by Mark Dunau
“Birddogging” is an expression used to describe the activities of an advocate who follows candidates for the purpose of declaring a point of view, and hopefully moving candidates to that same opinion. What follows are my experiences birddogging on behalf of the self-employed in the three weeks prior to the 2004 New Hampshire Presidential Primary. To view the cover page of that packet, go to the end of this story.
Kissed my wife, Lisa, and kids goodbye and set off from my farm in Hancock, New York, bound for Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Quickly encountered what was to be a continuous series of snow squalls. The roads were lousy and the slow driving gave me plenty of time to ponder the purpose of my trip: to follow the Democratic Presidential candidates around New Hampshire for the three weeks prior to the primary, and at every opportunity speak and lobby on behalf of the self-employed. In hand, I had recent statistics from the Census Bureau demonstrating that the self-employed now outnumbered union members in the United States. My contention was that 16 million union members and 20 million self-employed equaled a populist movement. Why weren’t the Democratic candidates addressing the needs of the self-employed—the highest taxed, most regulatory burdened, least protected Americans? To defeat George Bush, I knew the Democrats had to carry the vote of the self-employed.
After nine hours of driving, I arrived at midnight at my mother’s dead, cold summer home. Turned on the oil furnace, but not the water, fearing it might freeze. Figured I’d carry water in and relate to the house as a large heated tent. Covered myself in five blankets and quickly went to sleep.
Bought supplies, and filled water jugs at the local diner. Called the Kucinich headquarters and discovered he would be attending a house party in Nashua at 7:30 p.m.
Drove one and a half hours to Nashua and entered the beautiful Tudor home of Steve and Theresa, both teachers. There were about 30 young and middle aged people waiting for Kucinich. Some watched Kucinich’s campaign video, others chatted and noshed on snacks provided by the hosts.
Kucinich arrived about 8:00, and mingled with the crowd for about half an hour. I approached him and asked him why neither he nor any of the other Democratic candidates addressed the needs of the self-employed. He replied that that was a good question, particularly since he had once been self-employed himself. I told him that I believed the Democratic Presidential nominee couldn’t win without carrying the vote of the self-employed, and handed him a packet of statistics I had gathered to demonstrate that the self-employed now outnumbered union members, and that together they would make a populist movement. I pointed out the three upcoming primaries; in New Hampshire there were 90,000 self-employed, 59,000 union members; in Iowa 260,000 self-employed, 181,000 union members, South Carolina 212,000 self-employed, 71,000 union members. Kucinich gave my packet to his assistant and said, “Make sure to keep this.”
Steve and Theresa gathered the crowd together so that Kucinich could share some of his thoughts. Kucinich said that his was a campaign offering hope, not fear. He looked at the world holistically, and that past, present and future interacted in such a way that injustices of the past could not simply be forgotten. The unjust war in Iraq would be reverberating throughout America for a long time. He was the only Democratic candidate who pledged to get the troops home now. His campaign was dedicated to healing the wounds of war, environmental degradation and numerous other Bush Administration outrages that he described.
Kucinich then opened himself to about half an hour of questions. Many of the people in the room had jobs in high tech, and were concerned with applications that might be used in ways that were totalitarian. They were also concerned with the many high tech middle class jobs that had recently been lost in the area, outsourced to India. Kucinich replied that he had voted against the Patriot Act and reiterated his commitment to the right of privacy. He reaffirmed his promise that his first act as President would be to withdraw the United States from the NAFTA and GATT Trade Agreements.
Kucinich spoke eloquently and from the heart. The host, Theresa, asked the last question, but it was really a tearful plea. She lived in fear and was terrified of the Bush Administration. “Please Congressman Kucinich, while the Democratic candidates may disagree, please don’t attack each other. This only made it more likely that Bush would be reelected.”
During the night, I had a dream about my father, the fourth dream I’d had about him since he died 30 years ago. I gave him a word he’d forgotten in a seminar on labor law he was teaching.
Realizing that the packet I’d given Kucinich on the self-employed proved their numbers and importance, but did not lay out a strategy to reach them, I went to the Wolfeboro Public Library to write one. Banged out a concise two pages calling for cutting the Self-Employment Tax in half, increasing Small Business Administration Loans to the self-employed, and pointing out that 30% of the self-employed have no health insurance.
Took off for Concord, 50 minutes away. I was late for a Town Meeting Wesley Clark was having at the Havenwood Retirement Community at 2:00. Missed the first hour, but arrived to hear an elderly woman ask about the outrages of the School of the Americas and its responsibility for killing thousands of innocent Latin Americans, including priests. Clark responded that the School of the Americas had changed over the last ten years, and not to judge it by misdeeds of the past. Plenty of people from Harvard business school had also done wrong, but that didn’t mean you should just shut down Harvard. The School of the Americas had reformed, as had Harvard.
Several elderly people asked questions related to an America they now perceived as filled with fear and selfishness, and which had lost the ideals of the New Deal. Clark responded articulately that he believed in a nation that saw itself as a community, not simply as a nation of top dogs. He promised to rescind the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and to get the United States working together towards common goals like renewable energy. Also, his experiences in foreign policy made it evident to him that the United States could not engage the world unilaterally, but must work together with nations as partners. He already had excellent relations with many world leaders.
Clark had time for one more question. He called on me and I gave him my pitch for the self-employed, proclaiming that I was a self-employed farmer and to to save the family farm, the self-employed had to be saved. I was pleased when the crowd cheered. Clark responded by stating that last year he had become self-employed himself, and that I was absolutely right about the heavy hand of the 15.3% self-employment tax. He did not know that the self-employed now outnumbered union members, but found it believable. As concerns Small Business Administration loans to the self-employed, they absolutely should be greatly increased. Clark allowed me to follow up with another question, and I simply asked if he would be willing to cut the Self-Employment Tax in half, returning it to the structure of 1950, when the self-employed only paid the employer’s share of the Social Security Tax. That would surely get the attention of 20 million self-employed Americans. Clark responded by saying he’d have to think about it.
The Town Meeting ended and I joined a line of people to shake Clark’s hand. When I got to him, I handed him my packet and said that if he followed the yellow highlighter for two minutes, he’d get an important demographic insight for himself and the Democratic Party. He said he’d try to find the time and handed it off to an assistant.
As I exited the retirement community, I met Rex from Tennessee. Rex was a Gore supporter, now in New Hampshire trying to get the lay of the land. He thought Gore had made a terrible mistake endorsing Dean, who he did not think could be elected. He was impressed with Clark, who he believed had a terrific learning curve.
At 8:00, Kucinich, Edwards and Lieberman were having a forum at Temple Beth Jacob in Concord. That gave me time to check candidates’ schedules on the internet at the Concord Public Library, call home, and have dinner.
Temple Beth Jacob held 150 people and was overflowing. Most had written out a question for the candidates, and from these the Rabbi was choosing which questions would be asked.
When the forum got going, each candidate was polished, articulate and in good humor. The first question the Rabbi asked was to sum up in two minutes the candidates’ positions on the war in Iraq, free trade, and nuclear disarmament. The candidates thought he was kidding, but the Rabbi wasn’t—just do your best, he said.
Lieberman began by declaring that the world was a better and safer place without Saddam Hussein. The problem with the war in Iraq was that the Bush Administration had been unprepared for the days after victory. As for nuclear disarmament, he was opposed to the tactical weapons now being proposed by the Administration. These new nuclear weapons undermined the United States leadership in non-proliferation. Lieberman did not get to world trade.
Edwards followed by avoiding discussion of the war in Iraq, focusing instead on free trade. He supported free trade only when there were provisions guaranteeing labor rights and environmental protections. Child labor was not an economic choice, it was a moral choice. The fact that American jobs were being lost for child labor sweat shops sickened him.
Kucinich declared that the war in Iraq was not just, that he had a plan to get the UN in, and the United States out in three months. As President he would do all he could to rid the planet of all nuclear weapons. Finally, his first act as president would be to withdraw the United States from NAFTA and GATT.
Many questions followed. Measured in crowd response, one of the most telling was when the Rabbi asked the candidates what their positions were on the security wall Israel was building on its borders and through parts of the West Bank. Lieberman responded that he supported building the wall as a reasonable means to protect Israel from terrorists—only a handful of people in the audience applauded. Edwards stated his commitment to the United States engaging both the Palestinians and Israelis in peace talks as the best hope—but avoided taking a position on the wall. Kucinich said the wall represented fear, not hope, and opposed it—he received strong applause.
During the evening and his closing speech, Edwards revealed himself to be a populist who was not content to have two Americas; one with good public schools, the other offering poor educations; one America with the best health care in the world, the other with little or no health care, one America wanting for little and full of hopes and dreams, the other America living paycheck to paycheck and full of fear and despair. It was intolerable that in the richest nation in the world, there were children going to bed hungry.
Kucinich was clearly moved by Edward’s closing speech. While Edwards closed boldly, Kucinich closed softly. He remembered sleeping with his mother and five siblings in a car in the streets of Cleveland, looking at the fires from the factory chimneys as beacons of hope. He remembered his job for the Cleveland Plain Dealer as a messenger boy, entering the homes of proud working families, and being given precious pictures of sons, to be returned after the paper made copies for the obituary listing these sons as killed in action in Vietnam. Kucinich feared that Iraq was becoming another Vietnam.
Lieberman closed by stating again that ridding the world of Saddam Hussein was worth the war in Iraq. He was committed to social justice and the environment. He believed that separation of church and state was a cornerstone of our society, but that there was nothing wrong with one’s faith informing one’s actions. Faith was a hugely positive factor in American society and history. As for George W. Bush, however, he did not consider destroying the environment, God’s creation, a faith-based initiative, nor did he believe cutting programs for the poor and less privileged faith-based. If elected President, he would reinstate taxes on the wealthy to restore many social services cut by the Bush Administration, but would leave the middle class tax cuts in place because the middle class in this country were truly struggling. In fact, he would further reduce taxes on the middle class.
I cocooned myself in blankets all night. It was 20 below zero outside and the wind was blowing at 25 miles an hour. When I got out of bed, I dressed in two thermal undershirts. The temperature in the dining room was 36 degrees. I made coffee and then took off for a Town Meeting with Gephardt at the Pleasant View Retirement Home in Concord at 10:30.
The Town Meeting was in a small room seating only about 75 people, mostly elderly from the retirement community and a Concord elementary school class. Behind the microphone was a huge banner with Gephardt's name; Social Security and Medicare were printed dozens of times as the backdrop.
Gephardt entered with the demeanor of a gentle man. He delivered a slow, methodical and informed speech about the horrors of the Bush Administration. Then he spoke to the Gephardt economic plan: It would reverse all the Bush Administration tax cuts, not only for the wealthy but the middle class as well. The Gephardt plan would get America working again and would provide health insurance for all Americans. This would be accomplished by the federal government picking up 60% of the cost of private health insurance policies, chosen by Americans themselves for their own diverse needs. Sure, middle class families’ taxes would go up several hundred dollars, but they would receive several thousand in health insurance savings. Gephardt then explained how his son Matt at six weeks old had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Only the fact that Gephardt had health insurance allowed Matt to be treated with the experimental drugs that enabled him to survive; Matt is now 33 years old. Health insurance for all Americans was deeply personal with Gephardt. Gephardt concluded his speech by reiterating that he had led the fight in Congress against NAFTA and GATT, and that if elected President, he would make sure these trade agreements included environmental and labor protections. He believed it was time to develop an international minimum wage.
Gephardt had time for three questions. Our eyes connected and he called on me. I identified myself as a family farmer and that to save the family farm, the self-employed had to be saved. By the time I had finished my rant, I had clearly struck a chord with Gephardt. He said he usually addressed the needs of the self-employed as concerns health insurance, but I was right that the problems of the self-employed go far deeper than that. The Small Business Administration did have to change their polices concerning the self-employed by greatly expanding the microloan program. As for the Self-Employment Tax, that was a hardship for the self-employed that needed to be addressed, but he currently did not know what to do.
A child asked Gephardt his last question—about his position on the war in Iraq. Gephardt answered that he had supported the war, but never imagined how unprepared for its aftermath the Bush Administration was.
The event concluded with Gephardt being given an original invitation to the 1948 Truman inauguration. Gephardt hoped he would be the second President from Missouri, and was clearly pleased.
Gephardt shook hands for about 10 minutes. When I got to him, he said I’d delivered an extremely eloquent speech. I gave him my self-employed packet, and said I hoped he’d find time review it, only together could unions and the self-employed defeat Bush.
While leaving, I met Alex. He was part of a camera crew of students from NYU. They were following all the candidates during winter break. Matt said I was excellent yesterday talking to Clark, but even better today with Gephardt. He thought the self-employed was an important issue, and so far I was the only person he’d seen making the candidates address it. He asked if I would be at the Town Meeting with Dean at the Concord High School that evening. I said I would.
I had several hours to kill before the Dean event. Went to the large and warm Concord Public Library and spent time on the internet studying the candidates schedules. Dean would be speaking at 5:00 in Concord, Edwards at 7:00 at a Town Meeting in Nashua City Hall. Not much was happening the next day, as all the candidates but Clark and Lieberman were flying off to Iowa.
I arrived at the Town Meeting for Dean a half hour early. Found myself a good seat amongst the 200 provided. In the next half hour, the space would overflow with people and press crews. Dean was late and a young woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation. Aurelia was an artist from California. She had been a big Dean supporter and had worked hard for him—now she was having second thoughts because of what she believed was his growing arrogance. She had flown to New Hampshire just to make up her mind. I told her that I believed Dean was leading the first populist movement in my lifetime. However, I too was developing reservations about Dean, and that I was afraid that, like President Bush, he might be unable to admit when he made a mistake. I described myself as the self-appointed advocate for the self-employed. She replied that that must have been a tough job interview.
Matt from the NYU film crew came up to me and said I should be pleased. At Gephardt's Town Meeting in the afternoon, he had made a point of speaking about the self-employed.
Dean arrived. Several high school supporters stood behind him. Two spoke of their commitment and all the work they had done for his campaign. They gave him a Concord High School jacket.
Dean launched into his speech, speaking forcefully and quickly. He began by comparing the Bush Administration to the Republican Administrations of McKinley and Hoover. Never before had corporate America so dominated the federal government. Take the Medicare Prescription Drug Package—it was nothing but a huge give away to the pharmaceutical companies. The federal government was by law now not allowed to negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices, or import drugs from Canada. Look at the energy plan worked out by Vice President Cheney—billions of dollars of fossil fuel incentives and almost nothing for renewables. Under a Dean Presidency, wind, solar, geothermal, biobased fuels, and other renewables would all be funded and encouraged—it was a national security imperative to become less dependent on Middle East oil. And what about the Bush Administration’s attack on the environment? Take gutting the Clean Air Act, which identifies four atmospheric pollutants. How did Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative reduce air pollution by 25%? By eliminating carbon dioxide as one of the four pollutants. There were four pollutants listed, now there were three; a 25% reduction!
He would repeal all the Bush Administration tax cuts. Sixty percent of American families had only received about $300 in tax savings, but had lost thousands in government benefits and services, as well as watching their local taxes go up. Only by restoring tax revenue could much needed social programs be restored, health insurance and education improved, and at the same time the budget deficit brought down and eventually balanced. The majority of the American people knew that the Bush Administration tax cuts had cost them money; they would accept a few hundred dollars more in federal taxes for thousands of dollars in benefits.
Foreign policy: The United States must have a strong military. He supported the Gulf War, intervention in Kosova, and the war in Afghanistan. But attacking Iraq made the United States no safer; it simply inspired more terrorists. He was glad that Saddam Hussein was in jail, but at what cost? Nearly 500 Americans dead, over 2000 wounded—he’d rather have those dead Americans living, and those wounded Americans whole, than Hussein in jail. Hussein and Iraq had been contained, and had been no threat to the United States. Yesterday, the Carnegie Foundation stated that there had never been any Weapons of Mass Destruction, and that the American people had been systematically deceived. Colin Powell, yesterday, also stated that their was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The United States’ real enemy was Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Imagine rather than attacking Iraq, the $157 billion had been spent pursuing al-Qaeda and protecting our infrastructure: the United States would be safer today.
Dean moved on to world trade. It was true that he had supported NAFTA and GATT. This is because he had believed that these trade agreements would improve the lives of not only Americans, but all the people of the world. As enacted, however, without labor or environmental protections, Americans were losing jobs and the standard of living for the rest of the world was not improving. A Dean Presidency would change these trade agreement to include labor, environmental and human rights protections.
Lastly, it was difficult for a President to accomplish change without the cooperation of Congress—but as President, he knew there was one thing he could accomplish. His first day in office, he would reverse all of Bush’s executive orders decimating the environment.
Dean had time for four questions, none of which were interesting. When he was finished, the audience rose to its feet and Dean received a sustained applause.
I asked Aurelia what she thought of the speech. She said it was too strident for her taste, but decent.
Dashed off to Nashua, 40 minutes away, to get to Edward’s Town Meeting at City Hall. The room was packed with nearly 200 people. I missed Edward’s opening speech, but had arrived just as he began answering questions.
Many questions were addressed to Edward’s concerning healthcare. Edwards answered with compassion. He believed that the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit was an outrageous give away to the pharmaceutical industry, and was a perfect example of how special interests corrupted and now controlled Washington at the expense of the American people. Edwards was proud to say he had never taken a dollar from a lobbyist. He believed that the revolving door that enabled government officials to leave their positions, and then quickly take jobs lobbying for the industries they had just been regulating, was a disgrace, and a practice that must end.
When asked about balancing the budget, he said he could not make all the promises the other Democrats made and claim to balance the budget at the same time—an Edwards Administration would dedicate itself to improving healthcare and education and creating jobs, but no one should expect to see a balanced budget for at least ten years. His education plan, for instance, would guarantee that the federal government would pay the first year of college for a student in exchange for ten hours of work a week, but after that first year, the student was on his or her own to find the means to finish college. This was the kind of hard compromise that had to be made. To help lower the deficit, Edwards would repeal the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy and would also increase the capital gains tax. Why was investment income now being taxed at a lower rate than labor? As far as Edwards was concerned, labor was more valuable to society than capital and should be taxed at a lower rate. Under the Bush Administration, however, labor was now deemed less valuable than investment. Edwards promised that as President he would raise the minimum wage to $7 an hour.
A man asked Edwards why the United States was now helping the earthquake victims in Iran, when that nation was our enemy. Edwards answered that he believed that Iran represented more danger to the United States than nearly any other nation because of its history of sponsoring terrorism and its nuclear program. He never addressed the question of mercy towards earthquake victims.
After about 20 questions, Edwards had to conclude because the building had to close. He received heartfelt applause and stayed to shake many hands.
When I left the meeting room, I was surprised to be handed a flyer contending that Edward’s supported Bush’s crackdown on medical marijuana in California. I would have appreciated it if someone had asked that question.
I left the building to ten below zero weather and a biting wind. I called my brother in Wellesley, Massachusetts, about 45 minutes away, and asked if I could spend the night. By the time I was done writing directions at the outside pay phone, my hands were frozen.
In the morning I called the farm. Lisa told me that it was 20 below zero there, that the cold water pipe to the kitchen was frozen, and so was the bathroom drain. I told her not to worry about the cold water pipe in the kitchen, and how to thaw out the drain in the bathroom. She was not pleased about the situation, and I told her I’d be home in five hours. There were really no candidates I had an interest in birddogging again until the 13th anyway. I’d rather be home.
Driving home, I rehearsed a short speech I planned to give Edwards if he called on me at his next Town Meeting, tentatively scheduled on the 13th at the Manchester YWCA. The speech went like this:
“Senator Edwards, half a century ago Paul Robeson said that political movements succeed when people fight their own oppression. I’m a self-employed farmer; to save the family farm, the self-employed must be saved.
“The self-employed are the highest taxed, most regulatory burdened, least protected Americans. Thirty percent of the self-employed have no health insurance, they receive less than 1/10th of 1% of Small Business Administration Loans, and they must pay the draconian 15.3% Self-Employment Tax on all their income. A self-employed family earning $30,000 can not afford to pay over $4,000 in Self-Employment Tax as their first expense. I’ve read you economic plan for America (hold up book), and while I have great respect for your defense of organized labor, the word ‘self-employed’ does not appear in your economic plans, although we make up nearly 3/4 of American businesses. We have a name, self-employed, and I don’t know why you are not addressing our needs. There are 16 million union members, 20 million self-employed, together we make a populist movement. So my question is this, why don’t you know our name?”
Arrived home to five below zero weather, but was greeted warmly by the family. Repaired the drain pipe. Decided the cold water pipe to the kitchen would probably be frozen until spring.
Stoked the wood stoves, caught up with my journal, tried to be a good husband and father.
Drove back to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Found that the furnace had kicked off in the house and wouldn’t restart. Probably the extreme cold had coagulated the fuel oil. Went to the “water tower” in back: 30 years ago winterized for romance and study, abandoned for the past 15 years, now covered in the tracings of squirrels. Lit the wood stove and quickly got the place warm. Swept up the worst of the mess, then slept.
Went to an open reception and lunch for Teresa Heinz Kerry in Concord, hosted by MJ and Dan in their beautifully restored home. There were about 75 people there, mostly middle aged and connected with New Hampshire not for profit organizations.
MJ gave a short introduction to Teresa Heinz Kerry, describing her as one of the nation’s leading philanthropists, a woman that generously donated her time and money to women’s causes and environmental solutions.
Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke of the untimely death of her first husband, Senator Heinz from Pennsylvania. He had no immediate family except her and their children, consequently, the leadership of the huge Heinz Foundation had literally been thrust upon her. One of her first acts as head of the Foundation had been to build a new headquarters in Pittsburgh that was entirely ‘green’, even the wood was from sustainable operations in Pennsylvania. The project had been a huge success, and the architectural community in Pittsburgh had followed her lead; now, Pittsburgh was the most green city in the United States, with over 600 green buildings.
Teresa Heinz Kerry then spoke about the Heinz Foundation’s dedication to Early Childhood Intervention. She believed that work to prevent problems was as important as cures. For instance, the best way to deal with the prison system was to intervene early with families that needed help, and to make sure that families knew that help was being offered. She was convinced that families and teachers knew early on which children were headed for trouble. The difficulties of children were also often related to health and diet, and the work of the Foundation addressed these needs of families and the community as well. From here she segued into the importance of small farms, and her work with the Foundation to find new markets for family farmers.
Teresa Heinz Kerry ended her talk by describing her husband as a complex man who was a poet, educator, sportsman, and Senator dedicated to his country and family. While he could enjoy simple pleasures, life did not offer simple answers. He spent much time thinking deeply about the issues that confronted this nation. Senator Kerry was now taking a lot of heat for a commercial he was running in New Hampshire declaring that no American life was worth one drop of oil.
Teresa Heinz Kerry had time for three questions. She fielded one on cold fusion, a hot topic in Concord because of several scientists and a foundation located there, dedicated to its reality.
Then she called on me. I stated that I agreed entirely with her husbands position paper supporting small farms and fighting the monopoly power of corporate processors, but did not understand why the word “self-employed” was not used in his literature, considering that 90% of farmers were self-employed and these were the people being dominated. She responded by describing some of the work Senator Kerry and the Heinz Foundation were involved in on behalf of small farms and small business in general, particularly concerning the crisis that small business faced in health insurance. I followed up by stating that I supported this work, but small business was a description that the Small Business Administration and the federal government used to describe any manufacturing business employing less than 500 people. The reason she was here today was to defeat George W. Bush, and the way Senator Kerry would reach millions of unrepresented people was to use the word “self-employed”. Sixteen million union members and 20 million self-employed equaled a populist movement.
After Theresa Heinz Kerry spoke, she mingled with the crowd for about half an hour. I listened to some of the conversation and discovered that she had grown up in Mozambique, and that her father had been a rural physician.
Teresa Heinz Kerry’s chief of staff introduced himself. He said I was absolutely right about the self-employed and unions making common cause, and gave me his card.
Before leaving, I shook Teresa Heinz Kerry’s hand. She said, “Tell Senator Kerry to use the word ‘self-employed’ when talking about farmers, right?”
“When talking about farmers and small business,” I replied.
“I’ll deliver that message,” she said.
It was now 2:30. Edwards was to have a Town Meeting at the Manchester YWCA at 5:30. I used the time to check the candidates’ schedules on the internet at the Concord Library. The next day only Clark and Lieberman would be in New Hampshire, all the other candidates would be in Iowa.
I arrived at the YWCA early to get a good seat up-front in the designated room for the Town Hall. Edwards was late, and by the time he arrived the room was overflowing with about 150 people. Edward’s infectious smile, articulate phrasing and eye contact quickly won over the crowd. He went straight to the heart of his campaign: he was against a have and have-not nation. The America that had enabled him to rise from the son of mill workers to be a U.S. Senator was changing in ways that left much less opportunity for people to improve their lives. This change was occurring because George W. Bush served only the interests of the wealthiest Americans. An Edwards Presidency would be dedicated to keeping opportunity open to all. He would focus on job creation and improving healthcare and educational opportunity. George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program was just the kind of educational reform America did not need. It was underfunded and ill-conceived—did anyone really believe that teaching a child how to take a test was a real measure of an education? As for higher education, George W. Bush was decimating the Pell Grant Program that had enabled millions of Americans to go to college.
Edwards stated that political experts criticized his tactics when he addressed the needs of the poor. The poor don’t vote, they said. Edwards addressed poverty in America not for votes, but because it was the right thing to do. He was a Democrat and the history of the Democratic Party was to improve the lives of all Americans. That’s why as President one of his first acts would be to raise the minimum wage to $7 an hour.
Race was not an African American issue, not a Latino issue, it was an American issue. America had a tremendous amount of work to do on this front. He had grown up in a segregated South, and new the importance of strong federal judges in defending civil rights.
All his life Edwards had been told what he couldn’t do: He couldn’t become a lawyer, he couldn’t defeat America’s top corporate lawyers in trial, he couldn’t be elected Senator, and now people were saying he couldn't be elected President. He’d always proved his critics wrong, and he’d prove them wrong again. This was the fight he’d been waiting for all his life—President Bush, raised in privilege, versus himself, raised by the values of hard working people. Every day life got harder for most Americans because this President served only wealth and special interests. An Edwards Presidency would serve the people because he was of the people.
When Edwards concluded, the YWCA erupted out of their seats in applause. This was the third time I’d seen Edwards speak, and, measured in style, I found him the most “winning”. Once again, however, he had completely avoided discussion of Iraq, and over the next hour of questions, no one asked him about it.
When Edwards called on me, I nailed him with the speech I’d written in the car four days earlier. “Half a century ago, Paul Robeson said that political movements succeed when people fight their own oppression...”
As I spoke, Edwards completely engaged me with his eyes. When I was done he said, “You’re right. I’ve got it. I should be addressing the self-employed, and I will.”
I was delighted and declared, “If you do, you might be elected President.”
“Now, let me teach you something. When the candidate agrees with you, don’t say might win. Say will win.”
Edwards concluded the Town Meeting with a speech similar to what must have been his style as a trial lawyer. He simply knocked the audience out because they believed he was championing their principles: in America hard work must be rewarded with improved lives and hope.
Edwards shook hands for about 20 minutes. When I approached him, he thanked me for my message and took my packet. I told him that my father as a private practitioner had argued more cases on behalf of organized labor in front of the U.S. Supreme Court than any person in history, that Edwards had fantastic delivery, and that my packet contained important numbers to help him with his strategy. We exchanged thank-yous.
Twenty below zero in the morning, but the water tower was warm. Spent the day cleaning up 15 years of squirrel mess. Went to the Wolfeboro Library to confirm that Clark would be speaking at 7:30 at Alvirne High School in Hudson, near Nashua. Except for Lieberman, no other candidates would be in New Hampshire until the 20th. Called home and told Lisa I’d be back the next day, and then back to New Hampshire the 19th.
When I reached the high school, the auditorium was packed with nearly 500 people. The radio had spoken of Clark gaining momentum in New Hampshire, and there it was—standing room only.
Brought a “Self-Employed Unite” poster, but was told by a staffer that not only could I not display it, I could not hold it. The staffer safely placed it in a corner, and then I understood why other birddoggers were wearing tee shirts with their message.
Before Clark arrived, the audience watched a 20-minute film dedicated to Clark’s patriotism, service, intelligence, leadership and love of family.
When Clark spoke, he immediately addressed the war, declaring that it was ill-conceived, terribly planned, and not necessary. As former Treasury Secretary O’Neill recently stated, the Bush Administration wanted to engage Iraq in war long before 9/11. Clark was the leader that could get the United States out of this mess (though he didn’t say how).
Clark then went on to speak speak of his faith. His father had been Jewish, his mother Methodist, and he’d grown up Methodist. As an adult, he’d been drawn back to religion, but this time joined a Baptist Church for no other reason than that he liked the stained glass windows. He’d studied many religions, and he believed they all had one thing in common—the more privileged must give to the needy. Therefore, when the Bush Administration described itself as faith-based, he did not understand what they were talking about. What religion calls for rewarding the rich at the expense of the poor? Family values—is destroying the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts a family value? Is underfunding education a family value? Is no health insurance for millions of Americans a family value?
Clark’s speech was short. Placed in the center of the auditorium, he made three deliberate circles, asking questions throughout the space. He answered a question about his tax plan. No citizen would pay a dime in income tax if he made less than $50,000. He would repeal all the Bush tax cuts to people that made over $200,000, and increase by 5% the income tax for the quarter million families that made over a million dollars a year. This is how he’d fund his education and health programs, and at the same time bring down the deficit, although not eliminating it. Most of his life in the military he’d made less than $50,000 a year. He knew just how valuable a dollar was to working people. This informed all his economic policies. In the military, he had dedicated himself to expanding opportunity to all; regardless of race, gender or class. He would carry those principles into the Presidency.
Clark was asked about the American Empire. He stated that the United States had a peculiar place in the world because our economy was based on consuming more than it produced; nearly all the other nations of the world had economies that failed when production was less than consumption. The world economy counted on the United States consuming more than it produced. Therefore, one of the most dangerous aspects of the Bush Administration was that it completely undermined the world’s trust in this system. Trust in the United States government had to be restored for the world economic system to continue.
Clark was asked about global warming. He replied that the planet was in crisis and that large investments were needed in renewable energy technologies. The record breaking cold in New Hampshire was an example of the extremes of temperature that were expected when the planet was in a period of climate change.
A pharmacist asked about the outrageous cost of many prescription drugs. Clark described how expensive it was to develop a drug and then test it for FDA approval. Other countries bought in bulk and refused to pay the high cost the pharmaceuticals charged, so Big Pharma made up the difference here in the United States. As President, Clark would deal with these trade inequities that were responsible for high drug prices. He would also look into the pharmaceutical’s huge profits.
Clark concluded the evening by stating that the United States was beacon of hope for the world’s poor and disadvantaged, but that light was fading. He wanted to restore that light.
Clark received strong applause when he concluded, but the audience did not erupt out of their chairs as they had with Edwards the night before.
Drove to my brother’s house in Wellesley. Watched the news with him and caught a couple of political commercials. One with Edwards jogging like an old man, interspersed with clips of Edwards fighting for jobs, education and health reform. I wondered if his lame stride was in fact meant to make him look older. The other commercial was of Dean forcefully describing how as President he would create two million jobs. I was shocked that the commercial ended with a smirk, and wondered if it was just impossible to wipe it off his face, or his media people considered it his trademark.
Drove back to the farm. Near home I stopped at the OfficeMax in Oneonta and bumped into John, an elderly dairy farmer and staunch Republican, with whom I serve on the Delaware County Farm Bureau. John handed me a hundred dollar bill. I asked him what it was for, and he said he’d been carrying the $100 around for me since reading in the Daily Star that I’d been campaigning for the self-employed in New Hampshire. I told him that I didn’t even know the article had been written. He said the article was great, that he was glad someone was speaking out for the self-employed. He figured my activities had to cost money, and he wanted to help. Gave John a big thank-you.
January 16 – 18
I saw Lisa for one night, then she took the occasion of my early return to go off to an herb conference. Typed up my birddogging journal, and emailed it to diverse people and groups. Kept both wood stoves stoked through the frigid weather, and saw to the many needs of my two teenage children, particularly chauffeuring them to and from friends and events.
Drove back to New Hampshire. While driving, listened to the Iowa Caucus returns.
Gephardt was finished. Dean was in trouble.
While making coffee, I listened to The Exchange, a New Hampshire Public Radio call-in program dedicated to the discussion of issues. The day’s topic: where did the Democratic candidates stand on taxes. I called in and asked why none of the Democratic candidates were talking about the self-employed, particularly the Self-Employment Tax. Great question, the host said; there are many self-employed people in New Hampshire. The host asked her two political experts what the Democrats were saying about the self-employed. They both replied that the self-employed were an important issue, particularly since the loss of manufacturing jobs was quickly increasing their ranks. But as far as they knew, none of the Democratic candidates had said anything about them. One of the political experts was self-employed himself; good question.
I drove to an Edward’s Town Meeting at the Manchester Public Library. It was to be held at noon, but I got there early in order to get a good seat in the front row. I watched the place fill up, pack in, then overflow with people and reporters. I took the time to position a “Self-Employed Unite” poster so that it could only be seen looking out from the stage. A camera crew from Providence, Rhode Island stood next to me in the aisle, freaked out by the close quarters: last year they had covered the fire that had killed hundreds at a Providence nightclub.
Edwards entered to a standing ovation. He introduced his wife. Then he gave his Two Americas speech; one for the privileged, one for everyone else. He spent a little extra time speaking to predatory lending practices, particularly astronomical credit card rates that fleeced America’s most needy.
Edward’s spoke indirectly about the war in Iraq; promising to end the war profiteering there. He pointed out that the war profiteering included not only Halliburton, but all of Bush’s biggest contributors. Twice during the speech, he was rudely interrupted by Lyndon LaRouche supporters.
When Edwards concluded his speech, he did not wait for questions. He shook many hands from the stage. When he got to me, I broke him from his handshaking trance, saying, “You’ve got to speak to the self-employed.”
Recognition flashed in Edwards face: “You, you really got to to me the last time. I will speak to the self-employed.”
“If you do, you’ll win.”
I noticed that Edward’s wife was standing by herself in the corner of the stage. I congratulated her on her husband’s good showing in Iowa. I told her that often the best way to a candidate was through his wife, and would she please speak to Senator Edwards about the need to address the self-employed. She said Edward’s mother had been self-employed, and that she was sure he’d be speaking about them. She took my packet, remarking that she’d noticed my “Self-Employed Unite” poster.
Outside, a ton of reporters waited for Edwards, freezing in the north wind. When he spoke to them, it was impossible to hear his answers.
I returned to my car to drive to Concord. On the radio, I heard the last half of Edward’s response to why he had voted to give President Bush authority to go to war in Iraq. He said it was not that he believed the President when he said that Iraq was armed with Weapons of Mass Destruction, but he had arrived at that conclusion because of intelligence sources that came to him through the Senate. He had voted for the war because he thought it was the right thing to do.
Went to the Concord Library to check the candidates schedules on the internet. Realized I could catch Kucinich at 3:15, Dean at 4:30, Kerry at 6:30.
Drove to the Conservation Center just east of Concord, where Kucinich was to give a State of the Union Speech, the second of four planned that day across southern New Hampshire. The room reserved for Kucinich was small, holding only about 75 people. Nearly all the seats were taken, and many stood in the back to hear the Congressman.
Kucinich read his State of the Union, a 20-page text printed in large type. Quickly, he left the lectern, and put himself amongst the crowd. It was a serious and detailed speech, in which he addressed the nation’s troubles and hopes with a vision wrapped in numbers.
When President Bush had taken office, the nation looked forward to a 5 trillion dollar surplus over ten years; now, the nation faced a 3.5 trillion dollar deficit over that same period. 2.3 million people had been added to the unemployment roles, and 3 million jobs had been lost in manufacturing. The nation was running a $550 billion yearly trade deficit. NAFTA and GATT had been written specifically to allow corporation to move abroad to avoid American labor, environmental and human rights standards, and since going into effect, NAFTA itself was responsible for the loss of 550 thousand jobs.
Kucinich would get the nation working again by withdrawing from NAFTA and GATT, and engage in international trade only through bilateral treaties that included strong labor, environmental, and human rights protections. Kucinich envisioned a $500 billion program sponsored by the federal government to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, to be accomplished through $500 billion of interest free loans to the states.
Kucinich spoke about the war in Iraq: The United States had to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible; under his plan, withdrawal would take place in a three month period. The United States must turn over the contracting process and Iraqi oil assets to the UN until an Iraqi government was freely elected. The oil belonged to the Iraqi people, privatization of its resources must end now. The United States also owed the Iraqi people reparations.
Health insurance: If the federal government took over healthcare through a single-payer universal healthcare system, the 1.6 trillion dollars spent now by the American people on healthcare would cover all Americans. HMOs and insurance companies made profits by not offering care.
Social Security was secure until 2042, it must not be privatized. Look at the trouble private pension funds were in across the country. The government’s Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation had bailed out over 150 private pension plans last year alone at a cost of over 11 billion dollars. The underfunding of private pension plans was a breach of public trust. The misuse of pension funds, the lost dreams of the accumulated decades of labor, was a crime.
Kucinich concluded by stating that it was an appropriate role of government to guarantee jobs, education, and healthcare. The nation’s National Anthem tied together freedom and courage. Courage was the path this nation had to follow in facing its problems, and providing freedom and prosperity to all its citizens.
Kucinich went outside for a photo-op with his supporters. One woman spoke of her concern about Mad Cow Disease. Kucinich replied that he believed it was the result of dangerous practices of corporate agribusiness, and expressed his belief in the need to save small farms. I told him I was an organic farmer, and thanked him for his campaign. I hoped he’d do well in the primary, and believed his best shot was to speak to the self-employed in New Hampshire. Not a single candidate had addressed their needs, and there were tens of thousands who would hear him if he spoke to the self-employed in the coming debate. I gave him my packet (now much improved), and he asked if my number was on it. I don’t know if he recognized me from our meeting in Nashua, but a number of people had piped in to express their support of the self-employed, so I believed this time the message had gotten through.
Drove to the Dean rally at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord. As I entered the gymnasium, a Dean volunteer aggressively went through my briefcase, then apologized, saying they were fearful of LaRouche supporters. I was early for the event, and placed myself near the stage; no seats were provided. The gymnasium had been divided so that only about a third was in use, and over the next half hour about 500 people entered the space. The crowd was younger than any of the other candidates’ events. They seemed bewildered, much as a crowd at a sport’s event after a stunning reversal.
A teacher introduced herself as a person that had long ago dropped out of politics, but had been drawn back in by the Dean Campaign. She then introduced Joan Jett, who played four songs, accompanied by two other guitarists, but lacking a drum and bass. She began with “Bad Reputation”.
Another woman took the stage. She spoke of the child tax credit she had received from George W. Bush: $14.60. She had put it in the bank and tonight would donate it to Howard Dean. She handed the mic off to another woman, who spoke of her outrage at the thought of parents charging thousands of dollars to a credit card, expecting the children to pay. This was just what was happening under the Bush Administration.
Dean took the stage. He said if the crowd expected red meat tonight, they’d be disappointed. Tonight he would speak of the State of the Union.
He spoke of the importance of balancing the budget. Nations would not invest in the United States, if they did not believe this nation was fiscally stable. When times got tough, government had to be solvent to address the needs of the people. Vermont and its social programs had survived two Bush recessions because he had balanced the budget 11 times. Borrowing, and then borrowing more, left nations weak and open to disaster, like Argentina.
Dean’s speech began to gather momentum. Then a person unveiled a Confederate flag, and was escorted out by security as he got abusive. The crowd chanted, “Dean, Dean, Dean” to fill the delay and keep Dean on track.
Vermont, a poor, rural state, had delivered healthcare to nearly all its citizens, and improved education—imagine what could be done with the resources of the federal government. If all the industrialized nations of the world guaranteed healthcare to its citizens, why couldn’t the United States?
Two people tried to unveil another Confederate flag. Dean sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” as security escorted them away.
Dean went back to his speech by talking of the Early Childhood Intervention Program he had started in Vermont. As a result, child abuse had gone down 43%, and child sex abuse had gone down 71%. Two LaRouche supporters heckled him, but he went on over their shouts.
Dean concluded by speaking of a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. “We want our country back. You have the power to take back the White House. You have the power.”
The crowd gave him a strong ovation, much more certain of their man than when they entered.
Dean gave the audience no time for questions, but immediately began to shake hands over a steel barricade that separated him from the crowd. I gave him an 8 inch by 15 inch laminated “Self-Employed Unite” poster to sign, declaring, “The self-employed really need help.”
“They really do,” he replied.
“My cousin ********* says you’re a good man.”
“*********, she’s a really smart woman.”
“She said you’d want to read this,” and handed him the packet.
When my cousin ********* was a debutante, Howard Dean had been her escort.
I raced off to the Kerry chili feed at Pemberton High School, about five miles south of Concord. When I got there, the place was packed, and a fire Marshall quite properly was only letting people enter as people left. By the time I got in, Kerry was concluding his talk, standing in the center of the cafeteria surrounded by people with empty bowls of chili. His last words were, “We need solutions, not slogans. Answers, not anger.”
Kerry received polite applause. Then he fielded questions, focusing on each person, gently trying to draw out the details of their story, often concluding, “You see, ladies and gentlemen, this is the real America.”
One woman told of her inability to afford drugs for her diabetes. She made too much money to qualify for Medicaid, too little to buy her much needed medication. Kerry said this was an example of the “real America”.
A woman asked about the high cost of health insurance. Kerry responded by describing his health insurance plan, one that included a 50% tax credit for the self-employed. All American’s premiums would be greatly reduced, because in his healthcare plan the government took over the costs of catastrophic injuries or illness when the cost exceeded $50,000.
A vet described losing his Veterans Benefits. Kerry remarked that it was outrageous that George Bush had money to give tax breaks to the wealthy, but not to take care of veterans—he couldn’t think of any single action less patriotic. Kerry went on to describe the programs he’d sponsored in the Senate to help the nation’s veterans—benefits for vets suffering from Agent Orange poisoning, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Gulf War Syndrome.
A high school student spoke of her fears of not being able to afford college. Kerry outlined his higher education program, one that included an annual tax credit of $4,000 for families sending their children through college. Kerry then told of his National Service Program; in exchange for two years of community service, the federal government would pay the full tuition to any state college.
The last question was about AIDS. Kerry replied about the need to stop the AIDS pandemic in Africa, not only for humanitarian reasons, but because the forty million dead had left fifteen million orphans. These decimated societies were breeding grounds for terrorists. Kerry had sponsored legislation that had passed the Senate to get needed drugs to these nations, but the House and George W. Bush had killed it.
Kerry concluded by stating that this election was the most important in three generations. He quoted Benjamin Franklin, who, on being asked whether the new Constitution created a republic or a monarchy, replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Kerry received polite applause. I approached him to shake his hand. I thanked him for speaking for the self-employed as regards health insurance, but the problems of the self-employed went far deeper than that. For instance, the Small Business Administration gave the self-employed less than 1/10th of 1% of SBA Loans. Kerry replied that he was a co-sponsor of the legislation that created the microloan program in the SBA. The Bush Administration was not administering it properly.
At that moment Teresa Heinz Kerry came through the crowd. She pulled at Kerry’s arm saying, “I told you to use the word ‘self-employed’.”
I then asked Kerry to just add the word self-employed when he spoke about small business: “small business and the self-employed”. I explained that the phrase “small business” was code to the self-employed for being ignored. To defeat George W. Bush, he needed to get the attention of the 20 million self-employed Americans by using their name. Kerry agreed. During this exchange, Teresa Heinz Kerry mouthed words in the background to me, “I told him. I told him.” I then thanked Senator Kerry and his wife.
I was exhausted. I had a terrible headache, probably because my entire liquid intake for the day had been two cups of coffee. I bought myself a bottle of apple juice, then went to a seafood store and purchased two lobsters; figured I deserved it.
Drove back to Wolfeboro. As I cooked the lobsters, I listened to President Bush’s State of the Union. The country was fighting for freedom and prospering.
Spent most of the day writing in my journal. Also created “Self-Employed Unite” cards out of family New Year’s cards and campaign literature from my past runs for the U.S. Senate and Congress as a Green. Called my sister in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and asked if I could spend the night.
Drove to Exeter, an hour and a half away, to see Kerry at a Town Meeting at Exeter Academy. I arrived 20 minutes early, but discovered that the doors were already closed because of the crowd. Fortunately, I was behind several Exeter students who wouldn’t put up with being shut out. I followed them to a side door, where we made our entrance. Walked up a flight of stairs to an ornate hall. Seats were still available, and I took one. Amongst the 30 portraits of past Exeter presidents was a large sign reading, “John Kerry: The Real Deal.”
Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke first. In a nutshell, her message was that if John Kerry was good enough to be her husband, he was good enough to be President. She concluded by saying there was no man she’d rather share a foxhole with.
Kerry began by stating that this Presidential election was the most important in a century. This President had the worst job record since Hoover. This President did not understand that protecting the environment meant creating jobs. Kerry pledged to have 20% of the nation’s electricity generated by renewables by 2020. This President did not understand that because the United States only had 3% of the world’s oil resources, it could never drill its way out of oil dependency; the United States had to invent its way out.
Kerry talked about his Senate record. Fighting to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, fighting for Veteran’s benefits, fighting to expose the Iran-Contra Affair, and now fighting the excesses of John Ashcroft.
Kerry stated that George Bush would be running predominantly on his national security record. Kerry described this record as the most reckless in history. If Bush wanted to talk about national security, “Bring it on.”
Kerry spoke about several pressing foreign policy issues: the Kyoto Treaty, the AIDS pandemic, the threat of a nuclear armed North Korea. All these problems required not unilateral action by the United States, but worldwide cooperation. As President, one of his first actions would be to travel to the UN, and pledge his commitment to that international body.
It was time for questions. An Exeter student asked Kerry why he had voted to give President Bush authority to go to war in Iraq. He replied that he made that vote trusting that President Bush would use every remedy to avoid war, and if it came to war, he trusted that Bush would act multilaterally. Bush had betrayed that trust. That’s why he had voted against the $87 billion appropriation to fund the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq; he would not support a failed policy. Reconstruction and democratization of Iraq should be handed over to the UN, where we could act in coalition with other nations. The United States should continue to lead the occupation forces.
Another student asked Kerry why he voted to fund research for the next generation of nuclear reactors, but against storing nuclear material at Yucca Mountain. Kerry replied that he believed Yucca Mountain was unsafe. As concerned research into the next generation of nuclear reactors, he believed it was possible to run nuclear power plants safely; the Navy had been running them safely for over fifty years without one casualty.
Kerry fielded a question about peace between Israel and Palestine. He stated that he had already asked former Presidents Carter and Clinton to act as his emissaries for peace, should he be elected President.
Kerry was asked about the War on Drugs. He responded that there had never been a legitimate War on Drugs because there had never been treatment on demand. He would not be for decriminalization of drugs.
To a question about immigration, Kerry replied that he perceived President Bush’s new immigration policy as just a means to supply cheap labor to the United States.
Kerry was asked his opinion on No Child Left Behind. He responded that it was underfunded. The best way to help local schools was for the federal government to take over the costs of special education, which as an unfunded mandate was a terrible hardship on schools. If the federal government funded special education, there would be plenty of money in the budgets of local school boards for the arts, music and gifted programs.
Kerry’s last question concerned free trade, because many jobs locally had been outsourced to Asia. Kerry responded that the problem with free trade was that never before had there been an Administration so anti-science; witness the Bush Administration’s attack on stem cell research. The future of America and jobs lay in science. The United States was also struggling with huge trade deficits under NAFTA and GATT because most nations weren’t participating fairly under the rules of these trade agreements. As President, he would make sure that nations obeyed the rules. Also, as President he would make sure that the laws governing intellectual property rights were respected and enforced.
Kerry ended with strong applause, but few stood to their feet. I worked my way to the stage to have him sign a laminated “Self-Employed Unite” sign, but he seemed blind to the message, although I did get his signature. Then I looked for Teresa Heinz Kerry to give her a “Self-Employed Unite” thank-you card that I had fashioned with a picture of my family on the front, and a picture of my farm on the back. I couldn’t find Teresa Heinz Kerry, but I did find her chief of staff, and I gave him the card. He said she’d been talking about the self-employed.
Drove to Marblehead, Massachusetts to spend the night at my sister’s home and bathe. On the way, I listened to a radio report about the rallying speech Dean had given to his campaign supporters at a party following the disappointing results of the Iowa Caucus. I was surprised at what a national sensation the pep rally speech and scream had become, and at its damage to his campaign.
Rose at 5:30 to get to a 9:15 Dean rally three hours away in Lebanon. As I drove, I grew increasingly depressed. The Kerry event had left me feeling like a whore, but because I was not being paid, I decided I was more like a slut. Kerry’s reply to the free trade question infuriated and sickened me. He had not advocated for including labor, environmental and human rights protections in these trade agreements, rather, he had torn a page from the Bush Administration by blaming the imbalance in trade on the unfair practices of other nations. As for his declaration that he would be an international enforcer of intellectual property rights, how did this square with his earlier declaration that he was dedicated to fighting the world’s AIDS pandemic? How many people had to die at the altar of intellectual property rights before effective AIDS drugs were inexpensively distributed worldwide?
I had not birddogged Lieberman because I found his merciless advocacy of corporate power, free trade, and the war in Iraq abhorrent. I had added Clark to my “do not birddog” list after being appalled by his answers concerning the School of Assassins, the high price of prescription drugs, and the American Empire. Now I considered including Kerry.
Howard Dean was looking better and better to me. He had been shaken in Iowa, and though his rally in Concord had been difficult, he had stayed in control and shed his arrogance. I believed if he could do well in the New Hampshire primary, he’d be a stronger candidate for the experience.
The Dean rally was in the Lebanon Opera House. I arrived 20 minutes early to get a good aisle seat near the front. The event started about a half hour late, but by the time it began, the Opera House was overflowing with people of all ages and demographics. Some of them may have been undecided voters, but most seemed to be there to show their support.
On the stage about fifty people were seated on bleachers, backdropped by a huge American flag. A woman spoke of the fantastic healthcare plan Dean had created in Vermont, including the Dr. Dinosaur Program for children. Then a huge screen descended from the ceiling. Dean’s new five minute campaign video was played. When the video ended, the screen rose, and Dean made his entrance to a standing ovation.
Dean was hoarse and suffering from a cold. But his words were strong. Dean covered much the same ground he had in previous speeches, but now it was personal, because he was speaking from the heart in a voice that did not have the strength to yell, only to command attention. He raised issues. Then talked about the campaign itself. This was a campaign about hope for America. This was a campaign to get all Americans to participate in our democracy, to bring out to the polls the 50% of Americans that had given up on voting. This was a campaign about telling the truth, and only making promises that could be delivered. This was a campaign that believed if one person was left behind, all were diminished. Hope and the energy of ordinary people drove this campaign. This campaign was about ordinary people taking back their country, as they had at the turn of the century and during the depression. This was not a campaign about believing in Howard Dean, this was a campaign about people believing in themselves. “We want our country back. You have the power.”
Time after time the audience stood to applause. By the time Dean concluded his speech, they roared. Dean needed the energy of this crowd, and he was grateful. He stood for questions.
The first person who spoke did not want to ask a question, he just wanted to personally say thank you.
Then I was called on, and delivered this speech.
“Governor Dean, thank you for speaking for common people. As you well know, this is the Live Free or Die state. I’m a self-employed organic farmer, and I firmly believe that the right to be one’s own boss is as fundamental to American freedom as free speech or the right to privacy. There are over 20 million self-employed Americans, but we are being hit hard. Thirty percent of the self-employed have no health insurance, we receive less than 1/10th of 1% of Small Business Administration loans, although we make up nearly 3/4 of all businesses, and we are subjected to the 15.3% flat Self-Employment Tax on all our income. A self-employed family earning $30,000 can not afford over $4,000 in Self-Employment Taxes as their first expense. I appreciate that you speak for small business, but 20 million self-employed Americans need to hear their name: ‘self-employed’. Please be our champion. Thank you.”
The crowd gave me a big applause, and then Dean explained the Self-Employment Tax; the employer and employee share of payroll taxes combined as one flat tax. When he had entered medicine, he too had to pay the Self-Employment Tax. It was a hardship for self-employed Americans, and one of the reasons payroll taxes had to be reformed.
An organic farmer spoke of her distrust of genetically engineered food. Dean replied that he personally did not fear GEO food, but believed that GEO food should be labeled because people had a right to decide what they would eat.
A man asked about AIDS in Africa. Dean responded by saying that research and treatment had to be fully funded not only for humanitarian reasons, but for national security. The Bush Administration had a total disregard for science. It was outrageous that the word condom had been taken off the federal government’s AIDS website.
Dean’s last question was about how he would create jobs. He talked about the importance of balancing the budget by repealing the Bush tax cuts. Federal revenue would also be raised by ending corporate handouts and closing tax loopholes that only benefited the bottom lines of corporations. This money could be invested in national infrastructure, and small business incentives—after all, 70% of the new jobs were created by small businesses in this country. And unlike large corporations, small businesses didn’t leave communities for cheaper shores.
Dean concluded by stating that he was the most electable candidate because his campaign was about allowing ordinary people to believe in themselves again. That’s how George W. Bush would be defeated. “We have to stand up for our country. I don’t need to win, we need to win. Live free.”
The crowd erupted in a standing ovation. Dean shook hands, unrestrained by a barrier, and stayed with the crowd a long time. I had him autograph a “No War” New Year’s card. I then handed him my packet. “These are the demographics of the self-employed in the upcoming primaries. When you say small business, please just add the words ‘self-employed’, ‘small business and self-employed’. Twenty million self-employed Americans need to hear that.”
Dean stopped to study the numbers, then said thank you, and I reciprocated.
I drove to catch Edwards at noon at the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College. I arrived early and took a front row seat. About a hundred seats circled a small space in which Edwards would speak. Edwards was an hour late, and by the time he arrived, all the seats were taken, with over a hundred people standing. He shook many hands as he entered, including mine.
This was the fifth time I’d seen Edwards, the third time I would see his show from the start. Now, I realized that all that ever changed was the order of paragraphs, with an occasional expansion of thought. Edward’s genius was to make it look fresh, as if he’d never said it before. All candidates repeat themselves, surviving the campaign trail with stump speeches and words that have worked well for them in the past. But Edwards performance was like watching a play; I’d already seen it in its entirety twice, and on this third watch knew exactly what was coming. Now there seemed nothing genuine about him, and although I liked his seemingly populous message, took note that he never used the words union, small business, or farmer; nor did he ever refer to any specific case of an injustice done to any labor group. Edwards said he knew how to win, but nothing about his performance now inspired in me belief that he could lead.
When the questions came, Edwards performance seemed even more staged. He used questions not to inform, but to get him to a sound bite he’d missed on his first pass. Fielding a question about whether or not he supported Israel’s security wall, he stumbled over himself badly, and never directly answered the question.
This was the second time Edwards had spoken at Dartmouth. Perhaps, this is why few rose in applause when he finished. He shook hands with people as he exited, but was intent on getting to his bus.
I drove two hours back to Wolfeboro to listen to the candidates debate on the radio. Unfortunately, Fox had refused to release the radio rights to New Hampshire Public Radio, and I could not find it on the dial. I rushed to find a bar that had it on, and sat down to watch just as the debates began.
From the beginning the questions disappointed me; they had almost nothing to do with the candidates’ national agendas. The one answer that surprised me was Edward’s response to a question about the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996. He claimed to have little knowledge of the Act because he had not been a member of the Senate when it was passed. But since when did knowledge of the law of the land hinge on whether or not a Senator was a member of Congress at the time of its passage? Edwards had said he would champion civil rights, but was clueless that the Defense of Marriage Act explicitly denied gay unions any federal benefits or protections—Social Security, for instance. Al Sharpton understood the issue, and I regretted that this was Sharpton’s only New Hampshire appearance.
Drove to Nashua to an 11:30 Dean Town Meeting at Martha’s Exchange. This was the first small venue I’d been to for a Dean event, the space holding only about 150 people. Dean would speak in the round, absent the large American flag of his previous proscenium performances. As I waited for the event to begin, I struck up a conversation with two self-employed people sitting next to me. One was a travel agent who had turned his business into a Limited Liability Company to avoid the Self-Employment Tax; the other was a landscaper who was paying $900 a month in health insurance premiums to cover her family. Both were undecided on who to vote for.
A software engineer spoke. He bemoaned the loss of jobs in Southern New Hampshire—outsourced to Asia. There were simply no new jobs in the area, and many people that had work were making less than in previous years. Governor Dean knew the importance of creating jobs.
Dean entered to a standing ovation. He quickly got to the subject of jobs. Jobs would not come until there was fiscal responsibility—something he understood as Governor, where he had balanced the budget eleven straight times, even through two Bush recessions. President Bush served only the large corporations and the special interests of Washington. The three trillion dollar deficit was a direct giveaway of ordinary Americans’ money to the nation’s most wealthy and powerful. As President, he would stop catering to special interests and the largest corporations, and focus on those firms that were loyal to their communities, creating incentives for “small business and the self-employed.”
I gave a whoop similar to Dean’s Iowa scream. He looked at me and said, “That must be the lobbyist for the self-employed.”
Dean went on. Capitalism was the greatest economic engine ever created. But there had to be rules, without rules capitalism was like a hockey game without the referee. George Bush did not understand what ordinary Americans were going through because of his fiscal irresponsibility. Dean wanted to bring Americans back to a time of hope, not simply appeal to their fears.
Dean stood for questions. He answered spontaneously about the IMF, healthcare, special education (the federal government should take responsibility for funding special education), and defense. He supported maintaining current defense expenditures, but he would reallocate money form weapon’s systems to the people that served, so that our troops would be properly equipped. Also, this President did not understand that one of the greatest defenses of this nation was to be admired. But who in the world now looked at the United States with admiration?
Dean was asked what he perceived as an equitable tax system. He replied if we had Clinton’s taxes, maybe we’d have Clinton’s economy. Payroll taxes were now unduly burdensome, particularly on “small business and the self-employed.” He thought that tax credits should accompany payroll taxes.
Dean’s last question was about NAFTA and GATT. These trade agreements had globalized the rights of corporations, but not the rights of people. Labor, environmental, and human rights laws had to be globalized as well, otherwise these trade agreements were nothing but a race to the bottom. At the turn of the century, the trade union movement had lifted the nation’s workers into the largest middle class in the world, and created the most prosperous economy in history. The rights of labor had to be maintained. If trade unions were freely allowed to organize worldwide, that would push prices up in America, but we’d be better off despite higher prices. Jobs would be more likely to remain here, and millions of people would be less likely to immigrate if labor laws lifted them out of the squalor of their own nations. The best measure of a democracy was the empowerment of its women. As for international environmental laws, if it cost a corporation millions to keep a river clean in the United States, but nothing to pollute a river overseas, isn’t it logical that that corporation would move to the country where it could freely pollute?
Dean concluded, “This campaign is not about me going to the White House, it’s about us going to the White House. I am not beholden to special interests, only to ordinary people.”
Dean received an enthusiastic standing ovation. The two self-employed people that were sitting next to me said they were swayed to vote for him, and congratulated me on my self-employed lobbying success.
Dean went through the crowd shaking hands. I took his hand, and thanked him for speaking for the self-employed.
“How can you get the word ‘self-employed’ into your small business commercial?” I asked.
“That’s up to the media people.”
“Can I show them my statistics?”
“I have your packet. I’ll give it to them.”
“You can take Missouri. There are 430,000 self-employed in Missouri.”
Dean moved on. I had the statistics concerning Missouri still in my hand. I went to Mike, Dean’s personal assistant, and handed the packet to him, explaining that Dean just spoke for the self-employed. Governor Dean wanted to see this, these were the statistics for the self-employed in Missouri.
I watched Mike for five minutes. He cradled the packet like it was important. Then I left.
I was thrilled that Dean had just spoken for the self-employed. I wanted to go back to the water tower and celebrate, but realized I needed to follow Dean to his next event in Keene at 7:30.
This Dean event was in the middle school auditorium, which had a seating capacity of 1,100. Although I was ten minutes early, all the seats were taken. The fire marshal would not let the event start until all the aisles were cleared. Two hundred of us went to the basement to watch Dean on TV.
Rob Reiner introduced Dean, and spoke of his great admiration. Here was a politician that not only said things, but did them. In particular, Reiner admired the Early Childhood Intervention Program that Dean had fought so hard for in Vermont.
Dean took the stage. Standing ovation after standing ovation followed his words. Those in the basement cheered as if in the rally itself. Dean did not need histrionics to hold the attention of the crowd, but held them with his strength of purpose.
I listened for the word ‘self-employed’ in his speech and during the questioning period. He never spoke of small business, but did explain in some length his 87 billion dollar health insurance plan: All people under 25 would be covered by the federal government; all families of four making less than $33,000 would be covered by the government; serious illness would not translate into premium increases; a prescription drug program for the elderly that offered real coverage; “the self-employed would be able to purchase the same health insurance plan as members of Congress for 7.5% of their income.”
Yahoo! Good idea.
In the morning, I realized that the primary season might go into the spring. I kicked myself for not including in the self-employed packet a complete list of the numbers of self-employed in each state. I went to the library and created the list. I was determined to give these numbers to Dean the next day to demonstrate to him and his media people the importance of adding the word ‘self-employed’ to his small business commercial.
I talked myself into seeing Edwards at 3:00 at a Town Meeting in Rochester, 40 minutes away. I was convinced he was a phony, but tried to weigh that conviction against the fact that he might be the next President of the United States. He spoke of roots; could he ignore that his mother had once been self-employed.
I arrived at the Rochester Middle School twenty minutes early to find that the 150 seats reserved for the event were already taken. I stood with another 100 people to watch, while about 200 more waited for Edwards to make a separate appearance in the gym.
Once again Edwards gave the same performance. It looked fresh, but there was absolutely nothing new. For the fourth time, I heard this section.
“I’ve done over a hundred Town Meetings in New Hampshire, and I’ve learned a lot about campaigning here. I’ll be a better President because of the people of this state. People in New Hampshire, well, they’re blunt. Two questions I hear a lot are these:
“One: ‘You don’t have a lot of political experience, do you? What makes you believe you can get anything accomplished?’ That’s a good question. I have only five years experience as a Senator. But I believe that there are other experiences that are important to serve this nation. I’ve spent most of my working life fighting for people in the courtroom. Or take your own experiences, don’t you believe those are important?”
Edwards waited for the audience to say, “Yes.”
“Question number 2: ‘You haven’t lived in Washington very long. What makes you think you know enough about that place to change anything there?’ Good question. But do you really think a Washington insider is going to serve the people of this country? Do you?”
Edwards waited for the audience to say, “No.”
Edwards has a habit of flicking his tongue side to side in his mouth when he pauses. In my mind, his handsome face now morphed into a sparkling lizard. Apparently, all that Edwards had learned from the people of New Hampshire was how to serve himself.
In the question period, the often repeated question arose relating the loss of jobs in the area to free trade. Edwards answered by stating that environmental and labor standards should be added to these agreements, but these standards must be internationalized—the United States could never afford to retreat from these trade agreements if the international community did not cooperate in negotiations to add labor and environmental standards; that would be a disaster for this country, given our dependence on international trade.
Edwards got a standing ovation. He walked through the crowd to get to the gym, where he knew 200 more people were waiting for him. He shook hands along the way. I gave him a “Self-Employed Unite” postcard to sign. He was polite, but did not smile, clearly sick of me. The feeling was mutual.
Drove to Nashua High School for a Kerry rally at 2:00. Made good time, but was surprised to run into a long line of cars exiting the highway for the event. By the time I exited, I didn’t even try to drive to the high school. I parked my car in the parking lot of an office building, and walked a quarter mile to the event. When I entered the high school, it was 2:00, and the gymnasium was full with nearly 2,000 people. I had no hope of seeing Kerry, but was content to listen to his speech from the entrance to the gym.
A long list of Democratic dignitaries spoke before Kerry, including former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen and Senator Edward Kennedy.
Kerry thanked the people of New Hampshire for their support, particularly the Fire Fighters’ Union. “We should not be opening up firehouses in Baghdad, and shutting them down here,” he declared.
Kerry asked the crowd to remember back when Bush landed on the aircraft carrier in his rented flight suit. President Bush declared then, “Mission accomplished.”
Kerry talked about some of President Bush’s accomplishments: a Medicare Prescription Drug Program written by and for pharmaceutical companies, mission accomplished; pollution increasing everywhere in America, mission accomplished; huge tax breaks for the wealthy, mission accomplished; 2.3 million jobs less than when he took the Presidency, mission accomplished. The one man that needed to be laid off in this country was G. W. Bush.
In his first 100 days in office, Kerry would close the tax loopholes that made it profitable for Benedict Arnold corporations to move their headquarters overseas. In his first 100 days, he would make it illegal for a government regulators to become lobbyists within five years of leaving office.
President Kennedy believed in America, and so did Kerry. He pledged to be the first American to bring healthcare to all Americans. He pledged that American foreign policy would never be held hostage to Middle East oil again.
This was the most anti-science Administration in history. Kerry would restore stem cell research. He would fund the scientific frontier in the great tradition of Lewis and Clark. He pledged that by 2020, 20% of America’s electricity would be generated by renewable fuels. He pledged to fund studies of the more than 70,000 synthetic chemicals in society now, only 6,000 of which have been properly tested. There was an obesity problem in this country; a cure was needed. This President was gutting the Clean Air and Water Acts. He didn’t understand that the environment was jobs. Kerry pledged to hold the President accountable for making a mockery of the words “no child left behind”.
The nation was at war. But it was a different kind of war. The United States needed the intelligence and cooperation of all nations to fight the war on terror. But instead, the President had alienated the international community by conducting the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological driven foreign policy in history. President Bush would run for office on national security and his policy of preemption. The Democrats needed a candidate who could go toe-to-toe with the President on national security, a candidate that could be strong and right at the same time. If President Bush wanted to run on national security, Kerry said, “Bring it on.”
Remember FDR, Truman, Kennedy. The American people deserved a President that understood that this nation could not turn its back on AIDS, that this nation could not turn its back on the 160 nations that had signed the Kyoto Treaty, that this nation must rejoin the community of nations at the UN.
“Stand with me, and we will fight for civil liberties. Stand with me, and we will fight for the environment. Stand with me, and we will fight for healthcare for all. Stand with me, and we will fight for education. Stand with me and we will defeat George W. Bush, and declare to the world, ‘Mission accomplished.’”
The audience stood, applauding enthusiastically. There were no questions. I scurried out of the high school to avoid the crowd.
Drove to Plymouth, an hour and half north, for a Dean Town Meeting in the fieldhouse of Plymouth University. The Town Meeting was to be at 7:30, but I arrived at 6:00 to get a good seat. In particular, I wanted to position myself so I could give Dean the list I’d recently created of the numbers of self-employed in all 50 states. The stage was a long platform set in the middle of the fieldhouse, so that the audience was on both sides. The fieldhouse filled quickly, until about 800 people were in attendance.
The event began with a fabulous group of students, ranging in ages from elementary through high school, performing three songs from the musical Mail to the Chief, based on letters sent by children to the President. A woman supporter then spoke of the importance of removing George W. Bush to protect the children. She then introduced Dean and his wife Judy. The crowd chanted, “Judy, Judy, Judy...” and gave her a long standing ovation. She spoke just a couple of sentences, describing Dean as a wonderful father and husband, totally supportive of her career as a physician.
Dean’s voice was much improved over the hoarse croak of two days earlier. He kept the speech short, focusing on the three reasons he was the most electable candidate.
During his speech and the long questioning period, Dean used the phrase “small business and the self-employed” four times.
Once again he received a standing ovation. He crossed to the audience opposite me to shake hands. I had to jump two rope barriers and cross the stage to cue up with his well wishers. When I got to him, I said, “Self-employed lobbyist here. Yesterday, I created this list for you; it’s the numbers of self-employed in all fifty states.”
Dean gave me a big smile, saying, “Hey, you’re great.” And slipped the list into the inside pocket of his coat.
Drove back to Wolfeboro, where it was ten degrees below zero. Stoked the wood stove, and called my brother while waiting for the water tower to heat up. He told me that he’d seen a campaign clip on the PBS NewsHour in which Dean had used the phrase “small business and self-employed”. He congratulated me, and hoped that Dean had better luck than the horses he’d seen me bet on.
Kerry had a 7:30 a.m. Town Hall at Yokem’s Restaurant in Portsmouth. Portsmouth was an hour away, and I had trouble finding Yokem’s. Although it was five degrees below zero, Dean supporters were holding signs at a corner. I asked for directions.
I arrived a half hour late to Kerry’s Town Meeting. There were only about 100 people in a space that could hold 150. It was easy to sidle my way towards Kerry.
I had missed his opening speech, and he was now answering questions. I learned that his support of the Kyoto Treaty was contingent on correcting flaws in the Treaty, flaws that would allow less developed nations to repeat all the polluting mistakes of America’s past. I learned that his campaign was run by women, and that his selection of a Supreme Court Judge was predicated on that Justice’s support of a woman’s right to choose. I learned that he would create jobs by rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and that Americans deserved to trust their water. I learned that he would bring the power of the internet to all of rural America. I learned that he was committed to affordable housing, and raising the wages of America’s working poor. Then, to my surprise, he called on me. I gave the following speech.
“Senator Kerry, yesterday in Nashua, you said something fantastic, something I’ve never heard from any Presidential candidate. You said that there were over 70,000 synthetic chemicals used in American society today, but that only 6,000 had been properly tested. Every two days more Americans die of cancer than died in 9/11. Cancer is the terrorist that all Americans live with and have experienced.
“Now, let me make this segue. I am a self-employed organic farmer because I am dedicated to avoiding the chemicals that I believe are killing so many Americans. I also believe that the right to be one’s own boss is as fundamental to freedom in this society as free speech, or the right to privacy. There are over 20 million self-employed people in this country. We should not be the highest taxed, most regulatory burdened, least protected Americans. Please speak for the self-employed, because it is small business and the self-employed that are least likely to lay a heavy hand on their communities or the environment. Thank you.”
Kerry responded by saying that he would work to coordinate the FDA and EPA in testing synthetic chemicals. He wanted a healthcare system dedicated not only to cures, but to prevention and wellness. As for the self-employed, he did speak for them, because his healthcare plan included a 50% tax credit for small business and the self-employed.
The questions ended. Kerry concluded, “We’re going to trust the American people with the truth, and have a different conversation in this country.”
An aide to a New Hampshire legislator approached me. She told me that I’d spoken very well. Many of her friends had died of cancer. She had no idea that so few synthetic chemicals had been tested. She also knew how hard it was to be self-employed. The Self-Employment Tax was way too high.
Drove to an 11:30 Dean Town Meeting at the Palace Theater in Manchester.
Once again the event was packed. Martin Sheen came on stage and recited a gorgeous poem about how the power of creation was tied to truth. Sheen then introduced Dean and his wife Judy. She thanked the people of New Hampshire for all they’d given her husband.
As Dean gave his speech, I listened for the phrase “small business and self-employed”. Early on, I was rewarded. Dean spoke of creating jobs in this country. “Small business and the self-employed need incentives. Small business and the self-employed need health insurance, less paperwork, and capital.”
Dean had gotten my message. I didn’t need to birddog him anymore. Now, I only hoped that he’d tell his media people to add the word “self-employed” to his TV commercial that promoted his support of small business.
I drove to Eco’s Cafe House, 15 minutes away in Merrimack, to hear Kucinich speak at 1:30. There were about 30 people in the small vegetarian restaurant; five were local reporters. I didn’t go to birddog Kucinich, simply to hear his words.
Kucinich gave a short, intense, and intimate speech about the war in Iraq. The ordinariness of the war frightened him. The American people were becoming complacent about the death toll. The United States absolutely had to get out now. The nation couldn’t get out fast enough. The Administration had already extended the stay of the troops. The draft was coming. Iraq was like the elephant in the living room, and the elephant had the word “WAR” written on it. Morality was on the line, truth was on the line, democracy was on the line. There had never been any weapons of mass destruction. The war had been for oil, he had never doubted it. He was running for peace.
After Kucinich answered questions, I asked him to sign my “No War” New Years card. As he signed it, he remarked that it was beautiful. I thanked him for working so hard to keep my son from becoming cannon fodder.
I drove through New Hampshire, homeward bound, trying to beat a snow storm that I hoped would hold off long enough to let me pass, desiring to listen to the primary results with my family. Thousands of candidates’ lawn signs lined the roads of New Hampshire, easy to post in the snow. Every town had people holding up signs for their candidates. An elderly couple struggled to post a huge Dean sign, emblazoned, “Hope Not Fear”.
Lies make the soul sick. I had gone to New Hampshire not only to convince the Democratic candidates that speaking for the self-employed would help enable them to defeat G. W. Bush, but to exorcise demons. To take back a piece of my heart, I had to fight for my country.
I thought back to how my father had ended his labor law classes at the University of Virginia and Harvard Law Schools. “Ninety percent of the practice of law is grueling and boring. Every now and then, however, you can strike a blow for freedom. And that enables you to walk a little taller, and hold your head a little higher.”
I had not struck a blow for freedom. But at least one Presidential candidate had introduced myself and 20 million other self-employed Americans into the political discussion. And that made me feel pretty good.
The packet contained my recommendations for reaching out to the self-employed.
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