Posted by: emjb | December 8, 2004

“If this election had been decided on moral values, Democrats would have won.”

I was going to send out an email today talking about such gripping topics as the weather (rainy!) and my mood (cranky!) but you know, there’s always time for that.

Instead, let me share something you won’t be hearing from our president: a coherent, inspirational speech that gives you some hope for a better future. This is a speech Howard Dean gave to Democratic party leaders today (courtesy of Especially of interest is his encounter with an evangelical Christian at the end. I’ve edited this for space; the full text of the speech is at Democracy for America’s website.

I’ll soon be back to my regular griping, never fear.

Four years ago, the President won 49 percent of the vote. The Republican Party treated it like it was a mandate, and we let them get away with it.

Fifty one percent is not a mandate either. And this time we’re not going to let them get away with it.

Here in Washington, it seems that after every losing election, there’s a consensus reached among decision-makers in the Democratic Party that the way to win is to be more like Republicans. I suppose you could call that a philosophy: if you didn’t beat ’em, join them.

I’m not one for making predictions — but if we accept that philosophy this time around, another Democrat will be standing here in four years giving this same speech. We cannot win by being “Republican-lite.” We’ve tried it; it doesn’t work. The question is not whether we move left or right. It’s not about our direction. What we need to start focusing on is the destination.

People in places that we’ve too long ignored are hungry for an alternative; they’re hungry for new ideas and new candidates, and they’re willing to elect Democrats. There are no red states or blue states, just American states. People will vote for Democratic candidates in Texas, and Alabama, and Utah if we knock on their door, introduce ourselves, and tell them what we believe.

(Our) destination is a better, stronger, smarter, safer, healthier America. An America where we don’t turn our back on our own people.That’s the America we can only build with conviction. When some people say we should change direction, in essence they are arguing that our basic or guiding principles can be altered or modified.They can’t.

On issue after issue, we are where the majority of the American people are.What I want to know is at what point did it become a radical notion to stand up for what we believe? Over fifty years ago, Harry Truman said, “We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing. And we don’t need to try it.” Yet here we are still making the same mistakes.

Let me tell you something: there’s only one thing Republican power brokers want more than for us to lurch to the left — and that’s for us to lurch to the right. What they fear most is that we may really begin fighting for what we believe — the fiscally responsible, socially progressive values for which Democrats have always stood and fought.

I’ll give this to Republicans. They know the America they want. They want a government so small that, in the words of one prominent Republican, it can be drowned in a bathtub. They want a government that runs big deficits, but is small enough to fit into your bedroom. They want a government that is of, by, and for their special interest friends.They want a government that preaches compassion but practices division. They want wealth rewarded over work. And they are willing to use any means to get there.

In going from record surpluses to record deficits, the Republican Party has relinquished the mantle of fiscal responsibility. And now they’re talking about borrowing another $2 trillion to take benefits away from our Senior Citizens.

In going from record job creation to record job loss, they have abandoned the mantle of economic responsibility.

In cutting health care, education, and community policing programs… and in failing to invest in America’s inner cities, or distressed rural communities… they certainly have no desire to even claim the mantle of social responsibility.

In their refusal to embrace real electoral reform or conduct the business in government in the light of day, they are hardly the model of civic responsibility. In their willingness to change the rules so that their indicted leaders can stay in power, they have even given up any claim on personal responsibility.

And in starting an international conflict based on misleading information, I believe they have abdicated America’s moral responsibility, as well.

There is a Party of fiscal responsibility… economic responsibility…. social responsibility… civic responsibility… personal responsibility… and moral responsibility. It’s the Democratic Party.

We need to be able to say strongly, firmly, and proudly what we believe. Because we are what we believe.

And we believe every person in America should have access to affordable health care. It is wrong that we remain the only industrialized nation in the world that does not assure health care for all of its citizens.

We believe the path to a better future goes directly through our public schools. I have nothing against private schools, parochial schools and home schooling. Parents with the means and inclination should choose whatever they believe is best for their children. But those choices must never come at the expense of what has been — and must always be — the great equalizer in our society — public education.

We believe that if you put in a lifetime of work, you have earned a retirement of dignity — not one that is put at risk by your government or unethical business practices.

The first time our nation balanced its budget, it was Andrew Jackson, father of the Democratic Party, who did it. The last time our nation balanced its budget, it was Bill Clinton who did it. I did it every year as Governor. Democrats believe in fiscal responsibility and we’re the only ones who have delivered it.

We believe that every single American has a voice and that it should be heard in the halls of power everyday. And it most certainly must be heard on Election Day. Democracies around the world look to us as a model. How can we be worthy of their aspirations when we haven’t done enough to guarantee accurate elections for our own citizens?

We believe in a strong and secure America… And we believe we will be stronger by having a moral foreign policy.

We need to embrace real political reform — because only real reform will pry government from the grasp of the special interests who have made a mockery of reform and progress for far too long.

The pundits have said that this election was decided on the issue of moral values. I don’t believe that. It is a moral value to provide health care. It is a moral value to educate our young people. The sense of community that comes from full participation in our Democracy is a moral value. Honesty is a moral value. If this election had been decided on moral values, Democrats would have won.

A little while back, at a fundraiser, a woman came up to me. She identified herself as an evangelical Christian from Texas. I asked her what you are all wondering — why was she supporting me. She said there were two reasons. The first was that she had a child who had polycystic kidney disease, and that that illness made it impossible for their family to get health care.

The second thing she said was, “The other reason we’re with you is because evangelical Christians are people of deep conviction, and you’re a person of deep conviction. I may not agree with you on everything, but what we want more than anything else from our government is that when something happens to our family or something happens to our country — it’s that the people in office have deep conviction.”

We are what we believe. And the American people know it.

And I believe that over the next two… four… ten years…

Election by election…

State by state…

Precinct by precinct…

Door by door…

Vote by vote…

We’re going to lift our Party up…

And we’re going to take this country back for the people who built it.


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