What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 12, 2005

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been

Back in the summer of 2003 I first became aware of Howard Dean via MoveOn.org's straw poll to choose a Democratic candidate to support in the 2004 Presidential Election (I made perhaps the only New Year's resolution I have ever kept in January 2003 to volunteer for the eventual Democratic Presidential candidate in the next election). At that time, MoveOn said that they would support a candidate if one could get a majority vote from its membership. I initially voted for Dennis Kucinich as I understood him to be progressive, while having serious reservations about his backing of a woman's choice to control her reproduction system since he had until very recently been anti-choice. I also was concerned at the time that cosmetically speaking, Kucinich didn't seem to be the kind of person who many would pull the lever for.

Dean had a strong showing in that first poll which led me to look into him a little deeper. When I did, I liked what I saw. I found myself agreeing with his stands on most issues, but almost more importantly, I found myself getting caught up in the buzz surrounding Dean -- it was infectious. By the time MoveOn ran a second, runoff poll, I was in Dean's camp. Dean came close to achieving a majority in the second poll but fell a little short of winning.

By July 2003, I was starting to visit Blog for America and had just missed the Pittsburgh meetup for that month. By August, Dean was splashed all over the cover of Time and Newsweek and I attended my first meetup. The Pittsburgh August meetup was like a revival meeting and I found myself volunteering to help out with the group's website. I got a call the day after that meeting to create a flyer for gay outreach and before I knew it, I was on the website committee, going to house parties, donating money and chosen to be on the local Steering Committee. In October, I got the chance to shake Howard Dean's hand at a big downtown fundraiser and I was so jazzed it took me hours to go to sleep that night.

At this point, I must back up a bit. While I have had a lifelong interest in politics and have voted in every election, I had never before volunteered for a campaign. I have never been shy about expressing my political views (even as a child), but I never went that next step to active participation in the process. But after the 2000 election, something broke within me. I could not understand how the country could let it come down to a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court.

I became radicalized.

9/11 only made things worse for me. Having lived for 15 years in Manhattan, the attack still seems inconceivable to me. I was fielding frantic calls from friends (one whose husband was in NYC that day and who we feared at the time was in a train under the towers when they started to collapse -- fortunately, the trains had already been stopped by then). I remember trying to reach my sister who worked a block from the White House by phone (an all day process). I remember the calls to and from friends in NYC the next day. I also remember the call from my mother on 9/11 who told me before the plane crashed in PA that my brother (who worked at 911) had enough warning about it to call his wife and have her pull their kids out of school while it was still flying over our state.

I obsessed on the attack and on the Bush Administration's response to it in the weeks and months after. I spent long hours online trying to get at the truth and saw clips of Bush sitting in the school on the morning of September 11th doing nothing long before Michael Moore immortalized those moments on film. I spent equally long hours online cataloging this administration's attempts to dismantle the Constitution in the name of "security" which eventually led me to MoveOn.org and then to Dean.

So when I discovered Howard Dean with his plain talk against a war in Iraq and his message that we could "take back our country," I was more then primed to jump in and help.

From August 2003 through March 2004, I gave many hours to doing whatever I could to help Dean win the nomination. I met many wonderful people who I'm still friends with. When Dean pulled out, like many of my fellow Deaniacs, I mourned the loss. I railed against the unfair coverage of "the scream" and the positioning of Dean in the media as some big joke. And, like many, I joined the local Kerry grassroots group (while still maintaining my DfA membership).

We all know how the story goes from here: Kerry lost and, as unbelievable as it was to imagine before November 2004, Bush is back for four moron years.

There was another thing that I could not foresee on Election Day 2004, however. That was the resurrection of Howard Dean. By December of 2004, Dean meetups which had been consistently growing smaller in attendance took a big upswing in new members and in the return of old members. People had not given up on trying to "take our country back."

In January, Howard Dean officially announced his candidacy for DNC Chairmanship. There were many naysayers from the beginning. They repeated the "Dean Scream." They repeated that Dean was "crazy"...or "a joke"...or "too far to the Left."

But Howard did what Howard does best: he spoke openly and honestly to the electorate. He reminded them that he had the skill set needed for the position (ability to mobilize people, to successfully fundraise, and an understanding of the need for a 50 state strategy).

And this time, it was his distracters and fellow candidates who fell by the wayside.

This time, it looks like the best man will win.

So on this morning when the DNC members will vote for their new chair, I will let out a phrase that I haven't repeated for quite some time now:


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