Today Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, named by the Des Moines Register as the frontrunner of the ten candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is beginning his “Raise the Roots Tour,” a four-day, seven-city trip during which Dean will court the votes of college and high school students. He will be visiting such cities as Charleston, S.C.; Seattle, Wash.; Iowa City, Iowa and Keene, N.H.
Dean spoke to several college newspapers in a conference call yesterday in which he emphasized the role of college students in the political system.
“A lot of people have asked me why is this campaign catching on with people your age,” he said. “What we are bringing to this country is a set of principles and a set of hopes that we can do better and we will do better.”
Dean was critical of the Bush administration for the current state of the economy, often identifying President George W. Bush’s benefactors, including Ken Lay of Enron, as those who benefit most from Bush’s tax cuts. Dean supports the full repeal of those tax cuts and encouraging renewable energy sources, broadband communication and altering trade agreements to encourage economic growth.
“I think that one of the biggest issues for your generation is the same as it is for everybody else: jobs, financial security. [Bush] said that we would not pass the problems of this generation onto the next generation. That is obviously not true. What he’s done with a half-trillion dollars of national debt is only going to get bigger.”
Dean also discussed his stance on better ways to ameliorate the increased tuition costs of higher education. Dean said that extending Americorps and relieving some state-funded programs, such as special education, with federal funding would help students pay for college tuition. Last March, Cornell increased the annual tuition of in-state residents by $1,360.
“My real interest in higher education is in doing things better, in restoring [aid] rather than cutting [it],” Dean said. “My particular interest is Americorps. I’m really interested in giving a service option to kids, particularly in high school, that’s going to help them pay for college education and teach them about what other people in America are like.”
Dean was also critical of President Bush’s stance on affirmative action, which he claimed was divisive.
“When the president used the word ‘quota’ to describe the University of Michigan affirmative action program, it wasn’t just that he didn’t like the University of Michigan affirmative action code,” he said. “Quotas, as every pollster in America knows, is a word that is designed to appeal to the fear that members of the minority community will take [somebody’s] job.”
“I see Dean doing to the Democratic Party pretty much what Ronald Reagan did to the Republican Party,” said Peter S. Cohl ’04, president of Students for Dean. “Reagan was the person whom the Democrats thought had no chance, that he was too conservative. Now Republicans are saying that Dean has no chance, that he is too liberal.”
Cohl noted that Dean’s galvanizing effect on voters, particularly college students, was because “Democrats want to be Democrats again. Democrats were tired of being Republican-like.”
Dean, who rose to prominence largely because of his antiwar stance, was critical of Bush’s foreign policy.
“We want a government … that’s going to treat other governments honorably, so we can be proud to be Americans when we go abroad,” he said. “The president does not understand defense and he’s not particularly strong on defense either. He’s about to allow North Korea to become a nuclear power because he won’t sit down and talk with [Kim] because he doesn’t like him. I think it’s time for petulance not to be the driving force of American foreign policy.”
Tim Lim ’06, president of the Cornell Democrats, noted that Dean is currently the frontrunner but that there are other strong candidates in the primary as well.
“I think that the addition of [former Gen. Wesley] Clark really changed the race; his leadership qualities, Army experience, the fact that he’s a Southerner and the fact that he can repute a lot of Bush’s statements makes him a strong candidate,” Lim said. “[John] Kerry definitely has the support of a lot of Democrats. He’s got a stable and big organization. I think now he has to distance himself from other candidates and I think he has a really good chance in the Northeast and Midwest and even the South. Clark’s military background will hurt him, though. [Dick] Gephardt — one word sums it up, labor. That’s been distancing Gephardt from the other campaigns.”
Dean has raised approximately $14.8 million for the third fundraising quarter, largely from small donors using the Internet. Dean was upbeat about the role of college students in the political process.
“The capacity for hard work, particularly among your generation, is extraordinary,” he said. “I have to say, it’s a lot better than it was when I was your age.”
Archived article by David Hillis