Howard Dean showed up to talk about Black History Month but the focus quickly changed to politics Tuesday night in ICC Auditorium.
The Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former Governor of Vermont contrasted the two parties’ presidential candidates, saying that with a woman and an African-American as the two front-runners, the Democratic field “looks like America,” while the all-white male Republican field “looks like the 1950s and talks like the 1850s.”
Attacking the ethics of presumptive Republican frontrunner John McCain, Dean accused him of violating the Federal Election Commission’s spending limits during the current primary season.
“For eight years we’ve had a president who doesn’t understand the law, and we don’t want a third Bush term,” Dean said.
Dean fielded questions from an audience that filled about half of the ICC auditorium.
When asked about how the Democrats succeeded in the 2006 midterm elections, Dean credited the DNC’s longterm efforts to build a Democratic majority throughout the country, in particular his “fifty state strategy,” a move to invest resources locally, nationwide, rather than just in Democratic strongholds, in order to build party infrastructure.
“We spent a lot of money,” Dean said, acknowledging that many Democratic Party insiders criticized it, but concluded that the Democrats won’t win if they don’t “show up on the court.”
Looking ahead to 2008, Dean said that he thinks the chances a Democratic candidate will win the White House next year are good.
“The Republican Party has been in power for the sake of being in power,” Dean said.
In a nod to the official topic of his talk, Dean emphasized the Democrats’ work on landmark legislation like the Voting Rights Act, and expressed his belief that the racial divide present in earlier generations has diminished in recent years.
“The younger generation sees itself as a multicultural generation,” Dean said. “People under 35 think of themselves differently, and feel integrated [in society].”