Howard Dean calls Ball State students to action

Former Vermont governor tells youth to stay involved in politics

Howard Dean doesn't want young voters to become complacent with politics.

"It seems like you already hit your peak electing Barack Obama as president," Dean said. "Now, don't blow it."

The former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman spoke at John R. Emens Auditorium on Wednesday night about how the Internet has revolutionized political campaigning, how his 50-state strategy helped to elect Barack Obama and how the youth demographic can benefit from civic involvement.

"You don't have to be that person who sleeps on the floor in seven different states in a week working for a campaign," he said. "Start local with the candidates without resources and before you know it, you'll be their press secretary."

Dean said the Internet is the most important development for democracy since Gutenberg invented the printing press. His unsuccessful 2004 presidential campaign is considered the first to utilize the Internet to organize large amounts of people behind issues.

"Most politicians think the Internet is essentially a ATM machine," Dean said. "If you keep sending out inflammatory e-mails, people will send you money. That's not true. The secret of using the Internet for a campaign is using it as a two-way campaign ... Making it so the people and a candidate can talk back and forth."

Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Indiana voting Democrat in the 2008 election, the first time the state turned blue in 40 years.

Dean said he knew the Democrats could win Indiana and the other traditionally Republican states that his 50-state strategy challenged last year.

"[As Democratic National Committee chairman] I understood that there are Democrats everywhere; I also knew it wasn't just about Democrats — you have to ask everyone for their vote."

Next, Dean said the party started courting Evangelical Christians.

"They said ‘Democrats talking to Evangelical Christians? What is the matter with you? Have you gone off the deep end, Dean?'"

"Of course I have," he joked. "They should have know that from the scream speech."

About 700 people — including students, professors, Muncie locals and Ball State President Jo Ann Gora — were scattered across the lower level of the auditorium to hear Dean speak.

Mitch Isaacs, director of Student Life, said he was pleased with the attendance, admitting that it's difficult to know what kind of venue to reserve for large speakers.

"It looked like there were less people in there than there were," Isaacs said. "But, Gov. Dean liked it because it was more informal and that encourages people to ask questions."

It worked. Dean spent an hour taking "questions, comments and rude remarks" that ranged from gay rights to health care from the audience. After his second question, Dean smiled, leaned forward and looked at Gora.

"You should be proud of your students," he said. "These are really good questions."

Even though Muncie local George McBide didn't get to ask his question, he thought Dean's answers were fair and factual.

"We knew he was Democrat going into this thing, so he's supposed to represent his party even though he doesn't work for them any more," McBide said. "He spoke about the facts and did it in a non-partisan way. That surprised me, but it was a welcome surprise."


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