Howard Dean for Coolest Guy in Democratic Politics

I was 21 in 2004, and it was the first election I was eligible to vote for President in. I had come into the political life largely motivated by my opposition to the Iraq War and climate change. Even so, I never really got to vote in the Democratic Primaries. I went back and forth between candidates anyway. Howard Dean was the leader in the polls, and he seemed to speak to my issues best, but I had doubts about him winning. John Kerry had the profile, and seemed prepared, but didn’t excite the base. Joe Lieberman was yesterday’s news, and John Edwards seemed like tomorrow’s. Dick Gephardt never quite caught fire with me. If I ever did “settle” on a candidate in that election, it was Wes Clark, who felt like he had a little bit of everything going, but Pennsylvania voted well after John Kerry had locked up the nomination, so I never got as into that primary as I would later get into the 2008 race.

When I think back on that race, I now always wish that I would have been an unequivocal Dean guy- he really was the candidate speaking to my issues. I got caught up in the questions about his general election electability, and if a candidate as unequivocally anti-Iraq as I was could be elected. In other words, I feel like I got conned out of voting for the candidate I wanted in my first Presidential election, sort of. It’s worth noting that John Kerry was already the apparent nominee by the time I got to vote, so I guess it’s not as big of a deal.

Howard Dean came to Bethlehem yesterday though to speak on the behalf of Hillary Clinton at her office opening there. He was great. He was funny, motivating, and seemed really genuine in interacting with the crowd. He conversed with people there, during his speech even, and actually seemed to be having a fun time. He even seemed to like the hot dogs they gave him when he arrived, which makes him a braver man than I. He stayed and took pictures with literally the entire 300 person crowd after, in groups and individually. The guy is definitely a crowd pleaser. What struck me most though about Dean? The guy got in his own car at the end and drove himself away- I’ve never seen that from a major surrogate before. I realize that Dean, like most national political figures, is not truly “every man,” but he is definitely at least attempting it.

I must confess that I don’t truly “like” most major political figures, I just like their plans and positions, but in the case of Howard Dean, I actually like the guy. Maybe it’s his fighter persona, maybe it’s just that he was an underdog figure, I don’t know. I just know that I like the guy, and kind of want to hit re-wind to 2004 now.

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