On The Iowa Trail with Dean's Texas Rangers-- Part Four

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ON THE IOWA TRAIL WITH DEAN’S TEXAS RANGERS
by M. Martin
(copyright 2004, all rights reserved)

Introduction Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Afterword

T he next morning, it was finally the day of the Iowa Cauc uses. For better or worse, we would find out if our hard work would pay off or not. T he plan was for Dean’s T exas Rangers to strike c amp and reload our luggage onto the buses that would take us bac k to T exas. We would then board our rented minivans for the last time, drive bac k to Dean HQ in Des Moines, and c arry out whatever last minute tasks they had for us. At two pm, the Rangers would then depart em masse for Ames, Iowa, and join a Dean rally at Iowa State University. I had done most of my pac king the night before, and made sure that Ms. T and I would be easily able to find our remaining unpac ked things the next day. As a result, I had a c hanc e to walk around the c amp a little bit, take some photos, say some goodbyes. T he c amp still reminded me a bit of a WWII internment c amp (and some of the c abins easily dated bac k that far), but the rugged North Iowa forestsc ape had bec ome a welc ome sight, and the people sharing those c abins with me an extended family of new-found friends. When the buses wound up being late, we had to modify our plans somewhat. T wo vans of volunteers would stay behind to load luggage and meet up with us in Ames. T he rest of us would leave our luggage where it sat in the parking lot and push on to Des Moines. We later found out that the reason for the delay was that our bus drivers, also native T exans, were unaware that diesel fuel turns into immobile jelly at low temperatures. One of the buses never did thaw, and eventually had to be replac ed—delaying the Austin c ontingent’s return home by over a day. Ms. T and I again wound up riding with Patric k, David, Valerie, and Rac hel. We got bac k to HQ just in time for the end of a speec h to the troops by Governor Dean himself, who had c ome by to thank us for our labors.

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On The Iowa Trail with Dean's Texas Rangers-- Part Four

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It was the first time I got to see Howard Dean in person. T elevision c annot adequately c onvey the sinc erity and c harisma of Howard Dean—although his intelligenc e does c ome ac ross, and his passion c ommunic ates perhaps all too well. T he speec h was a standard expression of gratitude, probably not dissimilar to the same speec h being given to similar groups all over downtown Des Moines. Nonetheless, it was a personal epiphany for me: I realized that I liked Howard Dean. Not just in the sense of liking his politic s, or preferring him as a leader. I realized I not only liked Howard Dean as a politic al figure, I liked him as a person. I never had that feeling about Bill Clinton or Al Gore, no matter how muc h I might’ve wanted either one of them to be president. I c ertainly fail to understand those who c laim a similar affec tion for our c urrent president. (the only way I would want to be in the same bar with “Dubya” would be if I had a c lear opportunity to re-arrange the famous smirk with a pool c ue). On the other hand, Doc tor and Mrs. Doc tor Dean are the kind of people I have emulated and tried to spend time with most of my life—intelligent, artic ulate, and educ ated. I’d take them both out for sushi and c oc ktails any time. Listening to Howard Dean thank those of us who had been stomping ac ross Iowa for the last week in his behalf, I c ould easily understand the dedic ation of his senior staff. T he man inspires affec tion and respec t. My group’s duties for the remainder of the day c onsisted solely of “visibility”—walking bac k and forth thru c entral Des Moines with Dean plac ards and our now somewhat dingy Deanie Beanies, making as many people honk, and wave and ac knowledge our presenc e as possible. More than on any other day of my stay in Iowa, the presenc e of Dean supporters was unmistakable. We outnumbered every other c andidate’s supports by an easy 2 to 1 margin. Also notable, and probably absent for the remainder of the democ ratic primary season, was an extraordinary sense of amity between the different c andidate’s supporters. An elderly man with a Clark stic ker stopped at one point and c ongratulated Ms. T and I for our energy and enthusiasm. At one intersec tion, Kerry supporters, Kuc inic h supporters, and Dean people stood side by side and engaged in friendly c ompetition for honks from passing motorists. Again, the universal distaste for George Bush united us, whatever else might’ve separated us. Events sinc e that day have probably made suc h amity nearly impossible. At two PM, Dean’s T exas Rangers saddled up for the trip to Iowa State University. Onc e there, we had a pleasant surprise, and one not so pleasant. T he pleasant surprise was that Glen Maxey had finagled for us the exc lusive use of a balc ony direc tly overlooking the small stage where Governor Dean would be speaking. T he less pleasant surprise, shared by us and the other out-of-town volunteers, was that we were obliged to put away our c herished orange c aps before entering the auditorium. Apparently, the huge number of out-of-town volunteers in the servic e of Howard Dean was something of an embarrassment to loc al and less mobilized democ rats. We were somewhat mollified by a hundred or so pizzas and a few dozen c ases of what our northern friends c all “pop” (and some east T exans c all “c oke”, regardless the ac tual brand). Still, it was a bit of a slap, c onsidering the miles we’d traveled and the hours we’d worked. T he rally was being held in the atrium of a bioc hemistry building, rather than an ac tual auditorium. As we munc hed pizza and sipped

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09/05/2009 07:38 AM

On The Iowa Trail with Dean's Texas Rangers-- Part Four

http://www.earthwire.net/dean/iowa/Part_4.asp
soda, the floor, walkways, and balc onies of the building gradually filled until the plac e was pac ked. Eventually our c elebrity friends Joan and Janeane took to the makeshift stage to warm up a c rowd that didn’t really need it. Janeane Garofalo, after a few introduc tory words, brought on Joan Jett (now c onsiderably more rec ognizable in her trademark leathers), who promptly launc hed into her c lassic “I Like Roc k ‘n’ Roll”—this time, with a slight twist on the lyric s in the final c horus: “I love Howard Dean put a democrat in the Whitehouse, baby I love Howard Dean…” T hen Joan introduc ed Senator T om Harkin, who introduc ed the now shrieking c rowd to Howard Dean. T he energy in the room was a visc eral, solid thing. Howard Dean is a man with a mission and a vision. Both c an be summed up very simply: take bac k the c ountry from the c orporations and spec ial interests. In 2000, Ralph Nader had employed a similar message to mobilize a similar c onstituenc y. I had been indifferent to the message then, and more than a little c ynic al of the messenger. Not this time. Cynic ism was a luxury I c ould no longer afford. I don't think any of us c an. T he only thing more palpably real than Dean's vision, and the sinc erity behind it, is the sinc erity of Dean’s supporters, partic ularly those in the c ore 20-something demographic . T he speec h was nothing new—I’d been hearing variations on it for weeks— but the urgenc y was. Dean ended as he always does, by reminding the audienc e that the power ours to take bac k the White House and take bac k our c ountry from the privileged and the spec ial interests. T his time he was able to add something for the first time—he was able to tell those of us who were ac tually registered in Iowa to go out and vote for him. Finally, all the endorsements, media exposure, and endless knoc king on endless doors was going to pay off or not. T he Iowans left to go to Cauc us. We T exans left to get our buses and get ready for what we hoped would be a vic tory party. ***** T hus we c ome at last in this narrative to the Dean Post-Cauc us party—and one of the most misrepresented speec hes in modern politic al history. In the days sinc e, while I have been working on this story, the same c lip from that speec h has run endlessly, with embellishments and jokes from people who were not there and have no idea what they are joking about. Governor Dean himself has attempted to put his performanc e in the proper c ontext, with mixed results. Whether I c an do any better or not, I feel obligated to try. After c ontinued transportation problems, Dean’s T exas Rangers finally pulled up in front of the “Val-Air Ballroom” for the Dean vic tory party. T he ballroom was a c lassic piec e of Midwestern kitsc h one rarely sees in a town like Houston. From the 50’s-dec o neon over the building to the aging array of signed and framed press photos c overing the c loakroom wall, the Val-Air was a c lassic piec e of Americ ana, utterly suited to the egalitarian and grassroots nature of the Dean Campaign.

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09/05/2009 07:38 AM

On The Iowa Trail with Dean's Texas Rangers-- Part Four

http://www.earthwire.net/dean/iowa/Part_4.asp
Upon entry, we were again instruc ted to remove our orange c aps. Even more disappointing was the almost ten buc k a pitc her pric e for medioc re domestic beer (partic ularly to Ms. T and I, who had been enjoying the wares of brewpubs for the last two days). Both turned out to be very temporary disappointments. Shortly after 9:00 pm, Senator Harkin again introduc ed Governor Dean, who promptly launc hed into the speec h that ended in what has been dubbed by some "T he Sc ream Heard 'Round the World." Overlooked by the late-night c omedians and c onservative pundits: the fac t that everyone in that room was sc reaming just as loudly, was just as passionately determined to press on with the fight, to do what they c ould. In Ms. T 's eyes I saw fierc e tears of joy. T o my surprise, I found them in my eyes as well. Regardless the outc ome, I knew I was witnessing a moment of history. Either immediately before or immediately after the hoarsely-shouted litany of states yet to be won, Howard pulled an orange knit c ap from his own bac k poc ket and flung it into the audienc e. After that, the Deanie Beanies went bac k on, regardless what loc al democ rats might've thought of it. If there was a moment that should've been selec ted to enc apsulate and represent the suc c esses and failures of Howard Dean's Iowa c ampaign, that should've been it--but by that time, the media c rews taking up half the room had already dec ided-or been told-- what the story was. At that point, it no longer mattered what Howard Dean or anyone else in that room said or did. At about 9:40, word went out that the buses would be arriving soon to take Dean’s T exas Rangers home and deliver us from overpric ed pitc hers of Bud Lite. It was probably about 11:00 pm when the Val-Air Ballroom and it’s vintage neon disappeared into the night behind us, and the prospec t of another eighteen hour bus ride loomed before. Ms. T pulled her Deanie Beanie over her eyes and snuggled against my shoulder. After finding a way I c ould almost stretc h my legs, I tugged my sweatshirt hood as low over my eyes as I c ould, and did my best to nap at least as far as Kansas. Continued >>

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09/05/2009 07:38 AM

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