The roads here are not kind to the speed inclined -- too many stop signs and crosswalks and lights -- but it was good to get out and proj for a while. This changes my summer dramatically.

...older trips...


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