Last year at this time, opposition to the Bush Administration's preemptive war in Iraq filled the streets of cities and towns around the world. While it obviously failed to preempt the preemption, still this was the largest prewar antiwar movement the world had yet seen and so a lot of people who came out to those rallies and vigils naturally hoped that this year's Democratic primaries would develop into the forum to challenge the Administration's foreign policy. And this seemed likely even a couple of short months ago, when Howard Dean was apparently poised to cruise and few imagined Senators John Kerry and John
Edwards so quickly dominating the race. So, suddenly, with Edwards and Kerry having supported the war (however they may wish to characterize their votes now, they did vote to authorize it), there looms a distinct possibility that Super Tuesday could be the last chance to cast a meaningful antiwar vote in this presidential election cycle, making Representative Dennis Kucinich's continuing candidacy crucial. No candidate has made the antiwar argument more forcefully than Kucinich and with the current twist of the primary plot he now stands as a representative of two of the Democrats' forgotten antiwar majorities -- the 126-81 majority of House Democrats who voted against the war, and the majority of Democratic voters.
What makes the antiwar side's current fadeout in the presidential campaign particularly strange is how out of tune it seems to be with the mood of the land. Just about no one now buys the Administration's "Weapons of Mass Destruction" rationale -- not even Bush and Cheney will consistently claim to believe it anymore -- although there is Rumsfield. Yet Edwards and Kerry's voting records render them unable to effectively follow up as the Administration's story melts away. In fact, if Kerry wins the nomination we could see more debate about opposition to the Vietnam War in the final election campaign than to the war going on now. Actually, a national discussion of Vietnam could be a very good thing for the country, even thirty years later, but Kerry's honorable past antiwar leadership should not distract us from the fact that it is Kucinich who now offers a ninety-day plan to honorably withdraw and avoid the disaster of turning a Republican occupation of Iraq into a Democratic occupation of Iraq.
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Not that you'd have to go abroad to find big issues ignored in the presidential campaign, of course. Last year former Vice President Al Gore announced his support for a "single-payer" Canadian-style health insurance plan that would send all medical bills to a single payment agency and allow us to save the one dollar out of every ten health care dollars that the competing private health insurance bureaucracies currently eat up. Unfortunately, it was only three years after he was the Democratic presidential nominee and could really have had an impact that Gore came to his recognition of this sensible approach to extending health coverage to the 40 million Americans currently doing without. More unfortunately still, Senators Edwards and Kerry have yet to take the idea up at all. Here again, Kucinich has advocated a specific "single-payer" plan called "Enhanced Medicare for All" since the start of the race.
Whether it's arguing that corporate globalization needs to answer to the democratic process or calling for shifting government priorities from the military to education, Kucinich is speaking to big questions that the current two-man focus simply ignores. If you've ever asked yourself why we can't have presidential candidates who actually talk about these real issues, then you ought to be looking at Kucinich.
When the final election comes around in November we will vote for what we have to vote for. In the primaries we can vote for what we want to vote for -- for what we believe in. Don't waste that vote.