Because the World of Kos still doesn’t begin when people arrive here and because it is now about year eleven of this particular adventure, I want to review what I remember about the beginning.
It all began for me, not with Howard Dean’s speech to the California State Democratic Convention on March 15, 2003, which, living as I was in Georgia, I obviously didn’t attend, but with his subsequent appearance on C-SPAN, of which I was an avid watcher back then.
They replayed snippets and I was impressed. I too wanted to know what Dean was asking. So, I went looking for an address, I suppose so I could write him. What I remember is that there was no web site and definitely no blog. It’s my guess Dean for America was up and running and the blog had gotten underway by the time I met him in person in Dover, New Hampshire. He blocked my mom’s wheel chair with his foot, so it wouldn’t roll down the drive while we introduced ourselves.
His speech in Dover was a watered down version of his spiel and, of course, ended with an ask for donations. I suspect the phenomenal success of the blog garnering millions in a matter of days had not yet taken off. But the Dean community on the blog was steadily growing, so much so that the instigators spun off. At least, that’s how I remember the genesis of Kos, where I signed up, on November 2, 2003, but didn’t much blog at first. That was probably about the height of the Dean campaign and I know had me nattering about a candidate peaking too soon.
The last rally I attended in Rye, where Scott Brown now resides on the other side of the tracks, was a circus. The refurbished hotel Wentworth was swarming with hucksters and the rope line was chaotic. I kept my distance and tried to generate some interest in souvenir plates.
Before I go on with the demise of the campaign, quite minutely recorded on Hannah Blog, which went live just as 2003 wound down (the first post was on New Year’s Eve), let me just address part of Dean’s Sacramento speech because, while it was totally convincing at the time, there are now points of disagreement.
What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President’s unilateral intervention in Iraq?
No disagreement there. In fact, that contained Barack Obama’s ticket to the U.S. Senate and Obama was, indeed, the first candidate endorsed by Democracy for America after it transitioned from candidate into grass roots mode. That Barack Obama never reciprocated fully should not, IMHO, be held against him. Dean is an inspiration, but his managerial skills are not the best and he’s not a particularly good judge of managerial talent either (one reason his presidential campaign crashed).
What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts, which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States?
We now know that the country cannot be bankrupted and the deficit is actually a desideratum for his former colleagues on Wall Street, because that’s where the bong clippers get their unearned income. Lending dollars back to the Treasury, instead of sending them back as taxes, is a two-fer. Not paying taxes to the states on that income makes it a three-fer. So, the answer to that question was/is that politicians of all stripes cater to the cats in finance, sustaining the fiction that’s where the power lies.
What I want to know is why the Congress is fighting over the Patient’s Bill of Rights? The Patient’s Bill of Rights is a good bill, but not one more person gets health insurance and it’s not 5 cents cheaper.
That was a valid question, up to a point, and Dean can be credited with putting health insurance for all on the agenda. But, note there’s no mention of Medicare for all or even a public option and “5 cents cheaper” is a tell. Howard Dean, true to his roots on Wall Street, is a cheap skate. It’s what kept both Blog for America and Democracy for American from being all they could be. Basically, Dean refused to spend what’s necessary for good IT. The internet nerds that bailed were smart. But, what’s really instructive, IMHO, about the less than successful Dean on the internet endeavor is that being cheap leads to wasteful spending. Joe Trippi spent foolishly on foofaraw because Dean was too cheap to spend on IT.
We all appreciated that Dean wouldn’t sell his email list, as other politicians and propagandists and commercial enterprises routinely do, but what I came to suspect was that position grew more out of a desire to hoard what he’d amassed, rather than out of respect for the people who had flocked to his side. Supporters were to be milked, not given their head. Which is why, unlike Dailykos, Blog for America is now as good as dead. And Democracy for America is reduced to sponsoring candidates with whom it shares its list, hoping the dollars keep pouring in. Act Blue has got even that better organized, as Dean himself eventually realized.
Finally (aren’t you glad?)
What I want to know is why so many folks in Congress are voting for the President’s Education Bill– “The No School Board Left Standing Bill”– the largest unfunded mandate in the history of our educational system!
See, there it is again, the implication that were it funded, “No Child Left Behind” would be just fine. Along with a rather Republican emphasis on local control. What we now know is that the absence of funding, of revenue sharing by Washington, is exactly the vehicle on which privatization arrives. Now we know that the answer to that question lies in the fact that the “folks in Congress” are keen to control “our educational system” without spending any money directly. Rather, they prefer their corporate cronies to do it for a profit, so they won’t be blamed when it fails. Howard Dean himself was/is not a populist.
Anyway, to get back to the history, much of which, as I already mentioned, can be found on Hannah Blog, a truly non-commercial, non-data-collecting venture: after the Dean campaign for the presidency collapsed in the snows of New Hampshire, the grass roots still assembled on his blog scored a significant win for democracy. For, it was there that it was determined the Dean agenda should be salvaged by promoting his installation at the DNC. And that was accomplished by swaying the delegates to the National Convention to do their own thing, rather than follow the directives of the political leadership, and install Howard Dean to head it up. And that’s how the eventual election of Barack Obama was not destined, but engineered. Principle won out over personal power and it did so right through the election of 2008.
In the interim, I just want to note, New Hampshire sent two Democrats to Congress in 2006, both largely supported by the grass roots, again in opposition to the leadership. Indeed, we had to tell Nancy Pelosi to refrain from endorsing the establishment candidate in the primary. She did, to her credit, stay out of the state and our insurgent, Carol Shea-Porter, got fifty percent of the votes in a field of four and then went on to replace the incumbent Republican in November. Then, re-elected in 2008, our Congresswoman helped shepherd the ACA through Congress, only to be sent home in 2010 because the Kochs had taken umbrage with her stand on coal. But, after she had a well-deserved rest, we sent Carol back to Washington in 2012 and plan on doing so again this time around. Carol Shea-Porter, the Congresswoman who focuses on votes, not dollars. (The first primary cost $35,000. Of course, an electoral win will never be that cheap again. But, we can afford it. The Affordable Care Act is worth whatever it takes).
Congress is up next. Never mind the presidential contenders. 2015 will be soon enough to start thinking about them.
So, just in case you missed it, that’s the point of this little history. Campaigns, like candidates, need to avoid peaking too early and being cheap. Money is for spending and don’t you forget it.