When Governor Howard Dean ran for president in 2004, he kicked off a digital revolution in political campaigning that many analysts said led to Barack Obama's victory four years later. Governor Dean joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan in the hotel of the Manchester, New Hampshire Radisson Hotel in between speeches in support of Hillary Clinton.
MARGERY EAGAN: You were there last night for what many people are calling the best debate ever in a presidential race. What did you think?
HOWARD DEAN: It was a great debate. I think both candidates did well and showed themselves for what they will bring. Bernie IS energetic and idealistic. Hillary, incredibly smart and pragmatic. And, of course, I’m for Hillary so I think she’ll be a great president and I think we’ll get Hillary elected president.
JIM BRAUDE: I love the fact that, while you’re supporting Hillary, when your name was mentioned Bernie Sanders waved to you from the podium. Why did you decide not to be with the hometown guy? She made a point of that.
DEAN: I didn’t decide. I've been for Hillary since December fo 2014…I didn’t decide not to be for Bernie, I decided to be for Hilary. Secondly, even having made that decision before Bernie was in the race, there’s some things about Hillary you have to understand. First of all, she’s fact-based. So ideology is not what trumps fact, which is a big problem in Washington. Second of all, she has more experience than everybody else put together on both sides of the aisle. Third of all, she cares deeply about the things I care deeply about. One is Citizens United, which has been a disaster for the country not just because it enables the Koch brothers to write big checks, but because it fundamentally undermines the Declaration of Independence. The notion of Citizens United fundamentally contradicts the ideal that all of us are equal. If speech equals money and a corporation is a person, than the average person is not as important as billionaires. Thomas Jefferson would turn over in his grave if he heard that. Hillary Clinton, one of the first things she said is, 'I will have a litmus test: nobody will get onto the Supreme Court without promising to overturn Citizens United.' Bernie said that last night in the debate, Hillary said that before Bernie was in the race. So Hillary is the right person. The other thing is foreign policy expertise. We’ve got some major problems around the world. Hillary knows her way around the world. There’s no any other candidate on either side of the aisle that has any idea who these people are we have to deal with.
BRAUDE: Let’s stay on Citizens United for a second….You had wild appeal to young people during your campaign. If you stopped 100 people on Elm Street and asked who owns the issue on income inequality, most people wouldn’t say Hillary Clinton. Why are young Americans not getting what you got?
DEAN: What young Americans like, and a lot of Americans like, is someone who's going to stand up and tell it like it is. But the problem is telling it like it is is not fixing it like it is. We need someone who is going to fix the things that are wrong. Bernie has done a great job identifying all the things that are wrong. I think that’s great. I think he’s incredibly valuable in the Senate. But I want a president who is going to fix some of those things. I know that Hillary can’t fix all the things, and she knows that too, no president can do that. I want her to be a great president and I think Barack Obama has been a good president. I think this issue of being disappointed in him…of course you’re going to be disappointed in him. Guess what, he’s a human being. He's a politician. But we need to advance the ball down the field and Hillary can do that.
EAGAN: Barack Obama's big criticism, that he can’t work across the aisle, didn’t schmooze, there's a fear that Hillary can be just as divisive but in a different way.
DEAN: Except there’s great evidence to show that’s not true. She was a senior senator from New York for 8 years. She did work across the aisle. She did the most extraordinary thing. General Petraeus, who is a Republican, was once asked by a reporter: 'Who in the Senate understands the terrorist threat the best?' And he said: 'you mean, besides Hillary Clinton?' So for a Republican who, at the time was being talked about as a presidential candidate, to say that Hillary Clinton was the person who best understood terrorism in the entire U.S. Senate and bypass all the Senate Republicans, that’s pretty impressive. She is a very impressive person. She’s not as flashy as Bernie and not as pointed about the things that are wrong which Bernie spent his life on, and which I respect him for, but she will get the job done. Look: change is incremental, I know we’d all like to have a revolution. So would I. The truth is: I got universal health care for every kid in my state 20 years ago because we did it piece by piece by piece.
EAGAN: Did you vote for Bernie Sanders when he was mayor of Burlington?
DEAN: No, My wife did, but I did not.
EAGAN: How about in the Senate?
DEAN: Oh yeah, I voted for him all the time in the Senate.
BRAUDE: How is he as a Congressperson and in the Senate?
DEAN: The only problem is, he doesn’t make coalitions particularly well, which is a problem if you're president. But I think I probably agree with him on 95% of his votes.
BRAUDE: Governor, how do you explain the Trump phenomenon?
DEAN: Same thing, actually, that’s fueling Bernie. There’s a lot of anger about how unfair the economic system has become. I think trump has tapped into that. One time after I did civil unions which was the first state in the country to do it there was a fair amount of resentment, shall we say, in Vermont. In the conservative part of the state I got creamed in my last re-election bid. Bernie got every vote my opponent got, because he practices—I don’t know if you can say this on public teleivison—'up yours.' He practices 'up yours' politics. He really does. Trump does the same thing. Their crossover isn’t 100% , but these folks feel disenfranchised economically and they want somebody to go ‘up yuors.’ I think that’s fine, but I don’t think that’s what you want in a president.
EAGAN: Is there any indication from anything [Trump] says he’s going to do anything about that?
DEAN: No. He taps into a whole series of fears. There’s some overlap between Trump and Bernie but not a huge amount because Trump plays the anti-immigration card. People who do vote for Bernie are more conservative socially because they think they’re getting screwed. There a lot of veterans...Bernie used to get the veteran vote all the time. But Bernie has never appealed to anti-immigrant sentiment and bigotry and the stuff that Trump does. There’s a whole section of Trump’s vote that clearly is not going to be available to any Democrat.
EAGAN: Overall the wealthy are not, from what I understand, in Donald Trump’s tax plan [they] are going to be getting lower taxes than they are already.
DEAN: Yeah. Well, he is a Republican and Republicans generally stand for the top 1%, not the bottom 99.
BRAUDE: If I had to you in 2000 that15 years later the conservative-leaning Supreme Court is going to make civil unions the law of the land, what would you have said to me in 2000? [Note: Vermont was the first state in the country to legalize civil unions under Governor Dean.]
DEAN: I probably would have been pretty surprised. But it’s common sense, it’s fairness, and its all people equal. Everybody in this country is equal under the law, and it’s important.
Howard Dean is the former governor of Vermont and a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate. To hear more from Governor Dean, tune into Boston Public Radio above.