“What are we going to do about Oklahoma?” an audience member asked Howard Dean last night at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side.
Actually, Dean explained, Oklahoma is a lot like New York. “But New Yorkers are quicker on their feet about cognitive dissonance.”
Everyone picks a candidate according to his or her instincts but coastal types rationalize it better than others. “We’re all values voters,” he said. Also, though, “I don’t know when we’re going to win Oklahoma.”
The former Vermont governor, who recently announced he would stepping down as chair of the Democratic National Committee after a second successful election cycle, gave a brief speech and then fielded audience questions read by a moderator.
Most of his remarks addressed strategy, for example advising Democrats to declare their anti-poverty, pro-fairness values proudly. On matters of policy, he did what chairmen do, relentlessly plugging President-elect Barack Obama’s plans.
Dean repeatedly praised “the great genius of this younger generation,” meaning voters under 35. He said that his generation–baby boomers– was “necessarily confrontational” in pushing for civil rights. But kids today, he said, “are more pragmatic” and able to find common ground. “We still have wisdom, we still have a role, but our children are onto something,” he said.
Dean said that as the younger group ages it will stay Democratic because Republicans “totally don’t get the unity message at all.”
Dean then suggested that Obama might deal with the Bush administration’s misbehavior (“particularly in disregarding constitutional provisions”) by setting up “something like what’s going on in South Africa, the truth and reconciliation.”
(South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a body formed to hear grievances and testimony from victims—and, in some cases, former practitioners—of apartheid.)
What about Dean’s own future in the post-Bush world?
“I have no idea what’s in my future and that won’t be determined by me,” he said, to cheers.
Dean is known for his hyperactive streak, and last night’s talk was sure to please his fans. “The last day of the campaign I spent in Arizona,” he said, to show how serious he was about Democrats campaigning in every state – even the home of John McCain.
“A long shot!” he said, laughing.