In 2002, I was one of the "dirty fucking hippies" (as Atrios' likes to refer to us) who couldn't fathom the logic that took our nation to war in Iraq. I marched in the streets of San Francisco, wrote letters to the editor, and got more active in Democratic politics. But for months I couldn't contain the profound disappointment I had in many in my own party for enabling this gross misuse of the unifying legacy of September 11th.
Let me establish some context here. I was minimally involved in politics prior to 2000. I had volunteered here and there to register voters for various campaigns, participated with some friends in the campaigns they were involved with, but for the most part my political views were limited to the audience of my immediate family and friends.
After the 2000 election was stolen by a morally and legally bankrupt Supreme Court, I was determined to work as hard as I could to beat George Bush in 2004. I got involved, researched potential candidates. Joe Lieberman was seen as a front-runner (remember those days?). John Kerry, a war hero, was also seen as a possibility. John Edwards, a promising young senator from North Carolina, was also mentioned. Hillary Clinton was talked about, mostly by the right wing. And of course the old war horses like Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle were talked up. Then, came 2002.
A midterm primary election was waged on the ideological battleground of Iraq. For months, good Democrats were beaten up by Republicans stoking the fears of terrorism to great effect, and for months Democrats stood strong. Then something happened. One month before an election that would decide who was right on Iraq, nearly every contender for the Democratic nomination, which is to say nearly every single putative leader of our party, voted with the President, and with the Republicans, to send us into Iraq.
I was despondent. How could a party fight against the insidious use of fear by Republicans when, after being the victim of such vicious attacks, the leaders of that party conceded the very point? How could we be so spineless. And anybody who disagreed with this woefully misinformed decision was labeled a traitor, un-American, unpatriotic, a "dirty fucking hippie", and, most offensive of all, unsupportive of our brave fighting men and women.
Then a voice emerged from the wilderness. I attended the 2003 California Democratic Party Convention hoping to parse the candidates words and find the one candidate I could support without vomiting. I happened to be on the floor when a little-known governor of Vermont was being introduced by the Chair, Art Torres. Some friends who were following the campaign handed me a sign and pulled me down to the front row. After his introduction, Governor Howard Dean skipped over the pleasantries and said the words heard round the nation:
WHAT I WANT TO KNOW.....WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS WHAT IN THE WORLD SO MANY DEMOCRATS ARE DOING SUPPORTING THE PRESIDENT'S UNILATERAL INTERVENTION IN IRAQ
So, on this day, when speeches opposing the complicity of certain Democratic leaders in George Bush's blunder in Iraq are being denigrated by those whose experience wasn't worth a damn on that October day in 2003, let us remember the power of words to inspire. Not just to make us feel good, not just to give us hope, but to urge us to ACTION to take our country back!
The time has come to remember how we got here. Though Gov. Dean's historic people-powered campaign was destroyed by the McAuliffe's and the Shrum's and the Wolfson's of the world, a movement was born that reverberated in November of 2006, is reverberating now with the success of Sen. Obama, and will reverberate in November like an earthquake to grind into dust the corruption and the sleaze and the spinelessness that permeates Washington, DC.