He’s too short. He’s not sexy enough. He’s not electable. Yeah, that last one. Not electable. How many times have I heard folks say that they really like Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat of Ohio) and the stands he takes in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but they don’t think he can be elected? And what would happen if everyone who said that actually got behind Kucinich?
Who decides the electability of a candidate anyway? Party leaders? TV pundits? Campaign contributors? Here is a man from modest beginnings who has been winning political races against well-heeled Republican opponents for decades. ABC may consider Kucinich a fringe candidate, his stands on the issues may scare the bejeezus out of Democratic party leaders, but don’t tell me he’s not electable.
I guess now’s the time for me to declare my party affiliation or, perhaps, my lack thereof. I am not a Democrat. No, I’m not a Republican either. My theory is that unless you’re driving a late model Mercedes or Lexus, you have no business voting Republican. I am a registered independent. My first vote for president was a write-in for Eldridge Cleaver in 1968. And I voted for Ralph Nader in the 2000 election. In between those dates my votes have frequently gone for the Democratic candidate or for “none of the above” when the choices offered were too unpalatable for my political tastes.
In Kucinich, however, I see a man of vision, honesty, integrity and heart. And in order to gain a better sense of the candidate and his campaign, I interviewed him via email. Below is an abbreviated version of that electronic dialogue.
Mulkey: Congressman Kucinich, what sets you apart from the other Democratic presidential candidates? Why should I vote for you rather than one of the others?
Rep. Kucinich: I am the only candidate who voted against the war on Iraq and who consistently opposed it. I am the only candidate who sued the President to try to prevent him from going to war without a declaration from Congress. I am the only candidate who will repeal NAFTA and withdraw from the WTO, replacing these agreements that have cost us so many hundreds of thousands of jobs with fair bilateral trade agreements that protect jobs, workers' rights, human rights, and environmental quality principles. I am the only candidate with a single-payer plan that provides every man, woman, and child with comprehensive health coverage from whatever doctors they choose, and does so through a tax on employers that is lower than what employers who now provide coverage pay on average. I am the only candidate who voted against the "PATRIOT Act" and who has introduced a bill to repeal major sections of it. I am the only candidate who will redirect our priorities from war and tax cuts for millionaires to peace and education, including free college tuition. I am the only candidate who will make 20 percent of our energy use renewables rather than fossil fuels by 2010. I am the only candidate who will focus on breaking up monopolies, including agri-business monopolies and media monopolies.
Mulkey: What is your response to those who call your proposed U.S. Department of Peace naive or unrealistic?
Rep. Kucinich: It is not unrealistic to make peace an actual goal and work to achieve it. To sing "Let there be peace on earth" without giving any thought to the words, while our military kills innocent civilians by the thousands in Afghanistan and Iraq and inflames global hostilities, while the price tag of war drains resources from education, health care, and housing—that is unrealistic and untenable. The question is what our priorities are. As long as we give tax cuts to people in the top bracket, as long as we give $87 billion—and more—for a war, as long as we have a Pentagon budget that is $400 billion, totally driven by fear, then new priorities are impossible.
Mulkey: I've talked with a number of people who support your vision for America yet are uncertain about your electability. What would you say to these folks?
Rep. Kucinich: It is far too early for the media to have decided who counts as a contender and unwise for people to believe the media when they hear this. It's the job of voters, not journalists, to narrow the field. A poll released on Labor Day weekend found that two-thirds of those surveyed could not name any of the Democratic candidates for president. There has only been one vote that involved thousands of Democrats in something resembling a primary, and that was the "MoveOn.org primary," in which I finished second. I have repeatedly defeated entrenched incumbents. I beat a Republican incumbent for mayor in 1977, for state senator in 1994 and for Congress in 1996.
Mulkey: How important do you think it is to elect someone besides George W. Bush as president in 2004?
Rep. Kucinich: It is as important as global war or peace, the proliferation of nuclear weapons or global cooperation and disarmament, continued environmental destruction or movement toward sustainability, investment in war and enriching the rich or supporting the struggles of working families. I intend to give the Democrats the best chance of defeating Bush by winning the nomination. If I do not, I will support the Democratic nominee.
Many of us yearn for a national leader who offers hope instead of fear. Many of us understand that it’s time to face up to our country’s challenges rather than begging off because of cost, complexity or high-powered lobbyists. What do you think would happen if those of us who support the stands taken by Dennis Kucinich quit listening to the naysayers, the TV talking heads and the political prognosticators and fully embraced his presidential candidacy.
For more information about Dennis Kucinich and his campaign, visit www.kucinich.us. Read his “Prayer for America” at this link.
Copyrighted Bruce R. Mulkey, Asheville, North Carolina.