By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Surely, many thought, this was hard evidence of the depth of undercounted Dean strength. Students, young people with cell phones off the radar of the polls that were showing Dean’s slippage, were registering in droves and preparing to stand for their insurgent candidate.
A full hour before the doors of the university’s cavernous Memorial Union opened, there was indeed a six-deep throng of Dean supporters waiting to get in. By the time a leather-clad Joan Jett performed “I Don’t Give A Damn About My Reputation,” the fire marshals had declared the hall was at capacity. A Dean staffer asked the orange-hatted Perfect Storm volunteers to “make one more sacrifice” and exit to a spillover room nearby.
From the press bleachers at the back of the event, straining under the weight of a battery of cameras and reporters, the crowd seemed to number about 1,500 — an awesome number in such a small state on a night with a wind chill factor of minus ten.
Howard Dean, fresh from his visit earlier in the day with Jimmy Carter, was buoyant, smiling and grinning and high-fiving the sweater-clad Tom Harkin by his side. The young crowd — at least compared to the platinum-haired standards of Iowa — and amply warmed up by a rocking Jett set, playfully chanted, “We Want Dean! We Want Dean!” and throatily roared its approval to yet one more rendition of Dean’s combative stump speech.
The electric atmosphere was palpable. You could stand on the floor of that event and look up at the gesticulating Dean, the mosaic of wall posters from the SEIU, AFSCME and the painters union — which have all endorsed Dean — and soak up the vibes and the energy, and convince yourself that this was not a campaign but a movement. And a movement that was bursting with potential to reconfigure American politics.
Is That All There Is? Bush runs out of policy and hews to a narrow political attack. By Harold Meyerson
And maybe part, or even most, of that reverie was arguably true. Yet to convince yourself of that notion, you had to avoid a whole series of other much more uncomfortable thoughts: that politics is the art of building coalitions, and that moral righteousness and certitude are no substitute for the hard work of outreach and persuasion. The concept of a Dean-like campaign is an inspiring one, even though this time its reality, and certainly its candidate, can be deeply flawed. And that on a much more mundane level, Howard Dean’s poll numbers have consistently run in the 20 percent to 25 percent range over the last number of months. Those weren’t bad numbers for a former Vermont governor who a year ago wasn’t as much as a statistical bleep, and they certainly indicated that his campaign from out of nowhere was a striking symptom of something or another. But what about that other three-quarters of the Democratic voters? How did the Deanies think they might be inclined?
Part of the answer was unfolding 100 miles to the west in the capital of Des Moines. Unbeknownst to the 1,500 Dean supporters rallying in Iowa City, and at virtually the same hour, John Kerry, with the very conventional Ted Kennedy on his flank, were concluding their own closeout campaign event. And the crowd was twice as big as Dean’s.