Young Democrats need to embrace Americans with different ideas and create a more civil tone in politics, the party’s chairman said yesterday.
Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the group of about 700 students at the annual convention of the College Democrats of America in Washington that “it’s a moral value to respect those who disagree with you.”
He defended the party’s support of pro-life Democrat Bob Casey Jr., saying that the party needs “a big tent.” Mr. Casey is challenging Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, in the 2006 election.
Mr. Dean said Mr. Casey is a good Democrat because “he cares about the child after it’s born as well as before.”
The DNC chairman, who has been criticized for attacking Republicans as a “white Christian party” and for being “brain dead,” said that Republicans should take his advice and embrace different ideas.
He criticized President Bush for tailoring public engagements to avoid dissenting opinions and suggested that Mr. Bush listen to other ideas. Mr. Dean said if he were president, he would talk to people of all opinions. “I think there’s some Republicans with good ideas,” he said, without naming any.
But he criticized Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, whom he called “a lunatic.” Mr. Tancredo recently came under fire for suggesting that the United States would retaliate for terrorist attacks in major cities by bombing Muslim holy sites, including Mecca. Mr. Dean said Mr. Bush “should put a collar and a mouthpiece” on some Republicans.
Mr. Dean thanked the students for being part of the only age group that Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, won in the 2004 presidential election. “The Republicans are all about voter suppression,” Mr. Dean said, joking that “maybe we should get into that. Only people under 30 can vote.”
Students at the conference also heard from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, who encouraged them to remember the core values of the party.
“There may be a political price to pay,” she said, “but it’s the right thing to do for America.” She suggested investment in public education and health care as focal points for young Democrats.
Mrs. Clinton reminded students that during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln established land-grant colleges to provide educational opportunities. Lincoln, she said, “had attitudes and values very much in line with what Democrats believe.”
Mrs. Clinton said her party has a belief in individual responsibility and self-reliance, and she encouraged the young Democrats to keep those values in mind as they apply them to current political situations.
She specifically encouraged young Democrats from Southern states to reach out to their communities. “We have seen the South move … away from the ideas of social and economic justice,” Mrs. Clinton said.
“We cannot take for granted that at the end of the century this nation will be all it can be,” she said, adding that it is the young generation’s responsibility to ensure a thriving future for America.