California had its primary yesterday and I actually made it to my local polling place to vote! I had originally thought I would vote for Edwards simply because he seems like a better salesman than Kerry. But after giving it further thought, I came to the conclusion, like many others, than Edwards & Kerry really are the same person. They may appear on the same stage during debates, but it's gotta be some CIA trickery going on, because I can't tell them apart. And anyways, before I made it to polling location, Edwards had announced he would be dropping out of the race. So why vote for a guy who I don't really care for and who's decided to quit before the night's even over?
So I leaned back on my idealist sensibilities and thought about how I could send a message. Ya, I know it's a very general statement and it's damn near impossible to "send a message" if you don't organize with others who want to send a similar message. Looking at the remaining candidates, I actually like Sharpton. He's a great orator and can bring people to his side when he gets a chance to speak to them. But, honestly, I can't see him in the Oval Office. If that did happen, let's just say that Saturday Night Live would have a historic run at presidential comedy and zoom to the top of the ratings. Kucinich? Nah...
So I thought again about who seemed to be leading a movement? Not just a campaign, but a movement? Even Howard Dean had dropped out of the race a couple of weeks ago, and his campaign collapsed dramatically during January, I still saw the twinkly of the movement and the energy he had created. While I don't agree with many of his specific political positions, I agree wholeheartedly with his underlying message of involving "the people" in the political process. This is an idea which I've been working on with some friends in Young India, but have had trouble crystallizing. The problem we've faced is how to make such an idealist idea of "getting people involved in the political process" into a realistic movement with a leader who inspires people. Gandhi did. MLK did. Dean seemed to be doing it for a while. Although his campaign collapsed under him, I think his run at the presidency was about more than just the office. It was about finding a way to involve the average person and get him thinking about the personal & community consequences of broad national political decisions.
While Dean had a tough time getting the "average" person to believe in his idea (afterall, it was mainly "activists" who got involved in his campaign), I believe that if such a movement can continue along with noticeable change, the "average" person will become more involved in the political process which affects their daily lives.
I don't believe for a second that Dean would be a good president. But I do believe that he could help lead a movement not to reform politics, but to get people activily thinking about how their elected representatives make choices on their behalf and how those choices can greatly affect all of us.
My vote for Dean will hopefully be noticed by the Democratic Party come convention time. The message here isn't that Dean is a viable candidate. The message is that we want more active thinking and more pro-active action in our politics. We don't want reactionary politics that simply addresses our fears or our "enemies". I don't think the Democratic Party is ready for that just yet (Kerry says he's glad for Dean's contributions and energy, but I don't really believe him), but by all us participating in this process, we can make it "political suicide" for the Party to ignore the message for too much longer.