I spent this afternoon (it took a surprisingly long time — pretty much the whole afternoon) writing this letter. What do you think?
You may remember one of the things we talked about was wooing Dean supporters, and that I believe it would be harmless for Kerry to sing Dean's praises. It could make a very big difference for him to turn all of those depressed, weary Dean supporters, each worth a single grudging vote, back into active, enthusiastic volunteers.
The way to do it is to appeal to their sense of empowerment. Empowerment is what drew most people to Dean; it was a stronger draw than the issues. Most Dean supporters disagreed with Dean on a few of his positions, but they didn't mind because Dean told them they had a voice. Everyone felt like they could really have an impact on the country. That is what Kerry must get across.
The theme of empowerment can carry over to his platform. I think if Kerry were to talk about ideas for opening up government and engaging citizens in dialogue with the White House, that would excite a lot of Dean supporters and voters in general. Putting this all together, I imagine he could stir up a great deal of support by saying something like the following. I'd like to know what you think, and if you like these ideas, please pass them on to people who might be able to influence what he talks about, if you can. Thanks!
"I respect Howard Dean, and I want to thank him for reviving the debate in this country. We've had our differences in the past, but what's more important are the things we have in common with each other. We both want affordable healthcare, a well- funded education system, and a fair tax system. We both believe that all Americans should enjoy equal rights regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. And we both believe in rejoining the international community and working together with other nations to ensure the safety and security of our people.
"But there is something else I want to tell you about. Howard Dean and his campaign have taught me something very important. He said it, and now I will say it, because we all know it is true: You Have The Power.
"I know what you're thinking. He took Dean's line! (laugh) Well, yes, that is Howard Dean's line. But you know why i'm saying it? Because — he is right.
"The government of this country must listen to its people. And the government of this country must be held accountable to its people. And the people of this country need to believe in that.
"The people of this country want a President who is strong enough to stand up for ordinary Americans, stand up against the special interests and the corporate control of politics. A President who is not too arrogant to listen to his own people. A President who recognizes that the People have the Power.
"As President, I will start a comprehensive program to open up government and bring citizens into the governing process. This program will have three parts:
- First, we will help the government listen. President Bush is living the politics of the past. He would rather be ignorant of what the people are thinking and saying. But the Democratic party realizes that there is a tremendous change happening right now. The Internet is connecting people like never before, people are getting involved like never before, and so many more people are talking, learning, and listening. But right now, the government is left out of this conversation. We have a great opportunity here. We can use technology to bring people into the process and give them a voice in a way they have never had before. Today White House staffers read e-mail messages one by one, and all you might get is a form letter or no response at all. We can and must do much better than that.
- Second, we will make government more open. Future politicians will find it much harder to engage in the kind of deception we have seen in the current administration. Projects like Vote Smart are a great step in this direction. We must keep doing better. As President, I will support nonpartisan efforts to provide better information about the decisions we make in government and how they are made. And I don't just mean more information, I mean better information.
- Third, we will ensure that voters are enfranchised. This means reviewing election procedures and equipment and making them reliable and verifiable. It also means protecting elections from manipulation, and finding better ways for voting systems to represent people's wishes. It is a disgrace that our system forces people to vote for candidates they don't like, and that gerrymandering renders votes meaningless. As President, I will take steps to make sure every vote counts and that votes continue to count even after I leave office.
"The power of Dean's campaign, and the power of every campaign, lies in its people. Now I am telling you: you have the power to change this government, take it back from the special interests, and make it a government of the people, by the people, and for the people once again. This campaign is ready to listen to you, and starting next year, we will make a government that listens to you.
"We are going to do something extraordinary this summer and fall, everyone. We are going to give the American people a reason to get involved and be proud of their country's government again.
"All of us are going to have to work together, and work very hard. I want to thank you, for how hard you have worked and how far you have brought us so far. But I'm sure you all know that there is so much ahead of us, so much more to do. Every single one of you can make a difference. Host meetings; talk to your friends; visit my website at johnkerry.com to organize your own events and groups. Use your power, and we will win. Thank you very much."