Guest Column

Howard Dean's Acceptance Speech as Chairman of the DNC.

As received by HispanicVista
February 12, 2005

If you told me one year ago that I'd be standing here today, as your choice for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, I wouldn't have believed you. And neither would have a lot of other people.

But let me say that standing here with the opportunity to lead this party, is a great honor.

I am thankful.

I am humbled.

And I'm ready to get to work.

This was the first race for DNC chairman truly driven by the grassroots of this party. And so, I want you to know this is not my chairmanship, this is our chairmanship.

You have given me an enormous responsibility. But it is a responsibility we share.

We can change this party, but only by working together and competing in all 50 states. We can change this party, but only by working together and becoming a national party again. We can change this party, but only by working together at the local level.

If we want to win nationally, we have to win locally.

With your help, I am certain that today will not mark the end of the process of selecting a DNC chair. Today will be the beginning of the reemergence of the Democratic Party.

We have a lot of work to do.

But we have a bright future, exemplified by the other candidates who joined me in this race. They are all great Democrats.

I want to thank Terry McAuliffe. He has given this party so much. Not to mention every waking day of the past four years as our Chairman.

He has also given us something else -- a party in strong financial shape, with the infrastructure to meet the challenges of the future. That is no small gift. Thank you, Terry McAuliffe.

I also want to thank my family. I wouldn't be here without their support, or their belief in a more fair and just America.

I especially want to thank my wife, Judy, for her patience and her love. She's here with me today.

We all know that we're the party of the big tent and new ideas.

We know that we're the party for young Americans looking for a government that speaks to them, we know that we're the party for working Americans desperate for a government that looks out for them, and we know that we're the party for older Americans and veterans and members of the Armed Services expecting and deserving a government that honors them.

And we know that no matter where you live or who you are, what you look like or how you worship, ours is the diverse party that welcomes you.

But right now, as important as all of that is, it is not enough. We have to move forward. We cannot win if all we are is against the current President.

Republicans wandered around in the political wilderness for 40 years before they took back Congress. But the reason we lost control is that we forgot why we were entrusted with control to begin with.

The American people can't afford to wait for 40 years for us to put Washington back to work for them.

It can't take us that long.

And it won't take us that long, not if we stand up for what we believe in, organize at the local level, and recognize that this party's strength doesn't come from the consultants down, it comes from grassroots up.

The first thing we have to do is stand up for what we believe in.

This week, the Republicans introduced a $2.5 trillion budget that deliberately conceals the cost of their fiscal recklessness.

Their budget doesn't account for the cost of the war in Iraq, or privatizing Social Security. It cuts education, children's health, veterans benefits, and community policing.

As far as I'm concerned, this budget does only two things:

It brings Enron-style accounting to our nation's capital.

And it demonstrates what Americans are beginning to see: Republicans cannot be trusted with your money.

The Republicans know the America they want, and they are not afraid to use any means to get there.

But there is something that this Administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe -- the fiscally responsible, socially progressive values for which Democrats have always stood and fought.

Because we are what we believe.

We Democrats believe in fiscal responsibility and we're the only ones who have delivered it.

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. Democratic governors do it every single year.

Not one Republican President has balanced the budget in almost 40 years. Borrow and spend. Borrow and spend. Borrow and spend. Americans cannot trust the Republicans with their money.

Americans want a strong and smart national security.

It was Democrats who pushed to create a Department of Homeland Security. It was Democrats who pushed to make our airlines safer. It is Democrats who are now working to make sure we close the remaining gaps in our security. It was Democrats who demanded reform of the intelligence community.

And it is Democrats who are pushing for a foreign policy that honestly deals with the threats of today, and the threats of tomorrow -- like securing the nuclear materials around the world.

Republicans had to be dragged kicking and screaming to our side on all of these issues. There is no reason for Democrats to be defensive on national defense.

We believe that a good job is the foundation of a strong family, a strong community, and a strong country. We're going to work to create good high-paying jobs here in America, and we're going to keep good high paying jobs here in America.

And there is no reason for us to apologize for being willing to stand up for our belief that Americans who get up and go to work everyday have the right to join a union.

We believe every American 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, particularly our children

We believe the path to a better future goes directly through our public schools.

We believe that every single American has a voice and that it should be heard in the halls of power every day. And most importantly, it ought to be heard by guaranteeing an open and fair vote on Election Day.

And finally, we believe that a lifetime of work earns you a retirement of dignity. We won't let that be put at risk by leaders who continually invent false crises to justify policies that don't work, in this case, borrowing from our children and shredding our country's social safety net in the process.

The President's plan for Social Security does nothing to guarantee Social Security's future. But it will cut benefits and cost an estimated 2 trillion dollars. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, we will have to borrow 4.5 trillion dollars to finance the privatization of Social Security in the first 20 years alone.

Let me give you a sense of how much money that is. There are 118 million people under the age of 30 in America today. That means borrowing nearly $45,000 in each of their names.

That's a legacy of debt our children don't deserve.

Social Security is one of the proudest achievements of the Democratic Party, and we don't intend to let it fall victim to a dishonest scheme that only serves to heap greater debt on America's young people.

We need to set the agenda. And we're going to work with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and our Democratic governors and local elected officials to do just that.

I met with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid this past week, and we are looking forward to standing together in the battles ahead.

We're all going to need to be united. And we're going to need to be organized.

Really organized.

That means we frame the issues; Republicans will not tell America what our agenda is. We will do that.

Organizing means raising money not only from big donors but small contributors, not only through dinners and telephone solicitations and direct mail, but also through the Internet and person-to-person outreach.

Organizing means transforming us into a party that can communicate with its supporters and with all Americans.

Politics is at its best when we create and inspire a sense of community. The tools that were in part pioneered in my campaign -- like blogs and Meetups and most importantly, community building -- are just a start.

We are going to use all of the power and potential of technology as part of an aggressive outreach to meet and include voters, to work with your state parties, and to get our message out.

We cannot run 18 state presidential campaigns and expect to win.

You all know we have a strategy for every state and territory. It's very simple. Show up.

People will vote for Democratic candidates in Texas, and Utah, and West Virginia if we knock on their door, introduce ourselves and tell them what we believe. That's what organization allows us to do.

But all of the ideas and organization in the world won't matter if people don't see our ideas as relevant to them, or the political process as connected to them.

So, third, we are going to recognize that our strength lies at the grassroots.

If we are to take our country back for everyday working Americans, Democrats will have to match or exceed the Republicans' ability to motivate voters.

You might find this hard to believe, but I'm not much of a zen person. But I've found that the path to power, oddly enough, is to trust others with it. That means putting the power where the voters are.

That is something Republicans will never understand.

But we do.

Standing up for our beliefs, organizing, and transforming our party into a grassroots organization that can win in all 50 states: That's how we will rebuild the Democratic Party.

We will rebuild our party because only we are the party of reform. Republicans can stop progress, but only Democrats can start it again.

And we will rebuild our party because our greatest strength is something the Republicans can and will never match -- the diversity represented in this room.

Look around -- we look like America. We are America. Republicans stop progress, but only Democrats start it.

It's going to take a lot of work. And I'm going to be asking a lot of all of you. It is not my chairmanship; it is ours.

Election by election. State by state. Precinct by precinct. Door by door. Vote by vote.

We're going to take this country back for the people who built it.