Howard Dean visits Utah

One of the loudest voices in the Democratic Party visited one of the most conservative states in the nation Saturday.

Howard Dean, the political lightning rod and new leader of the Democratic Party, came to Utah to rally a Democratic cause, arguing to soften the political debate while lambasting Republicans.

Dean’s mission was different from last year’s attempts to garner support for his presidential campaign, but perhaps even more daunting: to rally Democrats in the state that handed President Bush the biggest margin of victory in the 2004 election.

Dean said his visit to Utah was due in part to his desire to get the wheels turning for the state’s Democratic Party and was a part of his visit to several Midwestern states.

“I think the Rocky Mountains are going to give the presidency to the Democrats in 2008,” Dean said.

Though he said he doesn’t think Utah will vote Democrat in the next election, he said it is important to get a ground-up approach established as liberals are already being elected in surrounding states.

Dean, who was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Feb. 12, stood on a stage at Westminster College and delivered a simple message: Don’t trust Republicans.

“Our message in general is that you can’t trust the Republican Party with your tax dollars because they don’t balance budgets,” Dean told The Chronicle on Friday.

Dean also said the Republican Party has hurt college students by cutting financial aid and harming the environment.

“We’d like to restore Pell Grants and make it easier for the middle and working class to pay for college education,” Dean said Friday.

“Secondly, we need an economic development program that creates jobs so kids have jobs when they get out of college. And thirdly, we want to protect the environment, which Republicans seem to be against everywhere.”

Dean, who was introduced to the overflowing crowd by his cousin and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, had a broader message for the audience at Westminster.

Dean approached his larger goal of uniting Democrats by marrying the party’s views to general American morals.

“People say the last election was won on moral values,” Dean said. “It was not, because, if it had been, we would have won.”

Dean said that in the past, Democrats have allowed Republicans to define the party platform, but he took the opportunity Saturday to do it himself, softening the Democratic views to appeal to the average American.

“I’m tired of Republicans telling us we’re pro-abortion…The difference between the parties is not whether abortion is a good thing or not, we don’t think it is,” Dean said. “The difference between the parties is that we believe the woman makes that decision about her health care, and they believe Tom DeLay makes it.”

Dean criticized Republicans for their treatment of gay marriage as well.

“You can ban gay marriage if you want to, but then you’ve got to have some way for folks to get equal rights,” Dean said. “All I ask is not that the people of Utah adopt gay marriage, but I ask this: We’ve got to start thinking about ourselves as Americans first, and then some category later on.”

Although his views on abortion and gay marriage seemed moderate in comparison to past definitions, Dean said it was just a different form of message.

“Even in Utah, most people agree with Democrats,” Dean said. “We need to change the way we talk about issues. We don’t need to change what we believe.”

Dean said he wanted Democrats to use his outreach approach because “it is not enough to not let Republicans push us around.” He said Democrats also needed to knock on the doors of both those who agree and disagree with liberal views.

Dean didn’t have to knock on any doors to find people who disagreed with his views Saturday. Just outside the auditorium stood a handful of College Republicans with signs of opposition in hand.

BYU student Jace Fullmer, who attended the U last year, stood in the lobby to demonstrate against Dean’s speech.

Fullmer said the Democratic Party was reactionary and Dean’s views do not represent Utah values, but he admitted that Dean did a better job Saturday of focusing on the issues rather than “his typical approach of personal attacks.”

Vice president of the U’s College Republicans, Yana Jurovitzki, said she went to hear Dean speak because, “I think Howard Dean is crazy, and I wanted to hear what he had to say.”

Like other demonstrators, Jurovitzki had a qualm about a certain aspect of Dean’s speech: gay marriage.

“Marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman,” she said.

BYU student Josh Daniels disagreed with Dean’s rhetoric.

“I was really disappointed because I think he manipulated a lot of his positions and sort of smoke-screened the issues,” Daniels said. “He tried to sanitize some of the things he believes in for Utahns.”

However, last year’s secretary of U College Democrats, Brett Garner, praised Dean’s approach.

“It was rousing and it gave the people who were there good inspiration for the next two elections to help us get going and help realize what we have to do,” Garner said.

Dean said greater cooperation between parties would move the United States forward in a more positive light.

“Liberals have good ideas; conservatives have good ideas; Americans have good ideas,” Dean said. “What we need is some leadership in the White House and some leadership in Congress that will embrace those good ideas.”

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