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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Civics 101.

Aside from its astonishingly condescending headline — "Come back, little Deaniacs" — the New York Times editorial is right to point to the way Howard Dean's campaign brought thousands of young voters into fully-engaged political activity. But this is a lame conclusion:

If the product of the Dean movement is thousands of young people who are slightly hardened to the lure of a charismatic candidate, but determined to keep on fighting for a better world, it will have been a success no matter what happens to the former governor of Vermont.

The novelty of the Dean movement wasn't that it converted apathetic young people into activists or civic-minded adults. Almost all of the Dean supporters I've encountered are anything but apathetic — most already thought of themselves as "fighting for a better world" — they just haven't been involved in electoral politics. The real achievement of Dean's campaign — and the reason I'm sorry to watch it implode — is that it has shown lots of people how to work the system who might otherwise have been inclined simply to volunteer for Americorps or rally against globalization or boycott something. Knowing how to work the phones, get out the vote, and try to communicate with someone radically unlike yourself: Things like that are Howard Dean's gift to a new generation of voters. He has been running an amazing civics course, and for that I salute him.

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 31 January 2004 at 6:31 PM

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