Dean supporters continue working for the cause

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(Host) Howard Dean’s supporters aren’t ready to give up. They want to carry on the campaign by making their movement a force for change inside and outside the Democratic Party.

Volunteers met recently in Montpelier, and VPR’s John Dillon was there:

(Dillon) It was a bittersweet meeting in Montpelier for the Dean volunteers. Their candidate had won the Vermont primary, his first win after 17 defeats. But the win came two weeks after Dean withdrew from the race.

Greg Hysman, Dean’s Washington County-co chairman, led the group in a victory toast of sparkling cider.

(Hysman) “Never forget the power we have had individually and collectively. Our guy is not going to be running to Washington, but don’t yourself for a moment think that we did not energize people, we did not get people involved and that we did not make a change, no matter how small, it was a baby step in the right direction.”

(Dillon) Before his campaign collapsed, Dean did change presidential politics. He raised $50 million, much of it in small donations. He drew about 760,000 people to his campaign. Now Dean wants to harness that movement and form a new political organization.

But its mission is unclear. At the Montpelier meeting, the crowd brainstorms ideas as volunteer Andrea Stander tries to write them all down on a huge roll of paper.

“Along the lines of empowerment, one of the things I really appreciated about the campaign is the fact that we became the special interest.”
“Did you get that last one? I wanted to add one more piece. I ran out of paper.”

(Dillon) The Dean campaign has distributed a questionnaire seeking input. The suggestions this night range from the light-hearted – one person says to put the party back in politics – to the serious. There’s a long discussion about the need for honesty in politics.

“My thought is finding candidates and showing candidates how to be out of that usual mode that they think they need to be in to attract votes.”

(Dillon) Dean was in Washington last week, trying to find money and support for his new movement. He’s hinted that it could serve as a Democratic watchdog that makes sure the party doesn’t stray from its core values.

R.D. Eno, a Dean supporter from Cabot, says the movement could bring change to the party in the same way that conservative Republicans forced their party to move right four decades ago.

(Eno) “The structure of his organization holds tremendous promise. If we can stay within the party and work within the party, work for Democratic candidates, Democratic causes, Democratic issues, continue to organize, continue to raise money and keep ourselves visible as an organization within the Democratic Party, the party will know who we are and what contributions we’ve made.”

(Dillon) Howard Dean will unveil his plans for the new political organization next week. He plans to go on a cross-country speaking tour to raise support for the new movement.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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