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You Have the Power: How to Take Back Our Country and Restore Democracy in America Hardcover – September 21, 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Wake Up America: The Nine Virtues That Made Our Nation Great--and Why We Need Them More Than Ever by Eric Bolling
"Wake Up America" by Eric Bolling
Wake Up America is a much-needed call to arms for America’s citizens to preserve and protect our country's present and future. Learn more
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Governor Howard Dean is a physician who previously shared a medical practice with his wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg. He became governor of Vermont in 1991 and served until 2003. He campaigned for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election and served as honorary chairman of Democracy for America, an organization dedicated to building a grassroots network for the Democratic Party. He is currently the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two daughters. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From The Washington Post

In the wake of Sen. John Kerry's August and early September nosedive, the title of a likely bestseller comes to mind: "Losers: Why Feckless Democrats Seem Unable To Win The Presidency." Some publishing house should have commissioned it.

Let me stipulate: November 2 is still six weeks away, and the wobbly Democratic donkey may still learn how to kick, but one wonders. The most successful anti-Bush tomes of 2004 were written (such as former White House counterterrorism coordinator Richard A. Clarke's Against All Enemies) or informationally enabled (such as The Price of Loyalty, by Ron Suskind in collaboration with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill) by people with Republican roots. By Labor Day, the phrase "top-flight Washington Democratic strategist" was on its way to becoming a new oxymoron.

Two intriguing new books elucidate the party's conundrum. The first -- You Have the Power by Howard Dean, the ex-Vermont governor who briefly led the Democratic presidential field last winter -- endorses Kerry but basically argues that party renewal is up to the folks at the grass roots. "The Democratic Party, just like the Republicans," he laments, "emerged from the 1990s pretty much the captive of big-money interests." The upshot? "George Bush is an inept president and the Democrats haven't stood up to him." It's a fair summary of 2004 presidential politics, but as we will see, Dean's examination doesn't end there.

For his part, Graydon Carter, the editor of the New York-based magazine Vanity Fair, calls his book What We've Lost, adding on the cover How the Bush Administration Has Curtailed Our Freedoms, Mortgaged Our Economy, Ravaged Our Environment, and Damaged Our Standing in the World. Actually, there's more sophisticated documentation inside than the glib capsule might suggest, not least in the first two chapters probing "The President's Wars" and "The Military."

The former, beyond the now-familiar case that the misleadingly launched war against Iraq undercut the higher-priority fight against al Qaeda terrorism, culminates with a rare 13-page listing -- by name, rank and age -- of the Iraq war dead of 11 coalition nations, albeit mostly American. But these names add weight as Carter's chapter on the military locks in on a particularly blatant White House hypocrisy: Despite President Bush's relentless military photo-ops and repeated public promises to provide troops in Iraq with every equipment and then some, the reality has been otherwise.

The list is repulsive, especially in light of the simultaneous war profiteering by contractors like Vice President Cheney's old company, Halliburton. The largely unarmored Humvees used on patrol were such deathtraps that civic groups in hometowns like Mobile, Ala., arranged special steel plating for their National Guard unit's vehicles. U.S. companies producing body armor, in turn, were deluged with calls from parents trying to buy vests and plate for their ill-equipped sons and daughters in khaki. In 2003, only weeks before the Iraq war started, the Defense Department admitted that it could not certify that U.S. troops sent there had been provided with the minimum level of chemical and biological warfare protection equipment that the Pentagon itself required.

Additional shabby details show how the Bush administration sought to charge some returning troops a first-ever $250 fee to enroll in the Veterans Administration medical plan; to block expanded health care for returning reservists and National Guard members; to restrict officials of the Disabled American Veterans organization from visiting soldiers in the hospital; and to cut the extra $250 per month received by the families of combat soldiers to $100, calling the larger outlay "wasteful and unnecessary." Besides the more than 1,000 military U.S. dead, the White House is also trying to avoid discussing the nearly 7,000 wounded, quite a few of whom have lost single or multiple limbs in attacks and explosions. Many families even face awful decisions about turning off life-support systems. The entertainer Cher, talking on C-SPAN, described a visit to Washington's Walter Reed Hospital: "I wonder why Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, the president -- why aren't they taking pictures with all these guys? . . . Talking about the dead and the wounded, that's two different things. But these wounded are so devastatingly wounded. . . . It's unbelievable."

Carter's other chapters -- on the economy, the environment, the judiciary, Bush's State of the Union addresses (which the author suggests may break the U.S. Criminal Code's bar on fraudulent official statements) and more -- teem with information, but the greatest punch comes up front. Revealingly, Howard Dean -- the one major Democratic contender to oppose the war in Iraq -- underscores the same point. Families with a chief breadwinner in Iraq "were stunned when the Bush administration, despite its constant platitudes in support of the troops, tried to cut off the soldiers' hazardous-duty pay by declaring the Iraq conflict 'over'. . . . And they wondered where our government's loyalty was to its troops and to our veterans who were having their health-care benefits slashed while the president flew to Baghdad for a turkey dinner with the troops."

Television advertising able to slam home these abuses and failures could start to shift the electoral "patriotism" equation. But it has taken a shamefully long transition period for the establishment Democrats in Washington to attack the mistaken policy aspects of a war that most of them more or less supported -- in Kerry's case (at least until he changed his mind on Labor Day), with some of the most fumbling phraseology heard in modern American politics. Which brings us back to Dean's refreshing literary candor in explaining the almost inexplicable: how the Democrats of 2004 became such a feckless party that they failed to broadly and massively attack even so vulnerable a president as Bush.

The essence of Dean's analysis is simple. His presidential campaign broke through suddenly in 2003, he writes, because so many voters had become so hungry for straight talk. The gutlessness of congressional Democrats, who provided critical votes for Bush's programs, had worn down and disillusioned the party's rank and file. "The Democratic Party has for some time failed to live up to its mission of being a party for ordinary people," Dean writes. "The fatal combination of Republican cravenness and Democratic cowardice wasn't having an awful effect solely on the U.S. economy. . . . Politics as usual was smothering the American will to believe."

Donor-driven Democrats forgot their constituency, pretending to a false "centrism." But to Dean, "being a centrist means balancing budgets, not abandoning American working people and the middle class." Dean is careful not to criticize individuals. But over the last two decades, unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidates like Michael Dukakis and Al Gore have developed a kind of intermittent rhetorical facade for their well-funded campaigns, a populist-lite phraseology or middle-class pseudo-empathy -- invocations of "two Americas" or the "middle-class squeeze" -- that avoids the kind of serious documentation, repeated emphasis, detailed analysis and comprehensive remedies required to build for reform. Corporate and big-dollar donors don't mind as long as the pitches remain soft and occasional. This year's Kerry campaign seems to be following suit, attacking Bush with little more than spitballs, and voters are apparently underwhelmed.

As a longtime Bush critic with Republican antecedents, I believe that Dean is basically correct in his perceptions and in his conclusion that "when you trade your values for the hope of winning, you end up losing and having no values -- so you keep losing." The big questions for the next six weeks are whether the Democrats have the will and smarts to change -- and if so, whether they also have enough time.

Reviewed by Kevin Phillips
Copyright 2004, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743270134
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743270137
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,946,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Wetmore on September 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Written by the Gov. Howard Dean, MD who surgically implanted a new spine into the Democratic Party this book lays out what has gone wrong with our party (and our country) and plots a course for the future. For those who didn't pay attention to the Democratic primary race - who may only know Howard Dean as that `scream guy' - read this book. There are at least 700,000 people out there who are better citizens, better Americans because of this man. All Democrats, Liberals, Progressives should read this book. Republicans who think all Democrats are wild-eyed America-hating socialists may learn a thing or to also. I purchased my signed copy at a Dean speech in Ohio.
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Format: Hardcover
Howard Dean really speaks his mind in this book. Despite the media's portrayal of him as a red-faced, raving, leftist fanatic, he is actually quite a moderate Democrat. This book is a how-to guide to succeed in the political world, and is a wake-up call for both sides on what they should be doing to bring our country back together again. Also, unlike Bill Clinton's My Life, the book is small enough that you can read it on a long airline flight. I urge everyone, Democrat or Republican, to at least give this book a try.
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Format: Hardcover
Inevitably a book like this has two interwoven parts - a memoir and a litany of "we musts and we needs." As is often the case, the memoir of this rather unfortunately named book (sounds like a self help manual) is the far more interesting part. Dean is at his most interesting when discussing his take on his own campaign and various political figures. The famous scream? Dean makes a compelling case that it never happened (really!) Bill Clinton? A uniquely skilled politician who tried to undermine Dean and left many would-be successors with the wrong impression that he won because he was centrist. George Bush? The worst president since Harding (and even more dangerous). In acknowledging that his operation was not prepared to win a front-runners campaign, Dean sort of explains why he, as one of the guys who lost, should be writing about what Democrats need to do to win. I would have liked more analysis of what went wrong, and what went right. On the whole, though this slim volume is worthwhile and engaging enough to read in one or two sittings.
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Format: Hardcover
Come on Dean! I ordered this book from amazon.com and when it came in the mail and I opened the box, my first thought was "where's the beef?" I was shocked by how small and thin this book is, considering the price. I'm not sure why it was published in hardback, since his previous one was paperback only. As much as I love Dean and wish that he was the Democratic nominee instead of Kerry, this book is still a widget that only hardcore Dean supporters like myself would buy. Its a breeze to read in a day or two, covering much of what I've heard in several speeches and read in his previous book. I agree with all points he makes (because I'm a Deanocrat), but I still don't understand why he bothered with this book. I was hoping for a narrative about his experiences on the campaign trail. I suspect he was in a rush to get this book out before the election in hopes of his supporters buying it, reading it, and holding their noses when they vote for Kerry in November. That's still no reason to con me out of $20 on a widget! I would have happily waited for a more in depth book, with more substance, and regular sized, if it took a year or two for him to write one worth reading. That's why I have to give him three stars. Its not as good as his first campaign literature ("Winning Back America"), and I eagerly bought it sight unseen (had I seen it in a bookstore, I probably would've passed on buying it until the paperback version) just because I'm such a loyal Deanocrat who's hoping that Dean will run again in 2008 or 2012. Because I still like Dean and believe in his message, I wouldn't ask for my money back...just a promise from him not to pass another widget on his supporters. Wait for substance before you write another book, and call me if you want help writing one. I'd love to help out on that project!
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Format: Hardcover
Howard Dean is proving himself to be one of the Democratic Party's more enduring leaders. Not yet 60, he has already served as Governor of Vermont, head of the Democratic Governors Association, a Democratic candidate for the party's 2004 presidential nomination, head of the political action committee Democracy for America, and since, February, 2005, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. With the Democrats poised to make big gains in 2006, Dean's future relevance is likely to continue for some time.

I am not a neutral observer. I was a Dean delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2004--his only delegate from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or the Mid-Atlantic states. And I have actively participated in Democracy for America and urged Pennsylvania's members of the Democratic National Committee to support his candidacy for this position.

Dean's ascension to the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee from the ranks of unsuccessful Presidential candidates is unprecedented. Most Democratic National Committee chairs have been fundraisers and/or political technicians. Dean is the rare Democratic National Committee with a visible policy platform and a coherent set of ideas.

This book is a summary and integration of Dean's views in a variety of areas: public policy platform; critiques of the Democratic Party (including Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council), the Republican Party (including George Bush, Newt Gingrich and the radical right), the media (including coverage of him and coverage of President Bush), a mix of moral exhortations to get actively involved in the political process, and pragmatic suggestions on how to strengthen the Democratic Party and why doing so is absolutely necessary.
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