Howard Dean on Civil Rights

Former VT Governor; Former Democratic Candidate for President


2004: I wore a bullet-proof vest to argue for civil unions

[A CNN KFile review shows that] Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's anti-gay efforts continued after she became a state representative. Shortly after Gabbard announced her presidential ambitions, her testimony at a hearing opposing a civil unions bill in 2004 resurfaced:

"To try to act as if there is a difference between 'civil unions' and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii," Gabbard said at the time. "As Democrats we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists."

The resurfaced comments drew condemnation from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the first governor in America to support civil unions and who sought the Democratic nomination in 2004. "I was on the other side of this argument wearing a bulletproof vest while she was saying this," Dean tweeted.

Source: Andrew Kaczynski, CNN.com, on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Jan 13, 2019

America's greatest virtue is diversity

Recently, I debated Howard Dean at Northwestern University. We were asked what America's greatest virtue is. He answered, "Diversity."

Diversity can be good or bad, but it's not necessarily a virtue for society; it is, in fact, a challenge. The role of any government is to fashion laws that help us get along with each other so we can reach our full potential-our American Dream.

Source: Blue Collar Conservatives, by Rick Santorum, p. 63 , Apr 28, 2014

2008 gaffe: Described Republicans as the "white party"

Howard Dean, as the Democratic Party Chairman, said in August 2008, "If you look at folks of color.they're more successful in the Democratic Party than they are in the white, excuse me, in the Republican Party."

A gaffe is when a politician blurts out an impermissible truth, then hastily recants lest he cripple his career. In the quotation above, Howard Dean committed a gaffe. He told an inconvenient truth. For the Republican Party may be fairly described as the white party, though this was not always true.

Before the New Deal, the Democrats were the white party, as they had almost zero black support, having been the party of secession and segregation while Republicans were the party of Lincoln and emancipation. In the Depression year of 1932, a majority of black Americans voted for Hoover and against FDR. Franklin Roosevelt swiftly ended that tradition in the North, where his New Deal drew support from black voters.

Source: Suicide of a Superpower, by Pat Buchanan, p.329 , Oct 18, 2011

The Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional

DEAN: The Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. States ought to be able to decide for themselves. We decided. Massachusetts has now decided. Let the states do this. The only role of the federal government should be this: One, they ought to make clear that every state has a responsibility in the way that they choose to make sure that every gay and lesbian American has the same rights as everybody else. And two, the President should make available every single immigration right, taxation right, inheritance right, and all the other 1,600 rights that are not available now to gay and lesbian Americans because they’re not allowed to get married, those rights should be available to every American, every single American without an adjective about what category that American might belong to.

NADER: The gay and lesbian community would prefer our position to the position of John Kerry to what’s going on in Massachusetts. Certainly his position is better than Bush, but our position is the best.

Source: NPR, “Justice Talking” Dean-Nader Debate , Jul 9, 2004

Referendum votes should not apply to civil rights

Most people in America believe in referendum government. I don’t. We gave civil rights to a despised minority in 2000. The gay and lesbian community got the same rights as everybody else did. If that had ever been put to a referendum, it would have gone down. Can you imagine what would have happened in Arkansas if you tried to do a civil rights amendment through a ballot referendum? Referendum is not always the best form of government. It is the tyranny of the majority.
Source: NPR, “Justice Talking” Dean-Nader Debate , Jul 9, 2004

We have a right to protection of our liberties

Q: There is an attempt now to modify the Patriot Act. What do you think?

A: We have an act that allows American citizens to be held without knowing what they’re charged with and without seeing a lawyer. To my knowledge, that hasn’t happened since 1798, with the Alien and Sedition Acts. We have a right to protection of our liberties. A lot of people died for that in the Revolutionary War. And I am not going to let the right wing of the Republican Party take those liberties away from us.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary Debate in Greenville SC , Jan 29, 2004

Don’t amend the First Amendment to prohibit flag-burning

Q: Should the Constitution be amended to prohibit burning the American flag?

A: I oppose the proposal to amend the Constitution. In the 214-year history of the Bill of Rights we have never amended the First Amendment and we should not start now. I condemn flag burning and any other displays of disrespect to our national symbols. But I stand with Colin Powell, John Glenn and other patriotic Americans who have said the way to pay tribute to the flag is to defend the freedoms for which it stands.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, “Flag Amendment” , Jan 25, 2004

No people of color in Dean’s cabinet-because so few in VT

Q: How you can explain not one black or brown working for your administration as governor?

DEAN: We do have African-American & Latino workers in state government.

SHARPTON: I said under your administration. Do you have a senior member of your cabinet that was black or brown?

DEAN: We had a senior member of my staff on my 5th floor.

SHARPTON: No, your cabinet.

DEAN: No, we did not. [But the cabinet has only] six members.

SHARPTON: Then you need to let me talk to you about race in this country.

DEAN: If the percentage of African-Americans in your state was any indication of what your views on race were, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King.

SHARPTON: But I don’t think that that answers the question. If you want to lecture people on race, you ought to have the background and track record in order to do that. Governors import talent. Governors reach all over the country to make sure they have diversity

Source: Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum , Jan 11, 2004

Confederate flag is a painful symbol to Blacks

Q: Is the Confederate flag an acceptable symbol of anything to an American?

DEAN: The Confederate flag is a painful symbol to African-Americans in this country because of what it represented. When we campaign, we’ve got to talk. They say race in the South or anyplace else in America, we’ve got to say jobs, because everybody needs a job, doesn’t matter what color they are or where they come from. We need to talk about the things that everybody needs: jobs, education & health care.

SHARPTON: Blacks in South Carolina are double unemployed to whites. We can’t use a class formula to go around that issue. Secondly, just having conversations with whites without real legislation, without real executive action is to trivialize our problems. We don’t need people talking to whites. We need people to do something about racism and about discrimination. Don’t reduce this to a coffee shop conversation. We need action. And a president leads, like Lyndon Johnson did. They don’t just have a conversation.

Source: Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum , Jan 11, 2004

Understand the plight of minorities

Q: What is the biggest challenge that’s facing America’s minority communities right now? : The biggest challenge is to help white audiences understand the plight of minority populations when it comes to race. We have to talk to the folks in this country who do the hiring because there are unconscious biases. Political leaders need to talk not just in terms of civil rights but in terms of overcoming the unconscious bias that every since American has toward hiring people that are like themselves.
Source: Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum , Jan 11, 2004

Egalitarianism implies the legality of gay civil unions

I believe that all people are created equal, certainly in the eyes of God. Therefore, they should be equal in the eyes of the law. That’s why I knew I had to work for civil unions. I never viewed the bill as a gay rights issue. I signed it out of a commitment to human rights, and because every single American has the same right to equality and justice under the law that I have.
Source: Winning Back America, p.157, on Vermont Voting Record H.847 , Dec 3, 2003

Apologizes for “Confederate flags in pickup trucks”

Q: You said you were sorry for any “pain” you caused by saying you wanted to “be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.”

A: I have retracted and apologized for that statement. I still firmly believe we need a dialogue on race in this country and I think we need to appeal to white southern voters if we are going to have any success in the south. I think the way to do it is to appeal to things we have in common such as the need for jobs and education.

Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A , Nov 6, 2003

GOP divides us on race, especially in the south

Q: [I’m a southerner, so] putting aside your poor choice of imagery, it seems to me that you were right about southern voters. I agree that the Democratic Party must make serious efforts to bring back into the fold disaffected poor, southern, white voters who have traditionally shared the economic priorities of the Democratic Party. My question is: how do you intend to do this?

A: I believe that although I should not have used the symbol of the Confederate flag, that the thrust of our strategy is the right thrust. We have to get people to focus on what we have in common in the south and elsewhere in this country. We have to stop the Republicans from dividing us on issues like race and abortion and guns and start focusing on the need for jobs, healthcare and education. That is the way to bring southern white voters back to the Democrats.

Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A , Nov 6, 2003

Stop being divided by race: reach out to white southerners

Q: Are you saying that the votes of those who fly the Confederate flag are too loathsome to even accept?

EDWARDS: Dean still has not said he was wrong [to seek those votes]. Were you wrong to say that?

DEAN: No, I wasn’t. People who vote who fly the Confederate flag, I think they are wrong because the Confederate flag is a racist symbol. But I think there are lot of poor people who fly that flag because the Republicans have been dividing us by race since 1968 with their southern race strategy. I am tired of being divided by race in this country. I want to go down to the South and talk to people who don’t make any more than anybody else up north but keep voting Republican against their own economic interests.

EDWARDS: The last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do. I grew up in the South. I grew up with the very people that you’re talking about. The vast majority don’t drive around with Confederate flags on pickup trucks.

Source: CNN “Rock The Vote” Democratic Debate , Nov 5, 2003

Reach out to every American, even Southern white males

Q: What is your response to Dean’s Confederate flag comment?

BRAUN: In the Senate I opened myself up to the venom of the right-wing conspiracy by battling Jesse Helms over the Confederate flag. We have to as Democrats begin to engage a civil conversation how we can get past that racist strategy that the Republicans have foisted upon this country, how we can bring Southern whites and blacks and northern blacks and whites together, how we can come together to reclaim this country-and Latinos, and Asians, and Christians & Muslims & Jews & Protestants.

DEAN: We have to reach out to every single American. We don’t have to embrace the Confederate flag, and I never suggested that we did. But we have to reach out to all disenfranchised people. I understand that the Confederate flag is a loathsome symbol, just as I understood all the anti-gay slurs that I had to put up with in Vermont after I signed that bill were loathsome symbols. If we don’t reach out to every single American, we can’t win.

Source: CNN “Rock The Vote” Democratic Debate , Nov 5, 2003

Make no apologies for reaching out to poor Southern whites

SHARPTON: I don’t think the governor is a racist, but [Confederate flag statement] has hurt us. When Clinton was found to be a member of a white-only country club, he apologized. You are not a bigot, but you appear to be too arrogant to say “I’m wrong” and go on.

DEAN: Rev. Jesse Jackson went to a South Carolina trailer park which was inhabited by mostly white folks making $25,000 a year. We need to reach out to those people, too, because they suffer as well. I understand the legacy of racism and bigotry in this country. We need to bring folks together in this race, just like Martin Luther King tried to do before he was killed. He was right. And I make no apologies for reaching out to poor white people.

SHARPTON: But Confederate flags are not for white people. Jackson went to South Carolina with all of us protesting the flag. The issue’s not poor southern whites. Most poor southern whites don’t wear a Confederate flag, and you ought not try to stereotype that.

Source: CNN “Rock The Vote” Democratic Debate , Nov 5, 2003

Gays deserve equal rights under the law

Q: Does gay marriage make you uncomfortable?

A: When I signed the civil unions bill, I didn’t know anything more about the gay community than I did 25 years earlier. I did it, not because I knew a lot about the gay community, it was because I believed every single American deserves equal rights under the law. I have come to know the GLBT community over time because I signed the first equal rights under the law bill for gay and lesbian Americans.

Source: CNN Rock The Vote on 2000 Vermont Voting Record H.847 , Nov 5, 2003

Gay rights are a matter of principle

Republicans may not produce commercials about Vermont’s civil unions laws, instead keeping it in the public mind by supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage. Dean’s response here is that he did what he thought was right regardless of the political damage.

“I never got a chance to ask myself whether signing it was a good idea or not,” he says, “because I knew that f I were willing to sell out the rights of a whole group of human beings because it might be politically inconvenient for a future office I might run for, then I had wasted my time in public service.”

The message to middle-of-the-road voters is clear: You might disagree with me on this issue, but I am a man of principle. Gay rights has never been an issue in a national election campaign, so no one can predict its salience.

Source: Citizen’s Guide to the Man Who Would be President, p. 27-28 , Oct 1, 2003

Black roommate at Yale defined his views on tolerance

Dean’s attendance at the Felsted school in England-and a summer on a ranch in Florida-led him to think more broadly about diversity. As a lone American among international students, Dean was repeatedly asked to explain the racial strife at home. He had t stretch to hold his own, and he wanted to keep stretching. “I recognized that I’d had a sheltered upbringing, and I was tired of it,” he says. When Yale sent him a housing questionnaire to learn his roommate preferences, Dean answered that he wanted a black roommate.

“It was the height of the civil rights movement, and there was enormous tension because they didn’t know any white people and I didn’t know any black people and we had a hell of a lot of learning to do,” Dean remembers. Just finding the right words in conversation so as not to give offense was a challenge.

The death of Martin Luther King in 1968 punctuated a transformative year. It solidified in Dean’s mind the importance of tolerance and understanding diverse points of view.

Source: Citizen’s Guide to the Man Who Would be President, p. 43-45 , Oct 1, 2003

Passed civil unions, despite it being unpopular

Q: As president, what would be the least popular, most right thing you would do?

DEAN: I signed a civil unions bill which gave equal rights to gay and lesbian people when only 35% of the people in my state supported it. That’s what American people want. They do not want people who are going to promise them everything. What they want is somebody who’s going to tell them where they stand.

Source: Debate at Pace University in Lower Manhattan , Sep 25, 2003

Affirmative action counters built-in hiring biases

We need affirmative action in this country. There is a built-in bias of people who do hiring, that they automatically assume people who look like them are more qualified than people that don’t look like them. That’s why you need affirmative action. That’s why the president essentially played the race card when he used the word quota to describe the University of Michigan affirmative action program. And for that reason alone, he deserves a one-way bus ticket back to Crawford, Texas.
Source: Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate , Sep 9, 2003

Profiling doesn’t work

It’s important not to use profiling. Profiling doesn’t work. There’s been a lot of studies about it. It doesn’t work in Hispanic communities. It doesn’t work in African-American communities. And it doesn’t work against the Arab-Americans either. I am tired of being divided by race. I’m tired of being divided by gender. I’m tired of being divided by sexual orientation, by income and by religion. I want a country that’s based on a community again.
Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico , Sep 4, 2003

Patriot Act shows reckless disregard of civil liberties

Q: Would you revise or repeal the Patriot Act?

A: Too many in my party voted for the Patriot Act. We need more Democrats who are willing to stand against Bush’s reckless disregard for our civil liberties. As Americans, we need to stand up and ensure that our laws reflect our values. As President, I will repeal those parts of the Patriot Act that undermine our constitutional rights, and will stand against any further attempts to expand the government’s reach at the expense of our civil liberties.

Source: MoveOn.org interview , Jun 17, 2003

Supported civil unions for same-sex couples

In 1999, in Baker v. State of Vermont, the state high court held that same-sex couples were entitled to the same legal benefits and protections enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

In 2000, Dean signed a bill legalizing so-called civil unions in VT He did so without any public ceremony, which angered the gay community. However, during his 2000 reelection campaign, Dean never budged on his support for the civil-union bill even in the face of a withering assault from the Republican candidate.

Source: Charles P. Pierce, Boston Globe on 2004 Pres. race , Nov 24, 2002

Support principles embodied in the Equal Rights Amendment.

Dean adopted the National Governors Association policy:

In 1976 the National Governors Association expressed support for ratification and implementation of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would constitutionally guarantee full citizenship rights and opportunities for women. In 1982 the drive for ratification fell short, and efforts to initiate the amendatory process were taken.

The National Governors Association reaffirms its support for the principles embodied in the Equal Rights Amendment, i.e., that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on the basis of gender.

Source: NGA Executive Committee Policy EC-14: Equal Rights Policy 01-NGA1 on Feb 15, 2001

Other candidates on Civil Rights: Howard Dean on other issues:
Former Presidents/Veeps:
George W. Bush (R,2001-2009)
V.P.Dick Cheney
Bill Clinton (D,1993-2001)
V.P.Al Gore
George Bush Sr. (R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan (R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter (D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford (R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson (D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy (D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower (R,1953-1961)
Harry_S_TrumanHarry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Religious Leaders:
New Testament
Old Testament
Pope Francis

Political Thinkers:
Noam Chomsky
Milton Friedman
Arianna Huffington
Rush Limbaugh
Tea Party
Ayn Rand
Secy.Robert Reich
Joe Scarborough
Gov.Jesse Ventura
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Oct 27, 2021