Ousting Bush in 2004

The “Howard Dean for America in 2004” balloon wouldn’t stay put. Rick Michaelson of Lemmon Valley tied the balloon to car keys and plopped it in the umbrella hole of the patio table at Great Basin Brewing Company in Sparks. Before long, the wind caught the balloon and pulled it across the table, dragging the keys along with it.

But the blue balloon did the trick.

“This must be the Dean meeting,” said two women in summery attire as they walked up to the table. There were introductions all around. For many of the 30 or 40 activists who gathered for a Howard Dean for President meeting in the Reno area last week, it was the first time they’d met in person. Most were turned on to the local gathering by a Web site, Meetup.com.

At Meetup.com, nearly 60,000 potential campaign workers across the nation have signed up under the heading “Dean in 2004.” About 113 northern Nevadans signed up at the site (ranking Reno as 125th on the “Top Cities for Dean” list).

The former Vermont governor, one of nine contenders so far for the Democratic presidential nomination, seems to resonate with liberal voters. He won a recent “Internet primary” at MoveOn.org—nabbing 44 percent of the 300,000 votes received at the site.

Dean was vocally against the Iraq war. Under the administration of the medical-doctor-turned-politician, nearly every kid in Vermont became eligible for health care. His campaign slogan: “The Doctor Is In.”

He signed legislation that made it possible for gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions, thus receiving the legal rights married couples enjoy—the right to inherit property, obtain child custody, visit a partner in the hospital and control a partner’s affairs upon death.

(Gay couples in Nevada now have those last two rights, thanks to a new state law signed last month by Gov. Guinn.)

All this, and Dean managed to run a balanced budget, too.

It’s Dean’s fiscal conservatism that northern Nevadans hope will give Dean a chance. At the meeting, Wendy Martin said that Dean represents the Democrats’ best hope of winning.

“He’s liberal enough so that we won’t lose our ideals,” she said, “and conservative enough not to alienate everyone.”

Conservative? Well, Dean’s agenda would include beefing up the military, especially overseas, to enhance homeland security.

Those who attended the meeting in Sparks were invited to “Adopt an Iowan” by handwriting a letter to a registered voter in that state. The new campaigners, from college students to retirees, took to the task with zeal. (After all, the Iowa primary is less than six months away.)

One young tech worker said he heard about Dean while playing golf with his Republican friends.

“They were saying bad things about him, so I figured he’d be worth looking at,” the man said.

Many mentioned their annoyance with the Democratic Party itself—with trends to offer “Bush Light” candidates and to take only mild stands against Bush’s tax cuts and world domination schemes.

“The Democrats have allowed Republicans to limit America’s emotional state to fear or anger,” said Bill Miller of Reno. “Anything else is unpatriotic. And we’re allowing it to happen.”

“Dean strikes a chord in people,” said event organizer Carissa Snedeker. “Dean has said that people are madder at the Democratic Party than they are at the Bush administration. I heard about him many months ago and went to his Web site. This guy is right on with everything I believe.”

The monthly meetings are growing quickly. Six or seven people first met in March at the mall. In June, 15 met at Esoteric in downtown Reno. The crowd at the July 2 meeting had three times as many attendees.

"We have so many new faces," Snedeker said. "Dean is on fire!"