I wrote nearly twelve months ago in this space about the importance of building progressive strength in 2004 and beyond. A year later, progressives have hope in the decade ahead, thanks in part to Howard Dean.
Dean’s new book, You Have the Power, is an eloquent attack on Bush’s failed record. At its core, however, is Dean’s belief that progressives must look beyond November 2nd to achieve a progressive majority.
For starters, tactics matter, argues Dean. “By…establishing a permanent election-to-election presence on the American political scene through think-tanks, foundations, and grassroots organizations,” Dean writes, the radical right has achieved political power. Extremists can be beat at their own game, though.
“We need to…have a permanent campaign, which is what the Republicans have done for the last twenty years,” Dean recently argued in a Mother Jones‘ interview, a belief echoed powerfully in his book. After Election Day, progressives can take one month off “and then everybody’s got to get back to work.”
While Dean has endorsed John Kerry–and is traveling around the country drumming up support for his former rival–he recognizes that victory in this election means the defeat of the right, not the triumph of a progressive movement. Dean understands that no matter what happens next month, it is vital to continue to coordinate, organize and build the infrastructure to drive progressive ideals into the political debate and electoral arena.
In addition to publishing this excellent primer, Dean’s new political action group, “Democracy for America” (DFA), is on its way to becoming a central station for progressive action across the country, finding and supporting the next generation of progressive leaders from school boards to Capitol Hill and, most importantly, inspiring members of what the late Senator Paul Wellstone liked to call “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”
DFA’s candidates–called “Dean’s Dozens“–receive donations and volunteer assistance through DFA’s efforts online and on the ground. And Dean’s endorsement should not be underestimated; as one Georgia Democrat running for Congress put it, it “jump-started my campaign.”