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This appeal, if it succeeds, will dampen the charge that Dean, governor of a state that is mostly white, had made little effort to reach out to other communities. His nontraditional approachconcentrating on proposals, like his higher education policy, which could reach various marginalized communitiesmight insulate him from the charge of merely pandering with the typical overused civil rights rhetoric.
If Dean's early rallies and fundraisers in New York were very white middle-class, by the time night fell on his last visit, it seemed he had hardly seen any white voters at all. The day began at a Baptist church in Harlem, where he was surrounded by an elderly congregation. Dean sang along to the hymns, and seemed to enjoy the sensational choir. He told the crowd, during the 60 seconds the minister gave him, exactly what his political director wants to hear: "We need jobs. . . . We need health care." And then one for the crowd. "And real prescription benefits."
Next, a stop at Mount Sinai, where Dean praised the hospital's work with its East Harlem neighbors. "[Dean] understands health care," said Burton P. Drayer, the hospital's new president. "He's concerned about urban health care issues."
After a labor rally downtown, Dean wrapped up his trip whipping up Major Owens's crowd, at an awards ceremony at the swank El Caribe club in Brooklyn. His voice cracked a little as he delivered his trusty stump speech, also hitting issues that matter to this largely immigrant community. He talked about voting rights for prisoners and blasted John Ashcroft's immigration policies. The politically active Brooklyn crew liked what they heard.
Still, the day felt a bit like speed-dating, and a few of the courted remained wary.
Mary Rosario, an AFSCME member who lives in East Harlem, liked Dean's health proposals. "He seems to support parents," she said. "And, he is coming to our community."
"Still," she added, "I do hope he's listening."