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Back in 2002 I was a dissatisfied middle-aged Democrat. I was still angry over what I saw (and still see) as a right-wing coup d'etat in the 2000 election and the atrocious Supreme Court case that facilitated it. I was deeply dissatisfied with the quality of Democratic leadership in this country. Being contentious by nature, I wanted a Democratic Party with fighting spirit and backbone. Both of those things very often seemed to be sorely lacking in the party's leadership, which seemed too ready to excuse or accommodate the excesses of an increasingly radical Republican Party. I wanted a fresh approach and a community of fellow Democrats who felt as I did.

And so it was that I began lurking around a website with an unusual name: Daily Kos, founded by a remarkable man named Markos Moulitsas Zúniga. I began to visit the site every day, then several times a day. And on 19 October 2003, I took the plunge and became user number 2138. Let me share some of my personal history with this site and explain to you why I value it--and all of you--so much.

This site has been a huge morale booster for me in many ways. It has provided me with an outlet for my rather intense political expression. It gave me the sense that there were others who felt and believed as I did, people who were as determined as I was to do something about the political, social, and economic crises that conservatism has inflicted on our nation. I was an ex-Republican who had left the party because of its increasing religious fanaticism, hostility to science,  and reckless irresponsibility in every area of public life. I found kindred spirits here. Some of you in this community were life-long progressives. Others, like me, were former conservatives who had come to understand that the Democratic Party, for all its faults, was the only party that in any way represented the interests of the average person. (Well, at least part of it does.) Daily Kos became my online political community. At times, some people here drove me nuts. At times I was so exasperated that I wanted to leave.

But I'm glad I stayed.

Markos has provided us with a remarkable tool both for organizing and for expressing ourselves. I have usually diaried about politics, but I have also delved into poetry, science, philosophy, humor (such as it is), and history. I have been allowed to get on my favorite hobbyhorses again and again: defending the public school system, explaining why organic evolution is an established fact, advocating a donor system wherein millions of ordinary Democrats kick in $10 a month (to help free us from the grip of corporate donations), ripping into the liars and frauds on the Right (as it was my great pleasure to do to Willard last year), and standing up for equal justice and opportunity for everyone.

I have often been a firebrand, deliberately using tough language and a militant tone to stir people up. I have sometimes gone too far. I have sometimes offended people whom I did not intend to offend, for which I apologize. I have been wrong more than once. But I have always, always cared intensely about this country's well-being. I have always cared about the people in this online community. And I am proud to call myself a Kossack, because I know I'm helping to fight the good fight--and that so very many others are with me, as I am with them.

So thank you, Markos, and thank you to everyone on DKos. We will have setbacks, we will suffer defeats--the road will not be easy. But we will have successes and victories, too, and in the end America will be better off because our efforts and the efforts of millions like us.

So again--thank you, one and all.

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