The Dean Phillips challenge: Do NH voters have the courage to lead the way?

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Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips, right, with Andrew Yang at a campaign stop at UNH Manchester on Jan. 18 to talk about the rise of Artificial Intelligence and what it means for the future. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – Saturday is Dean Phillips’ birthday. He’ll be 55, which is just a number – unless you’re the sitting president or a former president embroiled in legal troubles trying to make a comeback; then age is also a liability.

At 55, Phillips is riding the “youthful senior” wave and using it to his advantage as the youngest Democrat currently polling with voters in NH, enjoying a last-minute surge based on his due diligence.

But the point is he’s younger than Biden and that – along with his distaste for career politicians who follow rather than lead, as well as his interest in returning power to the people – is the three-legged campaign stool he’s standing on as he hits the NH Primary stumping grounds hard.

Phillips wants your vote on Jan. 23. Call it a belated birthday gift if you want to, but Phillips prefers you see him as the only best choice to move the country forward. You’ll find him (literally) somewhere near the bottom of the actual NH Democratic ballot. But at least he’s on there, unlike his main opponent, President Biden, who is skipping New Hampshire and moving straight to South Carolina on the game board that has become this year’s presidential primary.

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On Jan. 18 Phillips held a campaign event at UNH Manchester and was joined by Andrew Yang, who is very familiar with the NH Primary terrain from his 2020 presidential bid. Yang and Phillips used Artificial Intelligence as the hook for this particular campaign event, but it’s just one of the many hooks Phillips is using to reel in a base.

Phillips is among 21 Democrats on the ballot Tuesday, but he wants you to know that as a two-term Congressman who flipped his Minnesota district from red to blue, he’s got what it takes. And what others from inside Washington, D.C., were willing to say behind closed doors, says Phillips – that Biden should not be the Democratic candidate – they were unwilling to say out loud. And worse, nobody was willing to take a giant step forward.

He’s hoping his courage will pay off.

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Andrew Yang, founder of the Forward Party, endorses Dean Phillips for President. Photo/Carol Robidoux

“And yes, I think we should assess Americans based on their willingness to meet the moment versus meeting their own aspirations,” said Phillips of his high-profile colleagues on Capitol Hill who not only declined to run against Biden, but have shunned him for doing so. 

“And every person that had a chance to join this race at a time when I did chose not to – not because they don’t know the country is at grave risk right now; they chose not to because they feared it might hurt their chances in 2028. There may not be a 2028 if we allow Donald Trump to return to the White House. That’s my proposition, that is the truth and do not be deluded into believing that Joe Biden is in a position to beat Donald Trump,” Phillips said.

Phillips fielded a few questions during the half-hour rally including one from Mary Roberge of Manchester, who was there with fellow AARP members. She asked Phillips what would be his plan as president to help the growing number of family caregivers in the U.S., something that especially affects citizens over the age of 50.

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Mary Roberge of Manchester asked Dean Phillips about his plan for supporting caregivers. Photo/Carol Robidoux

Phillips said that this is one problem that can’t be solved by Artificial Intelligence.

“AI is going to disrupt this economy. It might affect up to 40 percent of the jobs in the United States of America. So to me, what a grand opportunity to start redirecting people to the very jobs that right now are going unfilled, industries that need to be brought up, including caregiving,” he said.

“America is still a nation of immigrants and we must protect that. Caregiving is a human trait. It is practiced in every community, in the world, no matter your religion, your race, your country, your geography. We should be attracting people from around the world, Americans themselves, to create an industry of people who are compassionate, able, well-compensated to provide the care we need so that people who otherwise could go out and work and build businesses and brands and help others can do so,” Phillips said. 

“It’s a matter of not a lack of resources; it is how we dedicate our resources. We are a country that is so extraordinarily wealthy But I’ll tell you as Hubert Humphrey said, the test of a government is how it treats those in the dawn of life, the dusk of life and in the shadows of life and we are not doing this the way that everybody, I think, in this room would like and that is why when I’m president we will redirect our resources to the places where we need to raise the foundation and caregiving –  in the beginning of life from childcare to paid leave to caregiving in later stages of life will be elemental to my platform.” Phillips said.

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Ashley Rourke of Exeter, says she’s become a Phillips supporter after following his campaign. Photo/Carol Robidoux

Another question came from Ashley Rourke of Exeter, who attended the event with her sister, Paige Leary.

Rourke says she’s been playing the field and even flirted with voting for Chris Christie but is ready to commit to Phillips as her candidate of choice.  She wanted to know why Phillips is running as a Democrat rather than an Independent when he clearly is bucking his party’s current trajectory.

“You know, this two-party system is actually the very threat to the country that George Washington warned us about so long ago in his farewell address. And if George Washington warned us about that should we not take a moment and reflect on how important that was? Because he recognized – he called them factions which, by the way, did not exist when he was president – but he said factions would undermine this democracy when people became so focused on beating each other that they lose focus on trying to win for this country. And he is right,” Phillips said.

Phillips told Rourke he decided to run for Congress after the results of the 2016 election left his then-16-year-old daughter feeling the uncomfortable weight of her future in a Trump world.

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Dean Phillips, flanked by Andrew Yang, during the Jan. 18 NH Primary event at UNH Manchester. Photo/Carol Robidoux

“I found my daughter Pia in tears in her bedroom. She had just overcome Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She’s a gay woman –  I didn’t know that at the time – but I saw fear in her eyes that, as a parent, any of you could understand. It jarred me. I sat at my table that morning and I promised my daughters I would do something. I ran for Congress. Little did I know how bad it really was, how offensively divisive, how offensively separate both leaders on both sides of the aisle have been for generations,” Phillips said.

He believes in competition and is still a “proud Democrat” but he objects to the “duopoly” that is currently in place that is  “destructive to this democracy,” adding, “…there’s nothing more un-American than propagating and enabling and allowing two political parties that are private enterprises from seizing this country from all of us.”

After Phillips and Yang moved on to photo ops the sisters agreed they were so happy – and so relieved to have found Phillips when they did.

“We were looking at Christie – and we didn’t want to – but he was middle of the road compared to what else is out there,” said Leary.

For Rourke, it’s Phillips’ “principle before politics” point of view.

“I have so many smart, educated, principled friends who are voting for Trump and I’ve had the hardest time wrapping my head around that. So to hear somebody say ‘don’t vote for me because I’m a Democrat, vote for me because I have principles, that is refreshing,” Rourke said.

Below: Listen to the full 33 minutes of Yang and Phillips at UNH Manchester.




About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!