The Army of Dean

For the Troops, the Campaign Unmanages the Message

Jennifer Powers, who sits on the steering committee of the Philadelphia group, agrees. "I think I talk to the campaign almost every day," she said, though she couldn't recall exactly what they discuss. "It's mostly just to keep in contact and to let them know the kinds of things that we're organizing down here," she said.

These days, Philadelphia is preoccupied with its mayoral contest. Incumbent Democratic mayor John Street is dodging charges of cronyism in the wake of an FBI investigation into his family finances, and since the FBI won't say why it placed bugs in the mayor's office, no one is actually sure what the investigation is about. For his part, Street maintains his innocence.

"I believe Street," said Nelson. "I personally think the way Street is being treated is an issue of race, and I know the majority of the African American community here feels the same way." Nelson confides that she would be happy if the Dean campaign supported Street. Dean has not commented on the election, except to say that he always supports Democrats over Republicans.

The Army of Dean: geeks, dykes, hackers, economists, and the unemployed
photo: Andy Kropa
The Army of Dean: geeks, dykes, hackers, economists, and the unemployed

Nelson stresses that Dean's involvement is not a priority, and further, she isn't sure it would be best for his campaign.

"That's the reality of race in our country," she sighed. "You get cut off at the knees."

Rebecca Schoon thinks she knows the mind of Howard Dean. And she likes it. So much, in fact, that she gave her share of the Bush tax cut to the Dean campaign. She shows all the signs of addiction, including an affinity for buzzwords like community.

If Schoon is addicted, she's certainly not powerless. "I find Dean comprehensive without being reductive," she said, after a day spent preaching to hipsters in DUMBO. She is now an active volunteer for Dean in New York and a pretty effective booster, too: "His thought process is logical. I understand the causal links and the nuance." And she likes that her opinions won't change his positions—even the ones she doesn't agree with. "He won't even pander to me," she said.

And while Schoon feels strongly about "effecting change," she too is a pragmatist: Bush is the target. Welcome to the Dean Army.

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