Exploiting hot-button issues is the path to the White House and an increased majority in Congress according to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
Dean, who was the keynote speaker for the Black History Month Celebration at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. on February 26, told an audience that taking advantage of climate change, genocide in Darfur and poverty was the smart political move.
“[T]here was a great story on CNN the other day which kind of showed what I had thought for a long time,” Dean said. “They went to a convention of young evangelicals. And afterwards, they asked folks what they thought was important. Of course, they asked about gay marriage and abortion and all this stuff the news media likes to talk about all the time and they said ‘look those issues – first of all, we don’t know somebody who’s gay, so let’s just get rid of that one. And secondly, what we care about is
Dean saw this as a weakness for the Republicans in the upcoming election.
“Now, the problem with that for the Republicans is that is the Democratic platform,” Dean said. “And if we find people in any community – no matter what their ancestors, their parents may think – if we find people in any community who want to reach out to us and work on issues we care about – Darfur, poverty and climate change – we ought to reach out and talk with them.”
Dean reflected on the Democrat’s 2006 mid-term election success, specifically singling out the hotly-contested Virginia U.S. Senate race between Jim Webb and George Allen. Dean credited Webb’s narrow-victory to the YouTube broadcast of Allen’s “macaca” remark .
“[T]he Senate was the same thing – we did something we’ve never done before,” Dean said. “We went out and borrowed 5 million bucks and put it into a Senate race. That’s because somebody your age had a video camera and this YouTube had been invented since the last camera (sic). And when Jim Webb ran for the senate and George Allen did what he did, it became a national phenomenon and we suddenly had that one extra seat that we had a shot at and we thought it was worth going into debt.”
Dean suggested tactics used by unionized labor as the best approach to win over voters that “drive a pick-up truck with a gun rack in the back of it,” reminiscent of a controversial 2003 comment the former Vermont governor made  – “I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks."
“Think about this for a minute – if you are from Kentucky, or Tennessee, or Mississippi and you make maybe $30,000-a-year – a fairly decent manual labor job, and you drive a pick-up truck with a gun rack in the back of it, you vote 60 to 65 percent Republican – unless you happen to belong to the union,” Dean said. “If you belong to the union, you make the same, you believe the same things – you care about guns, you like to hunt, etc. etc., you have conservative social values, but the reason you vote 60 to 65 percent Democrat instead of 60 to 65 percent Republican is because every day you go to work and you – you have somebody to talk to every couple of weeks or every month, who tells you why you should vote for a Democrat.”
He told the audience that was the best strategy to overcome the conservative pundits in the media.
“What your friends suggest to you matters more than Rush Limbaugh, or more than Karl Rove, or more than Bill O’Reilly – or more than any of these folks – what is likely to drive you to vote or to get you to vote is what your peers who you know are talking to you about,” Dean added.