Monday, February 09, 2004

Still the One
So I am happily hacking away on this morning's blog entry at 9:00 when my phone rings. It's my wife, who works downtown. "Dean's going to be at the Concourse Hotel at 9:30," she says. "I saw people out front holding signs." My calendar is light today, so I save, log off, and head out.

If you've been to any presidential candidate appearances or seen one on TV, you know that candidates like to be seen in front of a backdrop of supporters. What you might not know is that these backdrops are not randomly selected. Campaign staffers make sure the backdrop looks like America--different races, different ages, both genders represented, union people, guys in ties, etc. And at this morning's event, representing the balding, fat, and scruffy, me--in the back of four rows on the stage, over Dean's left shoulder as seen on TV. (I thought it was weird that the union people I saw all seemed to be SEIU. I wondered where the AFSCME people were. It wasn't until I got home that I learned they've withdrawn their endorsement from Dean. Ouch.)

This is the first time I've seen Dean in person, but I've seen him enough on TV to know that he was a bit subdued this morning. He found a rhythm after a while, but as speeches go, I wouldn't call it a barnburner. He invoked the names of Wisconsin's progressive heroes (LaFollette, Proxmire, Feingold) and criticized his opponents as Washington insiders who supported Bush on the war, on tax cuts, on education, while he was the only candidate who stood up against Bush "when it was right, not just when it is popular." He took questions from the audience before wrapping up with a poignant pledge to restore the sense of community that he believes has been lost in the United States. Then they fired up the music and the event was over. I had to smile at the choice of song--"Still the One" by Orleans, one of my favorite songs--but one that was also a bit ironic under the circumstances: We've been together since way back when/Sometimes I never want to see you again. . . .

Then Dean shook some hands (including mine), and he was gone.

After that, a reporter who identified himself only as a member of the national press corps asked my impressions, and I said that I think all of us can read the polls and we know Dean has an uphill fight--but I also said that I was convinced, after hearing him speak, that he's the right candidate for the office. I believed it last summer when I decided he was the only Democrat I could support, and I still believe it now.

"Would you support John Kerry if he got the nomination?" Absolutely. We've got to beat Bush.

"But you just said Dean was the only one you could support." Well, politics is the art of the possible, and last summer, it was possible that Dean could become the nominee. But if the nominee is going to be someone else, he will be the only possible candidate that could beat Bush, and I would support him.

So Dean's appearance has confirmed the way I was leaning. I'll vote for him a week from tomorrow, just as I have planned to do since last summer. Rather than making some kind of compromised or expedient choice, I've decided that it's better to go down believing in something.

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