Howard Dean's "bottom line"

Ending his presidential bid, Dean vows continued grass-roots efforts: "I will support the nominee of our party. We must beat George W. Bush in November, whatever it takes."

By Salon Staff
February 19, 2004 3:05AM (UTC)
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My thanks to all of you who got this crowd together in about three hours' notice. I appreciate that very much. And my thanks to an awful lot of people.

But my particular thanks to Vermont. I started this two years ago -- and I see Governor Kunin is here in the crowd, so I'm going to tell a story that she's going to appreciate in particular, but all of you will, because it's a local story.


The first thing I ever did is I went down to a chamber of commerce meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I was invited down. So I went down with a few brochures in my back pocket. And I got down there and gave the speech, and then they asked questions, as they do at rotaries. It's a lot like going to a rotary or chamber here.

And the last question was somebody who got up and said this. They said, Well, Governor, you have a great business climate in Vermont. It's just terrific. And the one here in New Hampshire stinks. Can you send your people down here to tell us what to do? I thought you'd like that.

That's an inside joke for those of you who are from Vermont. We love to hear people talk about New Hampshire that way.


Well, actually, I did pretty well in New Hampshire.

We did have a -- have had a real record of achievement in this state: creating jobs, providing health insurance, investing in children, balancing budgets. And I said when I left the governor's office that if the rest of this country were like Vermont this country would be much better off.

And what we set out to do was make the rest of the country more like Vermont. And so far we haven't succeeded, but we have a long way to go. What we did show is that by standing up and telling the truth and not worrying about polls and focus groups, you could actually get support in this country from voters.


We started the campaign office in Burlington. There are an awful lot of people -- and some of you should raise your hands -- who drove up here, unrequested, unknowing; showed up, no salary. Finally, we grew into you and we were able to pay you a little something. But we really appreciate people from all over the country, particularly young people. One quarter of all our people who gave us money were under 30 years old in this campaign. I have not seen that happen since I was under 30 years old, and that was a long time ago.

This has been a campaign that has been extraordinarily different. The new approach, planting seeds on the Internet, strengthening grass roots, face-to-face obtaining support from hundreds of thousands of small donors, all these steps can revitalize our democracy and return power to ordinary Americans. All of us have done these things together. We have exposed the dangerous, radical nature of George W. Bush's agenda. We have demonstrated to other Democrats that it is a far better strategy to stand up against the right-wing agenda of George W. Bush than it is to cooperate with it. We have led this party back to considering what its heart and soul is, although there is a lot of work left to do.


I am very proud of all of you and very grateful to all of you for your extraordinary hard work. To the staff who've worked exceptionally hard, very long hours -- worse than mine, sometimes ... for all of you who traveled around the country, showed up at our office, worked around the clock, because they believed in what we were doing, thousands of Americans who have given generously of their time, in their states, because they believed in our cause.

I want to particularly thank all our congressional supporters, many of whom signed on with us when we were an asterisk in the polls, because they believed that it was the right thing to do for their country. There are people in Washington who are going to do the right thing in this party: stand up and be recognized and stand up for what's right with America, instead of being poll-driven. And believe me, we are going to support those people in September. And in November. September, if they have a primary, and then in November.

I want to thank the Service Employees International Union and the Painters. They stuck with me ... They stood with us when the others abandoned us and I am forever grateful to those people in the labor movement who stood up for what was right and not what was popular.


I want to thank all the state and local officials who stood with us, many of them, like Governor Kunin and others, who went to other states for us to represent us all over America.

I want to thank the Dean's List. These are the big donors. We didn't have a lot of big donors, but the ones that we had signed on with us when we were nowhere. We were an asterisk in the polls. They did not do what the establishment of the Democratic Party did. They followed their hearts and stood up for what was right, and they changed this party, too.

I want to thank the 300,000 small donors that decided that they wanted their country back. And we are now in the process of taking our country back thanks to you.


I want to thank all the people in every state who heard our message and supported us. And I, of course, finally and most importantly want to thank my wonderful wife, who finally, after 12 years, made her political debut in Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire.

I also ... [audience chants: "Judy! Judy! Judy!"] I also want to thank Judy for at least promoting the debate that's needed to happen in this country for a long time about whether a woman needs to gaze adoringly at her husband or follow her own career. [Applause]. Now I lost my place. [Laughter.]

I am no longer actively pursuing the presidency. We will, however, continue to build a new organization, using our enormous grass-roots network, to continue the effort to transform the Democratic Party and to change our country. And I ... And speaking to all of you and all of the hundreds of thousands of people around America who are going to get this word, either by the establishment media ... or the Internet, I have some things that I specifically want to ask of our supporters.

First, keep active in the primary. Sending delegates to the convention only continues to energize our party. Fight on in the caucuses. We are on the ballots. Use your network to send progressive delegates to the convention in Boston. We are not going away. We are staying together, unified -- all of us.


Secondly, Dean for America will be converted into a new grass-roots organization. We need everybody to stay involved. We are -- as we always have -- going to look at what you had to say about which directions we ought to be going in, and what we ought to continue to do together. We are determined to keep this entire organization as vibrant as it has been through this campaign. There are a lot of ways to make change. We are leaving one track, but we are going on another track that will take back America for ordinary people again.

Third, there have been a lot of people who have decided to run for office locally as a result of this campaign. We want to encourage you out there in the grass-roots effort, run for office, support candidates like you who run for office, and we will use this enormous organization to support you as you run so we will change the face of democracy so that it represents ordinary Americans once again; government that will not be bought and sold.

Let me be clear, I will not run as an independent or third-party candidate and I urge my supporters not to be tempted to support any effort by another candidate. The bottom line is that we must beat George W. Bush in November, whatever it takes.

I will support the nominee of our party. I will do everything I can to beat George W. Bush. I urge you to do the same. But we will not be above in this organization letting our nominee know that we expect them to adhere to the standards that this organization has set for decency, honesty, integrity and standing up for ordinary American working people.


[Audience: "Take back Congress!"]

Well, we're going to take back Congress, but we're going to take the White House, too.

[Audience: "We still believe, Howard!"]

Believe in yourself and we're all together, we can believe in ourselves. Let me just say something to the younger folks here -- those of us who do not have my hair color -- one of the advantages of age -- and they're less than I thought there were when I was 25 ... is that you get to see things come around a second or third time. And one of the things that I realized a long time ago is that change is very difficult. There is enormous institutional resistance to change in this country. We have seen that in this campaign as we literally terrified people sitting in their salons in Georgetown that they might have to look for work someplace else if we ever won.


It is natural for people to resist, but it is also inevitable that we will win. Change is difficult. You cannot expect people with great privileges taken at the expense of ordinary working people to surrender them lightly. But the history of humanity is that determined people will overcome obstacles. And we will overcome the problems that this country is facing as a result of George W. Bush and as a result of a Washington establishment that has forgotten who sent them there.

Some of you who have been on the road with me or have seen the speeches have heard this before, but it's true. We have been here before in this country. When William McKinley was president, enormous trusts were put together which made it impossible for ordinary Americans to start their own business, make any money without enormous pressure from those trusts, which destroyed their business. Teddy Roosevelt came along, busted up the trusts and made it possible to earn a living for ordinary Americans and small businesses again. Under Harding and Coolidge and Hoover, Calvin Coolidge said, The business of America is business, but forgot that human beings are not meant to be cogs in an enormous government corporate machine; that we are spiritual people who need connections and have to have community again. Franklin Roosevelt came along and took America back for ordinary working people again.

My favorite, however, is this one. In 1824, John Quincy Adams, the son of a one-term president, John Adams ... [laughter] beat Andrew Jackson of Tennessee in an election where Andrew Jackson received more votes. It was decided in Congress by one vote, electing John Quincy Adams as president. In 1828, four years later, John Quincy Adams became the one-term son of a one-term president.

Change is hard work. Change does not happen simply because you go to a rally and simply because you make phone calls -- and I know how hard everybody here has worked. But change is a process that you can never give up on because change is the state of America and change is the state of humankind.

So we will continue to fight. This is the end of phase one of this fight, but the fight will go on, and we will be together in that fight. We will continue to bring our message of hope and change to the American people.

We will speak out. We will fight on. We will continue to stand up against the dangerous foreign policy which weakens our security, and stand up against this president who weakens our civil rights.

We will continue to stand up against special interests that prevent change. And we will stand for America's working families for jobs and health care, investment in our children, the chance of all Americans to pursue their dreams.

We will continue to stand up against the divisive policies of the far right. We will no longer be divided by race. We will no longer be divided by gender. We will no longer be divided by sexual orientation. We will no longer be divided by religion. We will no longer be divided by income. And we will no longer be divided by George W. Bush in the White House.

And now that the campaign is stopped, I'm going to say something that all of you have heard me say before. But I want you to think about it now because now is the most important time that you have heard it. And this is the real message of this campaign and you'll hear it in a different way because I am no longer a candidate. The biggest lie that people like me tell people like you at election time is that, If you vote for me, I'll solve your problems. The truth is the power is in your hands, not mine. s

Abraham Lincoln said that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this Earth. You have the power to take back the Democratic Party and make us stand up for what's right again. Allow us to fulfill the dream of Harry Truman in 1948 that he laid out where we would no longer be the last industrial country on the face of the Earth without health insurance. Allow us to stand up again for the rights to organize for ordinary men and women. Allow us to stand again for the principles of equal rights under the law for every single American.

You have the power to take our country back so that the flag of the United States of America no longer is the exclusive property of John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Falwell; that it belongs to all of us again.

And together we have the power to take back in the White House in 2004 and that is exactly what we're going to do. Thank you very much.

Salon Staff

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