EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Nationalism and Internationalism in the Age of Populism
DATE: 9:30-10:30am, Monday 28th January 2019
VENUE: Committee Room 19, House of Commons, Westminster
SPEAKER: Howard Brush Dean III, Former Chair of National Democratic Committee
EVENT CHAIR: Stephen Kinnock MP
STEPHEN KINNOCK MP: ‘Well, thank you very much everybody, it’s great to see everybody here today and what an honour it is to have Governor Dean with us. I think many of will know a fair amount about Governor Dean so I don’t need to go into a huge amount of detail but suffice to say that I think he brought just a completely new type of thinking to American, and indeed global politics not least because of the exciting and radical strategies he put forward but also in terms of the very new and different ways that he thought about campaigning and engaging and energising grassroots politics. And I think certainly a man who was many years ahead of his time in that context. And since, of course, leaving front line politics, he’s done a huge amount, particularly in the health sector, so it’d be really interesting to hear a little bit more about what he says about that today. But without any further ado, I’d like to maximise the time we have to hear from Governor Dean and not from me, so I’d very much like to hand over to you, sir. I think we agreed you’d speak for 25-30 minutes, something like that and then we can have Q&A…but it’s completely up to you how you would like to play it.’
HOWARD DEAN: ‘I’ll try to make it shorter than that so we can have some discussion. So…the only additional things I’d want to add, since this is the Henry Jackson Society is that I’ve been on the board for ten years of the National Democratic Institute, which actually works with a fair number of Brits as well as Americans is the democratising organisation funded by Congress and I do a lot of work in Ukraine, Moldova, Eastern Europe in general, Burma and places of that sort and I also teach a course on American Foreign Policy at Yale, The Jackson Institute. So I do wanna spend some time on Foreign policy…but all Foreign Policy starts domestically, so I thought I’d spend a little bit of time explaining what’s happening politically and we’re not gonna psychoanalyse the President (laughter) other than to say he needs some but…there’s a tremendous change going on. Steven was very kind and giving me credit for being the starter of this change is not true, we had no money, we had a very powerful message and the twenty-three year olds in America came to my campaign and reinvented all this stuff themselves. There was no such thing as Facebook, there was no such thing as Twitter. There was just basically email, and in crude form, live-stream, in very crude form. They created social medias, they created ways of campaigning through emails. They…it was the first campaign conducted on social media but it was not because of me, who knows nothing, given my age but it was because we let them do whatever they want. We had no money and we had a very powerful message.
So…that group, after my campaign was over, I became Chairman of the Democratic Party, which is an elected position. I was opposed by almost everyone in Washington but fortunately of the 377 votes, it takes about two-thirds of them…are outside Washington so when I got there I could do whatever I wanted because when I got there I wasn’t beholden to anyone in the Democratic Party structure and I hired the same people who were working on my campaign. We completely rehabilitated the Democratic Party and then Barack Obama hired them away from me in 2006…and Obama was a much more disciplined candidate than I, and he personalised the way this generation views themselves and became their first President, just as Jack Kennedy became my first president even though he was my father’s age because he was a young, vigorous person who was breaking the mould in terms of what post-war politics in the United States was about.
So those people who started, and worked and set the tone for my campaign, their younger brothers and sisters are now doing the same thing led by them. And here’s what’s happened. The Democratic Party’s basically been taken over by young people…except they’re not particularly interested by the Democratic Party. In fact, they’re not particularly interested by institutions at all. They don’t really need institutions fundamentally because they can have so much individual power, it’s hard to imagine how much power these young people have compared to the power that we had. We marched around the Pentagon for seven years and then finally the Vietnam War was over. They…are able to go online and force major corporations to change their position, simply by aggregating 600,000 people within the period of a day or two, and then threaten the corporations by saying ‘we’re not gonna use you anymore, we’re not gonna buy anything from you anymore’, the corporation generally changes its views. Sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes it realises it’s gonna lose the fight early and they cut their losses and change. The most extraordinary thing…in that vein is that Indiana, which is a very conservative state, was run by a governor, an obscure governor by the name of Mike Pence who was actually pretty far right and he passed some very anti-gay legislation, which was passed. And the young people who believe that gay rights is the civil rights issue of their time, went to Patagonia, which was going to have a big convention there, got Patagonia to move their convention. Ten other major companies moved their conventions, and then two large companies decided they would withdraw their expansion plans which would cost them two-three thousand jobs and Pence had to back down, with his legislators who backed him and changed the bill. And then in…to my generation, which was very politically active in the sixties, that kinda power is unthinkable. Is unthinkable. So, the young generation fundamentally doesn’t believe in institutions. Why? Cos yeah, you get 25 people to sign off what you wanna do, if it’s a good, if it’s a big institution. They can just go online and do it anyway, and it gets done. Two, the nature of every institution is that if the institution, the existence of the institution is pitted against its mission, and if the choice has to be made the existence is always favoured over the mission, which is an incredibly unattractive proposition in all institutions. So one of our jobs is to convince them that institutions are necessary. And I think they are…but they need to be vastly changed and recast by this generation. The other problem with this generation is that they believe in…in cooperation without commitment. If you have two young people with start-ups and they both have a good idea and they’re working hard and they get to a point where one thinks they should do one thing and one thinks they should do something else, instead of working it out, they just clap each other on the back and say ‘so great to have worked with you, hope we get to do it again. We’ll go our separate directions. I’ll do my idea, you do yours.’ That’s not sustainable either in politics…in the long run.
So there are now, as a result of the…Donald Trump, for those of you that are old enough and know something about American history in the fifties and sixties, Donald Trump’s election in 2016 was their Edmund Pettus bridge and Kent State massacre. And it radicalised…the young. Not so much pushing them to the left or the right but simply letting them understand that voting for Barack Obama because he was a multicultural figure, that they believed looked like them was not enough. They all voted for Obama…they elected Obama. The only election in my lifetime in America where more people voted under 35 than over 65s. And then they didn’t come back in 2010, they lost 63 seats. They voted for him again in 2012 and he was reelected handsomely. And then they didn’t show up in 2014. We lost another large number of seats. Trump’s election…Trump’s views of the world are opposed in every possible way that you can imagine in this generation. Climate Change is their Number one issue. They value immigration because they value diversity. I already said that gay rights is the civil rights issue of their time. Every single value that they embrace (inaudible) pulled out of the Paris Agreements. So this was a shocking…there was actually grief counselling going on in the colleges across the country. It was extraordinary. And now they are very interested, not in joining the Democratic Party, they’re interested in creating their own politics. The idea they’re gonna join an existing institution to change everything is not gonna happen. They’re gonna remake the institution. And that’s what’s going on. And unfortunately, the Democratic Party is disorganised enough so they value the help. And they’re not sort of trying to…they’re not this thing that happens when the younger generation rises and the old guard resists to hang onto their power. There’s some of that going on but the old guard has so little attraction that they’re just really not players anymore. So the Democratic Party is being taken over, it’s gonna be remade. It’s still gonna be called the Democratic Party, maybe because there is some social assimilation and socialisation. This may end up being the first generation in human history that socialises the institutions they become part of more than the institution socialises them…which is an extraordinary possibility. I think this is very good, a very good thing. I think while my generation contributed an enormous amount to the evolving places that we need to be as a species, we’re stuck and we’re looking at the old ways of doing things because of the inventions of social media transforming human existence everywhere and how we think, I think it’s time for us to get out of the way and I’ve publicly said I wanna support some of these under 50s or under 55s for President. I don’t plan on supporting anybody from my generation.
How is this affecting the broad world? One of the things this generation believes is that they’re a transnational generation. It’s not an accident that people under 30 are violently against Brexit because they see themselves as Europeans as well as Brits. And the same is true in our generation. They can go on Facebook and talk to people and spend time with people in China and if they go to China, which they often do, or Iran or places like that, they know people and continue to communicate with them through Facebook within the limits of the authoritarian tendencies of both governments to suppress that sort of thing. So they have these friends from all over the world. What this generation knows, that ours may have paid lip service to but wasn’t so compelling was that people are the same all over. Whether we have different cultures, different ways of thinking that what is in common in the DNA of all human beings id far greater than what makes us different and they’re intrigued by that and that’s one of the reasons they value diversity.
Just to show you politically what this means at home. In 2017, Virginia and Jersey are states that elect their governors in the off-years, in the non-general election years, so in 2017 when they had those two elections you could look and see tendencies that are likely to last for the entire cycle. In Virginia there was a centrist governor, he was a very nice guy, he’s a paediatrician. I would call him a boring centrist. He’s certainly not Bernie Sanders. 69% of people under 30 voted for Ralph Northam as governor. 69%. That is the problem the Republicans have. They are branded as the party of intolerance, the party of authoritarianism, the party of non-inclusion, the party of old people. And since we’re gonna die before the generation that voted that way, the Republicans are gonna have to come up with a way of trying to deal with this and our way is much easier. We’re just being taken over, whether we like it or not and when we’re out of power, or we have been until very recently, that’s a great opportunity for people to come in and do things their way. And that’s what’s being done.
I wanted to spend just a little bit of time on Foreign policy. Because I think this is gonna have an effect on Foreign policy, although it’s not clear how. It is not a generation that is very fond of history, which I happen to be very fond of. They tend…I’ve had a wonderful five days here and one of the things I did was go to Oxford to see four former students (inaudible) and one of the students is engaged to a very, very smart PhD student from Britain who loves and will eventually be teaching somewhere I’m sure, Keats and Shelley and Coleridge and that sort of literature. That isn’t even taught in American high schools anymore. This generation is very different…they’re taught pragmatic things, they are taught the basics of American History. It is very shocking how little even very well educated people in the States know about American History and what’s going on in the past. History is not something they care about, they care about making history. But not for themselves. They care about remaking the globe. Its not a political drive to do it, it’s a personal drive. They want their future to be the way they were taught by us it was going to be. They want the tolerance and inclusion of people that came out of the civil rights movement to be actually put into effect instead of preached at them by their parents. Because, of course, these things are difficult to achieve and can’t often be achieved in a single generation. So they’re very interested in human rights. One of my proteges from the University of Oman, who I met on an internet judging contest, at 18 she was sent…it was suggested by her professor that she spend some time in South Sudan. Had I been her parent, I would have remonstrated with the university for sending her to a war-zone. She went to South Sudan and made the conclusion, on her own at 19 years old that US aid made more foreign people dependent rather than less dependent which I think is absolutely true. Because of that, she went online with her roommate and they got $1000 from a foundation in New York. Today she has community organisers in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. They have changed the lives of 10-12,000 Africans and changed the lives particularly of African women because they have a process where they all get the whole village together, say we’re gonna give you a grant of $3000 or something and that’s all you get so you have to design the operating mechanism of the project which you want and so you have to go through this process.
And in the process of doing that, I get her newsletter and she quotes a young man who has a wife and some kids saying ‘we make our decisions in our family equally now’, it used to be just the men making the decisions but since the women, of course in these patriarchal societies men make the decisions and women do the work, we couldn’t do this without the women because they’re actually gonna operate the systems and figure out how we are going to get all this done, we’re going to give the orders so now the women are our equal partners. And that’s transformative for a patriarchal society in rural Africa. And that’s the kinda stuff that these young kids like and believe in. It’s very individualised, its not broad policy in the way that we’re taught to think at university and the institutions we have.
I don’t know specifically how this generation in gonna deal with things. As you know, its overwhelming that they believe in basically free travel wherever you go, that’s why we have such a high percentage of remainders among the young. They believe that, basically, there shouldn’t be any barriers. They have yet to come to grips with the overwhelming financial consequences of immigration and what that means. They’re not interested in the limits of immigration, they’re interested in free passage and free movement. These are interesting values, as they get older there are gonna be constraints on immigration. I had my class do a paper on the real fix of immigration. The real fix of immigration is not quotas and visas and all the things they’re fighting about here in our country. There real fix for immigration is good governance in the countries that are sending us people and dealing with climate change so everybody in the Sahel isn’t out of a living and has to find some other place to come. That’s the real fix. They’re gonna be interested in all those problems, I think they’re gonna be less interested in how to deal with these problems.
Just a word, although it’s a bit discordant and I promised myself I wouldn’t get into this in a too inflammatory way. A word about Brexit, id be a remainder if I lived here but that’s not why im bringing this up. from the United States’ point of view, leaving aside the ethos of the young, because I think that’s the driving force against what’s happening and the debate that’s going on here, leaving aside that, as an American, our strongest ally remains Britain. And it’s partly because of the culture we share. One of the reasons I came out against the war in Iraq, I actually am probably where Hillary Clinton is on defence issues, as a Democrat I lean slightly hawkish, certainly not with the John Boltons of this world. But I believe strongly that Human Rights and a strong military are linked. I think Iraq was a disaster, and Vietnam was a disaster. But I think (inaudible) has to be confronted and that appeasement, as well known in this country and elsewhere is a disaster at all times when you have a strong authoritarian who seeks to undermine the Human Rights, not only of everyone else but of its own people. Our best ally in that fight is you. I came out against the Iraq War, not because I’m disposed against all wars but because I read your newspapers, and MI6’s information in your newspapers saying there was no weapons of mass destruction and there was no atomic programme which Cheney at the time was trying to sort of pretend there might be because he knew it wasn’t true. And I grew up during the Vietnam War, and we had two Presidents lie to the public, one from each party and 50,000 people went to their death, not to mention the millions of Vietnamese and Laotians and Cambodians who went to their death. So I didn’t think lying to the public was a good reason to convince people’s parents that they should send their children to die in a foreign land and that’s why I came out against the war in Iraq. The reason for the story is that I knew even then that the MI6-CIA relationship was far closer than any intelligence relationship in the world. And the reason for that is the trust, it’s not just the cultural trust because share backgrounds and because we’re an English-speaking country and because of you and so forth and so on. It’s the general view that liberal democracy and not in the political sense, the general view is that Human Rights matter, that decency towards other people matters, that we share not just a common history and common belief but we also share an obligation. Because if you don’t stand up for the Human Rights of your own country and others then you really stand for nothing but the accumulation of power and wealth which we know from 5000 years of human history is transitory. So you seek and we seek because our history as offshoots of…I mean our constitution was written with Locke and Rousseau in mind…we seek the same role you seek. And I believe in my heart that having the Brits in close as proximity as possible to our other European allies is critical for us, you represent what we believe in a way that no one else does. I said I did work in Ukraine. I was in Munich when Putin’s…whatever he calls them ‘volunteers’ crossed the border into Ukraine, the German business reaction was ‘so what, there’s a lot of corruption there and we can make a lot of money doing business with Russia.’ The Germans are a great ally and they know how to run things and they’re a big plus but that is not my reaction to the gross violation of the Human Rights of hundreds of thousands of people and it’s not yours either. So however this all turns out, I think what really has to happen is that the British-American alliance has to be strong and I think we have to recognise that we have, I think this is a bit of a chauvinist think to say but there is not only a special relationship between our countries but there’s a special relationship in what we have grown up with in our history over thousands of years of our obligation, not just our ability to colonise the world, or to economically colonise the world as the United States economically colonised the world after you colonised it in a military way. But we have an obligation to spread what we believe in. I have never thought that we have an obligation to respect anyone else’s culture, we have an obligation to respect everyone else’s culture…except for the parts that say it’s okay to beat up women and that its ok to persecute homosexuals and so on. That is higher calling, it’s not to do with America and Britain, it’s a higher calling about how we should treat each other as human beings and if we fail on that, then we’re not gonna succeed as a species anywhere. We cannot carry through the lifetime of our planet running authoritarian regimes because the human price is gonna be too big. And the country that best understands that besides the United States is you, because that came from your philosophers and your history as we wrote our constitution.’
Stephen Kinnock MP: ‘Well thank you very much Governor for that tour de force, really reminding us of the critically important issues, both in terms of our shared values but also the challenges we face both here and the United States and more broadly. I’m going to abuse my position as Chair by asking the first question if you don’t mind. I was particularly struck by your analysis of how institutions are perceived and you rightly, I think, pointed out how the younger generation have lost trust and patience with institutions because of their bureaucratic inertia, because of their innate conservatism. Isn’t it true that the populists, who are often supported by the older generation and people who, if you like hold more conservative or more authoritarian tendencies, certainly not that sort of liberal anti-institution camp but more in that kind of populist anti-establishment camp have also lost faith in institutions and also feel that institutions have become the reserve of metropolitan elites who don’t think about the communities that have been left behind by globalisation, by de-industrialisation and that we’re seeing that with the gilets jaunes in France, we’re seeing it with the Brexit vote, we’re certainly seeing that with the support Trump gets in the American Rust Belt. So are we looking at then actually an alliance of liberal anti-institutionalism and a more populist anti-institutionalism which is a pretty powerful combination and what does that mean for in terms of how can we have…as you say you think we actually need to try to rebuild people’s faith in institutions but that sounds like a pretty overwhelming task?’
HOWARD DEAN: ‘This is a fascinating question…I actually don’t believe there is an alliance between liberal anti-institutionalists…I think there’s an alliance between left-wing authoritarianism and right-wing authoritarianism. When I was at school the left-wing who were crazy, today the right-wing are crazy. But the left-wing were crazy, they were blowing up buildings, they were burning down things, violence was perfectly acceptable. I don’t detect (inaudible) this is the PIS approach in Poland that sure, lets both agree to be authoritarians and by the way we’ll get 500 zlotys a month for somebody who has a child in Poland. You know, I don’t find authoritarianism to be attractive whether you give social benefits or just take everything for capitalists. What’s the difference? The core here is the ability to make our own decisions and contribute in our own will and make our own life or do we want the government to do that for us? I think most people share the notion that we do not want the government to do everything for us. I don’t think we’re cut out to live in authoritarian societies and I don’t think this is a particularly Anglo-Saxon notion. The Chinese…my father lived in China for some time during the war and after and he came home and he was actually helping in a small way a force that was actually trying to stave off the communists in favour of Chiang Kai-Shek, which was of course a lost cause. And when he came I remember him once saying when I was an adolescent that ‘communism is never gonna work in China, they are at their soul, at their soul they are capitalist’ and its true and today it hasn’t worked and that’s why. So, there’s something about the DNA in human beings which is individualistic. Now I’m not an advocate for Ayn Rand and I think you can take this too far but there’s also a communal part of us that’s very important or we wouldn’t be empathetic towards others. I would reframe the question. Is there an alliance between the left and the right? Yes, there’s an alliance between the authoritarian left and the authoritarian right and neither one of them, I think, are desirable. I think we, I’m not gonna say we have to muddle through, we have to change in a meaningful way. My solution to this is not to continue the institutions that we have, my solution is to empower this generation to do it their way, coaching at the same time. Young people can’t know everything, they’re twenty, they have enormous energy, they have impatience. All those things are good. And it’s our job to tell them they’re gonna succeed if they keep at it because it’s incredibly depressing to go up against big institutions and get stuffed by them repeatedly and eventually the institution loses and has to be changed, in some countries it’s harder than others. But we have to let them decide how they want their institutions to work, we’re not gonna bring them into our institutions and say ‘here, twenty-five years from now you can have my place, they’re gonna want my place now and I’m in favour of that.’ Somebody asked me about AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she’s fantastic and she got a great social media thing and should I be horrified, I actually think she’s fantastic. I don’t particularly agree with her politics and I think she has some things to learn. I love the idea of a congresswoman of Latin descent doing a little dance in front of her office as she’s 28 years old. Congress is a lovely institution but it’s full of stuffy old white men like me and that’s not what our country looks like and this generation is reframing the party whether we like it or not and they’re gonna succeed in doing it. The juice of the election that you just saw in the United States where we picked up 40 seats, that was done not by the Democratic Party, it was done by outside organisations run for something; Colour of Change, Indivisible, Vota Latina, they worked and I played a role, as did Hillary Clinton in coordinating that approach to politics. They were on the ground, they organised, they got out to vote, they got 30,000 people to run, not just for state legislative seats and Congress but for school board and for water commission and all the guts which you’ve gotta run every single day to make the community work. So I’m all about reinventing, I’m not planning on leading the way to reinvention. I’m planning on following and coaching the 29 year olds who are gonna lead the way to reinvention. Because the world is so different to the way it was framed without social media. Everything has changed. The thinking has changed which is one of the reasons we’re in the problem we’re in. I could either stop there and take another question or there’s other pieces of your question which was complicated which was what do we do about the disenfranchised people who’ve been left behind, the people in your case in the Midlands or in our case in West Virginia…Capitalism is broken and I think we’ve established that capitalism of some form is the only system that is actually gonna work but in order for it to work, we are now giving incentives, if you think about the tech world, and everybody loved tech and thought it was great. Four corporations in the world, or maybe five controlled most of the tech. That’s a problem, I think it’s great that tech has fallen off it’s pedestal because someone’s gotta deal with monopoly capitalism. Monopoly capitalism is not true capitalism and Adam Smith would be the first person to say that. We don’t have a lot of competition now. We have huge companies that dominate everything and it’s soul crushing. And let me put you in the position of someone, and this is probably true in the Midlands, I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Midlands lately but it’s certainly true in the middle of America. So people who live in small villages and prefer to stay there because they’re conservative with a small ‘c’, they known their place, they have a place that’s defined, they like the ritual, they like their neighbours, that kind of a place. They’re not so keen in coming to London with all the bustle and the change as young people are. Their young people who’ve left, speaking of America’s situation, we’ve had a black president which is unheard of, two men are allowed to marry each other, if you’re living in a small town and you’re looking at these cultural changes and all the jobs are going away, if you’re a white male without a college education and 55 years old and you lose your job, you’re never gonna get another one in the United States unless it’s $10 an hour being a greeter in Walmart, ever. Unions have collapsed so you can’t make a living using your hands anymore because that’s either done by robotics or you don’t have the skills and the union isn’t there to support weight scale when the companies go and put your jobs offshore. And I’m for trade, I think trade creates jobs but it’s destroyed jobs in these places. Here’s the solution. We now give tax credits in the United States to people on Wall Street. With that they trade derivatives, collateralise mortgage obligations, all kinds of credit swaps, this does exactly nothing for the public. Now people want to get rich in a capitalist society and I think that’s great, it’s in our nature, we’re always gonna want to do that. I think this idea that we’re all gonna force ourselves to all be economically equal, I think it’s been proven it isn’t gonna work. However, we don’t need to give tax credits to people who aren’t gonna need them. What we should do is let people make zillions of dollars by giving them tax credits to build affordable housing and new schools in West Virginia and Kentucky and Ohio, and if that’s a problem in the Midlands, create opportunities. Give people tax breaks to move their factory to Kentucky. It’s already begun to work in Alabama and it didn’t happen because of tax breaks, it happen because the automobile industry wanted to relocate to places where the unions weren’t strong so they went to these places which truly were backwaters and they hired a whole load of people, both black and white, which was uncommon in Alabama , to work in these car factories and make a decent living. And many of these investors were Europeans. The result of that was not that Alabama suddenly became a liberal state, it’s that people that had little hope now have good solid jobs and their politics is the same as it always was but they’re aspirational for their kids, they now believe that their kids should go to college. University of Alabama used to be nothing but a football factory, it’s now hard to get into because their aspirational rate has risen and they elected a Democratic Governor. Now it helped that they were running against a child molester but progress is progress. So we have to fundamentally change tax policy to advantage things that are good for everybody, not to simply advantage things that aren’t good for everybody. This is not a criticism of a particular party because both sides do it in the United States, we give tax breaks to big corporations who are supposedly gonna come, the Amazon thing was the most ridiculous thing. They wanted the jobs in their place and it was fine and good but it would’ve been so much better for the United States of America if that factory had ended up in rural Ohio which has lost all its jobs, manufacturing jobs or Kentucky or West Virginia or somewhere like that.’
STEPHEN KINNOCK MP: ‘Thank you very much for that. I’d like to open up the floor now to questions. I’ve got the gentleman here in the glasses. Should we maybe take three questions at once would that be alright with you? And then maybe take a note because we’ve got about seventeen minutes left. So I’ll take the gentleman here, and the gentleman in the chequed shirt and I’ll take the gentleman behind in the first row. If you could just give your name that would be great, thank you.’
QUESTIONER 1: ‘Johnathon Grant. Thank you very much sir, for your talk this morning. I want to hark back to a couple of points that you raised when you talked about the presidential election of 2016 and about the youth of today and how that was their Kent State. And then later you referenced the fact that American History is now not being taught in depth in schools anymore. Is the correlation between grief arising as a result of a presidential election and young people not having that historical knowledge, almost so that they can form an opinion?’
QUESTIONER 2: ‘My question is now your issue as DNC Chair, so you referred to the midterm elections we had last year. We saw gains that probably exceeded those of 2006 and yet Tom Briars maybe hasn’t received much credit for it, or even really much mention in terms of the news so I don’t know whether you felt that the role of the DNC Chair has maybe changed in intervening years, maybe it’s less central to the role of (inaudible).’
QUESTIONER 3: ‘Again thanks for being with us. The idealism you’re talking about sort of seems to be what youth do. Youth is traditionally always idealistic. Right now it’s different because obviously it comes under the wings of technology. Big technology which allows it to fly. But apart from that, this technological spurt…is it different? Does idealism today have better prospects than those it had in the past, because soaring idealism in the past tends to land (inaudible)? Are present times different?’
HOWARD DEAN: ‘Ok, so the connection between the grief and history. I think there is something to that, I hadn’t thought about that. But it’s also related to the third question. The course that I teach starts with Truman and goes to Obama because it’s about the development of postwar institutions and so forth and I’m shocked by what they don’t know. This is the Oxford and Cambridge equivalent, these are the smartest kids in the country. But, I don’t think we need to memorise as much as we used to but I think we need to know more. And I also think its civics education, most people don’t have any idea how government works and that’s a problem. So I think there’s something to the notion that they were shocked. But the greater part of the shock, I think, comes from the question of the tech and the expectations. It’s not like there was a sudden thought that the world had changed when I was involved with the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-Vietnam stuff. It’s that we felt helpless and hopeless and that we had to get together to fight and so forth and so on. I think that this young generation has created their own world because of tech. They actually have, until Trump lived in this world were people were idealistic and women did have equal rights and there was racial justice. And I think when they came face-to-face in their own experience, with everything from Black lives matter to the shooting by police of innocent black people, mostly kids, to the discrimination women to the stuff that’s going against women in mostly Muslim countries, particularly around women, the Saudis, the Iranians and so on and so forth. They had Pakistani friends on Facebook who they could talk about this with. This sort of liberalisation and idealism is a worldwide movement. It’s African, it’s Asian, it’s American. It’s not confined simply to the classroom and the discussion and well ‘if we only had six people then we could go out and fix this’. They actually had created a world I think where it had already been fixed because everybody they talked to on social media believed it was gonna happen and it’s not happening. The one thing I wanted to comment about these two questions – and then I wanted to get to the DNC question is the interesting thing about this generation, one of the reasons I like them so much is they are actually much more polite than we are. I don’t think they’re going to resort to burning down buildings and all that sort of thing. I don’t think they’re gonna resort to the blind…I can remember the Students for a Democratic Society, if you weren’t with them on every single issue in university then you were a sellout, a capitalist pig and so forth and so on. It was the authoritarian left. It was gross…they were against Nixon and (inaudible) but the methods they were using, I can’t imagine this generation using those kind of methods. Well they may…I think, I believe that there’s plenty of evidence that the gilets jaunes have been infiltrated by the authoritarians and there’s probably Russian money in it. I think that’s a shame because they probably started out as an idealistic movement with legitimate grievances that weren’t being met and they needed to cause change and that now they’ve been sullied by all the violence that has probably been created by provocateurs, mostly on the right. So this generation I find and I could be being silly about and I have an interest in this because I have two thirty-something year old children. I find they engage and they’re not particularly ideological. I think they have a deep core of humanism but when they find some solution that doesn’t work they discard it. They care about metrics a lot. My son is involved with charter schools, well 50% of chartered schools are awful and 17% are so much better than the public school system that they shouldn’t stop them. So they’re willing to close charter schools, they want measurements and if they don’t succeed in the measurements then the charter goes out the window. The old way is, charters are better than public schools and that’s the way it is or from the teacher’s union, all charters should be closed. Those are stupid answers and they are ideologically-based answers because they are not based on facts. I find this generation very interested in measuring facts and if the facts change they’re willing to change and they, for the most part don’t yell and scream at each other about the way we used to. They actually listen to each other and they try to come to some reasonable accommodation.
To talk about Perez and the DNC, first of all I said that I got elected as an outsider. I didn’t have to do anything the insiders wanted and I didn’t. I was incredibly polite about it except for (Rob Manuel?) who screamed the F-word and ran down the stairs in June and I never talked to him for the rest of the campaign which was a delight. So I did it my way, they thought I was crazy with the fifty state strategy but now they can’t wait to say how fantastic…all these presidential candidates, every one of them, ‘Howard Dean’s Fifty State strategy!’ Yeah, well where were they when I needed them and I said listen but that’s the way change is. Perez’s problem is that he was put there by Obama and Biden. I think it’s an awful mistake to reach back after you’re off the stage and decide who your successor is. I was in the hall, pushing a 35-year-old candidate of course, when my roommate who I put on the DNC, he was lawyer of my age and he gets a call from Biden and says ‘excuse me I’ve got to take this’. So we watch him say, this is who we want. That is a recipe for failure. If you let the voters decide, whether it’s the DNC or whoever it is, they will most of the time, not always as is obvious by what’s happened in our country. Most of the time they will actually make the right choice. And so his biggest handicap is that he was put there by people who are no longer in power and has to answer for all that. The other problem is that most of the organised Democratic Party has become irrelevant because the people who are fuelling this are people for whom the Democratic Party label is not only secondary, its maybe tertiary or lower than that. They don’t give a damn, what they want is results, they want change, they know who they want and it turns out that our values are much more similar to those of this generation than the other sides values, much more similar. In fact, the other side seems to work really hard at making the young people really upset because they have their complete difference in values. So I don’t think Perez is a bad guy, I like him. I just think that the Democratic institutional mechanism is always…you know Washington is middle school on steroids. It’s thirteen to fourteen-year-olds who create their own culture and it’s un-understandable by anyone else which is what middle school is in the United States. So they have their own little weird way of doing everything that has been overcome by the capacity of people outside Washington to talk to each other directly and have various forms of direct democracy and I think that its what’s going on and I think that’s why Perez isn’t getting any credit, is because it was all done by people who were 28-years-old. And they know it and everybody knows it.’
STEPHEN KINNOCK MP: ‘Fantastic, thank you. I think we have time for maybe one more round of questions. So lady here and I think I’ll take the gentleman over there thank you very much.’
QUESTIONER 4: ‘Anne (Jamien?). You talk quite a lot about this generation and I think there’s a tendency to define everybody under 40 as young. There’s increasing evidence that there’s an enormous difference between millennials say and Generation Z who don’t even remember Tony Blair or the Twin Towers. And I think it’s going to be interesting, I’m interested in your thoughts as to how this is going to play out as the young ones who are far more independent thinking, at twenty not expecting a state pension, actually become this generation if you like? Because there is an enormous gap between, just as much of a gap between Generation Z and millennials as there was between millennials and those of us over 60.’
STEPHEN KINNOCK MP: ‘Thank you, gentleman?’
QUESTIONER 5: ‘Yes, thank you very much. Hugh Grant, Institute for Statecraft. I am particularly interested in your comments about working in Ukraine, Moldova. I worked there with the EU Border Assistance Mission over a number of years and I have to say, though I was watching through a European Union Organisation that in many ways the proactivity and enthusiasm, and indeed the post-Orange Revolution, to a certain extent immediately pre- and post-Maidan came from the American Embassy and elsewhere, people like Mike Scanlon and so on. My question partly follows on from that, it’s about your comment about the level trust between the US and UK and about the vital importance, and particularly but not just the intelligence services. How do you find the European Union member states react to that? Are they enthusiastic to use it, to develop it or is there a certain element of resentment which, if there is, it might be very worrying. I did once hear a European Commission official make an extraordinarily crass remark about the loss of the Columbia Space Shuttle and it did make me rather wonder whether there is a lingering resentment about the closeness of the relationship? And as a result, to some extent the danger of downplaying those comments about the German minister.’
HOWARD DEAN: ‘It’s a great question, let me start with that and then go back to the Generation Z millennial question. So I believe that the two most important documents, normally of course I can get away with this in Britain which doesn’t have a written constitution, in Western, humanitarian, individual protection and rights are the constitution and declaration of independence as one, because they actually set a bar as to what the relationship between governments and subjects was, and in fact government is the subject works for us…it was an extraordinary thing that they did and all people are created equal you know, those days it was all men but we’ve since expanded the notion. And the other great document is the European Union Charter. The European Union is in trouble and it’s not in trouble just because of Brexit and whatever. It’s in trouble because it’s run by people my age who want to do things…there’s no organised youth renewal movement the way there is in…well no there is actually, but they’re floundering around for reasons I can’t entirely discern. Part of it, I think is the enormous gap between the cultures of the different European countries. We have some cultural difference is our country but they’re not as big, the thing that’s in our favour is…I think it’s incredibly important for the EU to succeed. Why? Because in the Charter it basically says ‘we’re trying to end nationalism and religion as a source of war’. That is the biggest undertaking, possibly in history. You know this was the most violent continent on Earth for a thousand years. I did an ESU Scholarship at Felstead five thousand years ago, fifty years ago and I remember you had to take British history as I had to take American history. I can remember just the Thousand years war, the Thirty years war, the Rose war, the Hundred years war, the Restoration. You know all it was just ‘war, war, war, war, war, war’. And to think about ending that cycle by diminishing nationalism is an extraordinary thing. So I think it’s essential they succeed, they need the same kind of renewal that’s happening in the United States. They need young people to get in there and figure out how to make the place work properly. I mean I was so angry when I heard that the European Court had decided that MEPs didn’t have to disclose their finances, how they spent their allowance. This is suicide. They think they’re protecting themselves, they’re killing their institution because there’s a lack of transparency that leads to a lack of trust. This is insane. And you could only think that way if you’d been in government for nine zillion years and it just drives me nuts! And I’m a huge Europhile because as an institution it is a trailblazer for how humanity is gonna survive the melding of different cultures and different languages.
So to get directly to your question. First of all the UK continues to actually play a very excellent role in Ukraine, more so than any other European power. I think it’s very clear about why it’s there. I think the rest of Europe is making a terrible mistake, I think you know…’
QUESTIONER 5: ‘You think it was painful, the strategic and militaristic run up?’
HOWARD DEAN: ‘It’s incredible, it’s incredible to think that an authoritarian power that, despite the corruption which is actually getting better although there’s still plenty of it. Despite the corruption, to think that you can allow the Russians to start nibbling at Europe again and then nothing worse is gonna happen is…you know tomorrow it’ll be Latvia if they can get away with it is just nuts. And I just can’t believe that people can think like that. So there are always going to be insulting remarks. I remember when the Americans started to call chips freedom fries instead of French fries because the Foreign Minister had insulted somebody. That’s all silly, I mean that’s just people who let their egos get out of control and nobody’s gonna get too upset about it. We should remonstrate and tell them they’re idiots and let them go. I think it’s a great relationship, I think it would be crazy for us to worry what the Europeans thought about the relationship and one of the things which Obama wanted to do, which he couldn’t but Trump made it possible was to get Europe to be more independent. And since Obama couldn’t do it by being nice, Trumps doing it by abandoning Europe and you know it’s a terribly risky thing to do but the possibility is that Europe will figure out that they have to do things their way and I think that would be a very, very good thing.
Last question on Millennials-Gen Z. This is really a hard one, I don’t have a lot of experience with Gen Z, Gen Z is already beginning to use different media. For example, I don’t know anybody under 25 that uses Facebook, they all use Instagram and Snapchat and things like that. So there’s gonna be some change in thinking. I think that the real generational change encompasses multiple generations. For example, my father’s generation, the so-called Greatest Generation that fought in WWII, they changed the world in many ways. Then the next really big change was our generation and I think now we’re undergoing another really big change. I don’t think each generation gets their massive change, I think successive generations build on the former major generation. I think the so-called millennials, I don’t call them millennials I call them ‘first globals’ because they’re the first really, truly global generation. I think that yes, Generation Z will come along and do things a little differently but I don’t think there’ll be a major change until another one or two generations. Z will I think clean up a lot of the enormous destruction that’s happening as a result of what the millennials are doing but although the caveats is that time is moving faster and faster and faster because of the incredible shrinkage caused by the rapidity of communications and the ability to talk to each other and create organisations which take a fraction of a second compared to how long it used to take when we were writing everything with these and didn’t even have a typewriter. But I don’t expect Z to massively change everything. I expect them to refine what the millennials, the first globals are doing. Thanks very much.’
STEPHEN KINNOCK MP: ‘Well thank you very much governor. That really was an amazing way to start a Monday morning, it’s rare…’
HOWARD DEAN: ‘May the rest of your Monday go well! I know what’s on the agenda.’
STEPHEN KINNOCK MP: ‘And we’re actually going into this week with some feeling that we might actually understand what the hell’s going on in politics and the world which is a lot more than I’ve had in this place for as long as I can remember quite frankly. So thank you very much again and it’s incredibly important I think what you said which was that how we deliver that change, how we offer something to that generation going through but how we do it in a way that doesn’t provoke a culture war, because the divisions, the cultural divisions, the value divisions between young and old, between city and town, between graduates and non-graduates in this country are so deep and so entrenched that we do face a culture war. Of course, the Brexit vote didn’t create those divisions but it through them into sharp relief. You’ve given us, I think, some tools for addressing that challenge and I’d like to thank you once again. Can we maybe have another round of applause?’