If you're a progressive, a liberal, or a Reagan Democrat, and you're already weary of the sordid crop of presidential candidates the Democrats are likely to put up in '04, do not despair. There is a bright light on the horizon.
We don't have to settle for a retreaded Al ("Please Don't Let Me Win") Gore; for that brassy New Yorker from Illinois by way of Arkansas, Hillary ("I Can Whup Any Man in the House") Clinton; or for Mr. Charisma himself, the nearly invisible Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
If we start now, and work hard, we might be able to get a true progressive -- and a truer American -- to square off against George W. Bush -- assuming, of course, that Bush hasn't gotten us all blown up by then.
The bright light, still low on the horizon, is Dennis Kucinich, who was best known, in the late 1970s, as the "Boy Mayor of Cleveland." (He was 31 when elected.) Right now Kucinich, a Democrat, represents the Cleveland area in Congress and is the head of the House Progressive Caucus.
A down-to-earth progressive, Kucinich comes from a humble background. There were no millionaires in his family, no ex-presidents or ex-senators. There was a gung-ho ex-Marine, his dad, who worked as a truck driver. Dennis was one of seven children. He lived in 21 different places while growing up, including a couple of cars.
His father came from a family of 13 children, his mother from a family of 12. Dennis was the first person from either side of the family to graduate from college. He worked his way through, taking 2-1/2 years off after high school to work and save money.
"I believe in the work ethic," Kucinich told Studs Terkel in 1978. There's tremendous dignity in work, and it doesn't matter what it is."
If you work for a living, Kucinich is your man.
If you don't think it's healthy for America to be fighting wars all over the globe, Kucinich is your man. On July 11, he was the chief sponsor, with 37 other congressmen, of H.R. 2459, a bill calling for establishment of a national Cabinet-level Department of Peace.
That's not an original idea. It's been around, off and on, for at least 40 years. Kucinich's proposal would allocate 1 percent of the nation's defense budget to the Peace department.
The idea of a Peace Department might seem a bit strange to some, but to me it's far less strange than Bush's weird Office of Homeland Defense. Homeland defense? Wasn't that already covered by the Department of Defense?
A look at the world today suggests that maybe it's time to start giving peace a chance. Kuchinich says he seeks "a world without end, not war without end."
Why not? What have we to lose?
Studs Terkel, the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer, had a long article on Kucinich in the May 6 edition of The Nation. I recommend it.
But if you really want to know where Kucinich stands, go to his Feb. 17 speech to the Southern California Americans for Democratic Action at UCLA.
That speech was a stemwinder. It brought down the house, time and time again. Granted, his was a sympathetic audience, but someone like Al Gore or Tom Daschle would have put that same audience to sleep.
After the speech, Kucinich suddenly found himself the darling of the progressives. His e-mail box overflowed with as many as 23,000 e-mails urging him to run for president.
In his speech, Kucinich started several lines with the words, "We did not authorize ..." Here are the ends of those lines:
The invasion of Iraq ... the invasion of Iran ... the invasion of North Korea ... the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan ... permanent detainees in Guantanomo Bay . . . the withdrawal from the Geneva Convention ... military tribunals suspending due process and habeas corpus ... assassination squads ... the resurrection of COINTELPRO ... the repeal of the Bill of Rights ... the revocation of the Constitution ... national identity cards ... the eye of Big Brother to peer from cameras throughout our cities ... an eye for an eye ... the administration to wage war anytime, anywhere, anyhow it pleases ... war without end ... a permanent war economy.
I suggest you check out Dennis Kucinich. If you like him, tell him so at email@example.com.
If Kucinich decides to run for president, he'll start out as an underdog. Good. We Americans love underdogs. Particularly when they're champions of all our people.
Harley Sorensen is a longtime journalist and iconoclast. His column appears Mondays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2002 SF Gate