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This in itself is a fairly profound connection to have perceived no other Democratic candidate has advanced any ideas at all, really, on ways to counter the enormous imbalance of resources that otherwise threatens to dominate the general election and the interesting thing, even so far in advance of the election, is the possibility that this approach might actually succeed. In late June, at a rally for him at UCLA following his appearance at an environmental forum there a rally that has been put together in two days by Bruins for Dean and, even with a last-minute time change, has managed to produce a gathering of 600 Dean asks how many people in the crowd are newcomers to political participation, and about half the group, by no means all of them students, raise their hands.
The great majority of contributions that have come in over the Dean Web site are in amounts of $100 or less, indicating and many of the voluminous blogs linked to the site confirm it that they come from people who arent in the habit of giving to political campaigns. I am black, reads an entry accompanied by a thermometer graphic showing the progress of the bloggers commitment to contribute $25 per pay period. I am 28 years old. I am a college graduate and a single mother in Washington, D.C. According to stereotypes, statistics and polls I am not supposed to be interested in politics or our nations future [the Field Poll, for example, has identified the typical Dean supporter as a white, liberal man] . . . But I made a determination to get involved when I heard Bush refer to the millions of American citizens who protested the war as a focus group and said he would not listen to them. Well, I intend to make sure he hears me loud and clear on Election Day . . .
Sleepless Summer Tour in Seattle,
August 24: Forty Thousand people in
six cities and more
than $1 million raised
Photo by John Pettit
Back at the Santa Monica house party, Dean brings up the matter which is, needless to say, more than a little controversial in this crowd of his stance on gun control. Im not a member of the NRA, he says, but Ive got a 100 percent rating from them, and heres why . . . He explains that during his years in hunting-and-fishing Vermont, hes come to believe that aside from the three national laws that ought to be allowed to stand the Brady Bill, the assault-weapons ban, and mandatory gun-show checks further gun regulation is an area best left to state and local governments. His reasoning is that there are such different cultures for and problems with weapons in different areas of the country that a one-size-fits-all policy isnt practical.
Unspoken is the likelihood that this view will make several of his other positions the need for greatly expanded national health insurance, his solidity on affirmative action more palatable, even persuasive, in parts of the country and among voters who might otherwise be less receptive to them. Dean likes to say he feels perfectly comfortable talking to middle-aged white guys with gun racks and Confederate decals on their trucks, because their kids dont have health insurance either. But the truth is, once a commonality has been established, other opinions, even when they widely differ from your own, tend to seem more legitimate. (In Vermont, Dean explains on another occasion, hes been able to rope the NRA into helping with land preservation: They understand that if theres no habitat, they cant hunt.) And that reasoning, which is not exactly unknown to the business dealings of many of the people in the room, seems to resonate quietly, and to calm them.
Another area in which Deans regular-guy persona has proved useful and he does have a true knack for presenting radical ideas as if they were just plain common sense has been the fallout from Vermonts Civil Unions Act, the legislation required by the state Supreme Courts 1999ruling that gay couples are entitled to the same benefits as married heterosexuals. As governor, Dean signed the law in April of 2000 (although with insufficient ceremony in the view of some of its advocates), and he talks with a certain obligatory piousness about his decision to do so, given the fact that the measure could have gone into effect without his signature how, knowing it was a risk, he went ahead anyway: What is the point of politics if you cant occasionally take a chance on something worthwhile? But in reality, what probably turned the tide of public opinion was the matter-of-fact emphasis on garden-variety civil rights with which he continues to discuss the need for the legislation, pointing out the discrimination imposed by tax codes and inheritance laws, the absurdity of hospital regulations permitting decisions about care from ones sister or aunt but not ones partner, and so on, until he has made the conditions that prevailed before its passage seem virtually un-American.