Some time in July or August of 2003, my then-roommate Heidi and I decided to go to a meeting for a newly-formed group called “Ward 6 for Dean.” We, like more than a few others in those early days of the 2004 election cycle, were already disappointed with the Bush administration, and were looking to bring about a change. In the upstairs bar of the Hawk & Dove on a summer night, we found other people who shared this goal. A mishmash of ages, races, and points of origin, we all found our way to a meeting for an inspiring, but terribly unlikely candidate: an awkward doctor-turned-activist-turned-governor from Vermont.
Over the course of the next year, we moved into — and, fairly quickly, out of — the primary season, our neighborhood group joining with others around the city to become first DC for Dean, and then DC for Democracy, the local arm of the Democracy for America organization that grew out of the campaign. Though John Kerry hadn’t been our first choice, we threw our support to him, traveling to Ohio and Pennsylvania to get out the vote.
And as we became colleagues in the business of change, we also became friends. More than a year of hanging signs; staffing info tables; passing out leaflets; and talking, talking, talking to voters, was supplemented with potluck dinners, Sunday brunches, and more happy hours than can be counted.
We threw a big party when Howard Dean became chair of the Democratic National Committee. The naysayers from the traditional wing of the party — the Clinton/McAuliffe/Carville set — thought it was folly, that Dean and his 50-state strategy were doomed to failure. To many of us at the grassroots end of the party, his vision of building a nationwide network in support of Democratic candidates for every office available (from dog-catcher to city council to mayor to state rep to governor to the House and Senate), seemed like the only path to future victory.
On Tuesday, he was proven right.
Almost five years after the night in Iowa where Howard Dean joined his supporters in rattling off the names of the states they wanted him to win — which culminated in the cheer that effectively marked the end of his run for the White House — I sat in a bar with a half-dozen or so of my Deaniac friends as those states were called out again: Pennsylvania. Iowa. Ohio. Virginia. Florida.
And this time, we screamed.