One State at a Time
One State at a Time
By Rose Aguilar, AlterNet
Posted on August 23, 2005,
It's been six months since Howard Dean visited Jackson, Mississippi, but locals are still talking about his fiery speech in which he criticized President Bush's plan for social security and said Republicans are doing nothing to help the people of Mississippi.
"Every seat was filled. There were people standing around the room and people outside who couldn't get in," says Joanne Morris, an editor and writer living in Jackson. "He got an absolutely fantastic reception. I'm sure he must have been surprised. I was surprised myself. People were just jubilant."
Dean's speech revitalized scores of Mississippi Democrats who are sick of being ignored by the national party. "We're also written off in the media; they either skip over us or stereotype us," says Dorothy Triplett, secretary of the Mississippi Democratic Club, a group of progressive Mississippians. "We're finally saying, 'Hey, wait a minute, we're here and we're not going anywhere.' I think we can be a real asset to the national party and I'm delighted that they're finally giving us some attention."
As part of Dean's 50-state strategy, the Democratic National Committee is hiring staffers to join state party offices that typically run on shoestring budgets with few employees, including in Mississippi, North Carolina and Oklahoma.
"Because of his commitment, we'll be able to increase our staff by 300 percent, so to speak," says Keelan Sanders, executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party. Before the new hires showed up, Sanders was the party's only staffer. "It is definitely helping the state party with needed resources so we can begin organizing and getting the message out."
Constructing that message won't be easy. It's been 28 years since Mississippi gave its six electoral votes to a Democrat; Bush got 60 percent of the vote in Mississippi. Democrats hold more county elected positions and legislative seats than Republicans, but the governor, lieutenant governor and the state's two senators are members of the GOP.
"Mississippi is ripe for the picking. They're either 49th or 50th in every statistical category. Per capita income is low. Poverty levels are high. Medicaid is a huge issue here," says Jay Parmley, former chair of Oklahoma's Democratic Party....