Starting this week, Democrats around the country will be pounding the pavement in a grass roots campaign called the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program
Gov. Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, discussed the initiative and more with college journalists from the Philadelphia area at a roundtable discussion last week. Dean said that hundreds of volunteers will be knocking on doors around the country.
The volunteers will go to each door three times over the course of a year to develop relationships with voters. Dean said that building relationships with voters is essential to a successful campaign.
Most young people register non-partisan and then vote Democrat, said Dean. “We’ve got to earn their vote.” He said that in the under 30 age group everyone votes in the same proportions, unlike his age group. “It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black or brown, you turn out in the same proportions,” Dean said “We believe that everybody ought to have an opportunity and we welcome everyone to the Democratic Party. Our potential nominees reflect what our party looks like,” Dean said.
Dean tackled the issue of the war in Iraq and why the Republicans are failing the American people. He said that when the Democrats took control of the senate, they forced the president to adopt all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Dean said it isn’t enough though, and the Republicans are standing in the way.
“The reason that we can’t get off the big stuff done is that the president vetoes it and the minority in the senate filibusters it,” Dean said.
To combat terrorism, Dean said he sees improving economic conditions in the Middle East as a non-violent solution. “We need to improve people’s living standards in Iraq and Pakistan as a neutral antidote to terrorism,” Dean said.
Not all of Dean’s comments were negative; he commended twenty-somethings for seeing themselves as global citizens and utilizing technology to level the playing field for everyone.
“Your generation is grossly underestimated in what they’ve accomplished,” Dean said. It took eight years to get the public against the war in Vietnam and Dean said that with this generation, it took three and a half years for the war in Iraq.
Dean also said he wants to make education more affordable for young people. To help fight the rising costs of higher education, Dean said that there needs to be a national service program. Young people could spend two years in the Peace Corps, Americorps, the military or some other service program and then they could receive huge costs breaks for college. It would not be mandatory, Dean said, it would be made available to 60 percent to 70 percent of young people.
“Most people go into college not wanting to know what they want to do and experience like this can help narrow down what you may or may not want to do,” Dean said.
“You can’t talk about improving America without talking about financing higher education,” Dean said.
LeAnne Matlach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.