by Charley Reese
When the voting age was lowered to 18, there was a great expectation that youth would flock to the polls. It's been an unfulfilled expectation.
This year, however, could be the year of youth, if young people respond to Howard Dean's appeal to their idealism. Dean is telling people that the only way to beat the super-rich and their toady, George Bush, is for people who have turned their backs on politics to get involved. That most certainly includes the 18-to-24 set. Instead of inviting people to $2,000-a-plate fund-raisers, he asks people to send what they can afford, even if it's just $10.
So far, about half-a-million people have responded. The jaded political reporters can say what they like, but Dean is a phenomenon. An obscure governor from an even more obscure state has raised more money and attracted more support that the Washington Establishment Democrats. And brother, are they dumbfounded and ticked off. Republicans won't have to write any attack ads; the other Democratic candidates are writing the ads for them.
But the Energizer Bunny, with his boyish smile, just stays right in their face and at the top of the polls. People should ask themselves why. What is this guy doing that has caused such an unusual public response? Don't buy the Washington bilge that it's just because he's against the war. Dennis Kucinich is against the war, and even Rep. Dick Gephardt and the blowhard senators, sanctimonious Joe Lieberman and the comically pompous John Kerry, have tried to backtrack from their war votes.
No, it's not the war in Iraq. I think what people are responding to is that for the first time in a long time, they have a genuine human being — a guy who gets mad at the right things, a guy who says what he thinks, and a guy who doesn't talk in the tired political platitudes that have virtually killed any real communication inside the Washington Beltway. Lieberman, Gephardt and Kerry haven't had an original thought in decades.
Sure, Dean has said some things and then had to clarify. That's what human beings do. It's not what professional politicians — who won't go to the bathroom without checking with their pollster — do. But if you look closely at what Dean has said, he has not backed up one inch. He has admitted that he used words people misinterpreted — in most cases, deliberately. He changed the words, not the thought.
I was surprised on a recent visit home to find both sons sporting "Dean Dude" T-shirts, and even my elderly sister is changing her registration from Republican to Democrat so that she can vote for Dean in the Florida primary. All of this happened with no input from me.
I'm not endorsing the guy. That's not my job, but political journalists in this country cover politics like it was a sport. They are interested in the race, not in the issues and the substance. I was infuriated the other day when some Republican was allowed to get away with saying that Dean has not offered anything but criticism and anger.
Heck fire, go to www.deanforamerica.com, and you will find out that Dean has spelled out his positions on practically every issue. Whether you agree with him or not is your business, but don't buy this barnyard rubbish that the guy has nothing to say. If he had nothing to say, he wouldn't be where he is today.
It's easy to be cynical about politics, but, folks, if you give up on politics, you are giving up on democracy. There are basically only two choices for choosing leaders — bullets or ballots. I much prefer ballots. There is not a candidate in the race who takes all the positions I would like to see a candidate take, but we have to live in the real world. I prefer the world of Jefferson Davis, but come November, neither he nor anyone remotely like him is going to be on the ballot.
So get involved and vote for the man you think is best. You young people ought to realize that my generation has pretty well screwed things up for you. It's time for youth to step up to the plate and take a swing. You certainly can't do worse than we have.
January 14, 2004
Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.
© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.