Howard Dean leads Democratic debate
Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean visited Pittsburgh last Thursday to rally support for the Kerry campaign and to participate in a debate with Ralph Reed, Southeast regional chairman for the Bush/Cheney campaign.
Dean spoke to a large crowd of supporters at the Church Brew Works. He appealed to Pennsylvanians by acknowledging the 330,000 jobs lost in the state since George W. Bush took office, and he asserted that America needs a president who ?cares about the working people.?
Carnegie Mellon student and College Democrat Andrew Ryan Yuhasz, a junior business administration major, was at the rally. ?I was fortunate enough to be on stage with Dean; I was excited about the event. I was like a little girl seeing Justin Timberlake,? said Yuhasz.
The speech, which lasted approximately 20 minutes, was focused on two core messages: unity and involvement.
?Ninety-five percent of us want the same thing,? Dean said to explain his first message. While Republicans focus on the issues that divide Americans , such as ?guns, God, gays, and abortion,? Democrats, Dean said, focus on issues that unite: ?jobs, education, health care, and foreign policy.? He said that Americans need to ?fundamentally change this country?; he demanded a ?government for all Americans, every single one of us.?
Dean stressed the importance of widespread individual involvement in government at all levels. ?It is easy to blame George Bush for everything,? Dean warned. Instead, he argued that Americans must accept responsibility and engage themselves: ?Voting is not enough,? he said. ?I want you to run for office.?
Calling for people to join last Saturday?s ?Million Person Door Knock? for Kerry and Edwards, Dean reminded listeners, ?Every vote counts.? Yuhasz said, ?I went knocking door-to-door in the South Side to try to see if we could get people out to vote for Kerry. This included [distributing] information on Kerry [and] absentee ballot applications, and also I got information on elderly people in the neighborhood who may need a ride to the polls on Election Day.?
Two hours after finishing his address, Dean spoke in front of local media at a pre-debate press conference; he informally reviewed his rationale for supporting for the Kerry campaign.
Asked to discuss his impression of initiatives to register voters on college campuses like Carnegie Mellon, Dean responded by commending the efforts, saying ?I?ve never seen this level of activity since the Vietnam War.? Voter registration, however, is not enough, he said. ?The follow-up is absolutely essential. Students have got to get out the vote.? Dean embellished this point during the debate, insisting, ?We need to talk not to the swing voters; we need to talk to our base of support and give them a reason to get out and vote.?
At a separate press conference, Reed, head of the Republican Party in Georgia, expressed his confidence in light of the recent Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates. ?I like where we are,? he said.
The substance of the debate, hosted by the Pitt Program Council of the University of Pittsburgh, was guided by questions from the audience and included issues such as foreign policy, civil rights, the environment, and the ethics of campaign spin. Still, the debaters gravitated toward the issues they wanted to address, causing one audience member to call out in frustration, ?Why don?t you answer our questions??
Debate moderator Gordon Mitchell, an associate professor of communication and Director of Debate at the University of Pittsburgh, praised the audience, describing it as a ?vocal audience, which is refreshing.?