Read GPoWS Vice Chair Mike Gillis' analysis of why Greens should avoid the temptation to throw away 18 months on a doomed candidacy.
On December 11, progressive Congressman Dennis Kucinich announced that he would again seek the Democratic nomination for President in 2008.
Having previously run for the nomination in 2004 on a platform of opposition to the war in Iraq, repealing the USA PATRIOT Act and promoting universal healthcare, and considering that I spent months fighting for him then, you might think I would be happy to welcome the Congressman from Ohio into the race for the White House. I'm not.
And you shouldn’t either.
I’m not going to pretend to be a mind-reader or that I have any special insight into Kucinich’s motivations for this second tilt at the Democratic windmill. I can’t say with 100% certainty what he hopes to accomplish with this primary challenge. But I can tell you what the result will be, regardless of his motivations.
It will be a distraction to progressive voters, most of whom are too smart to believe that Kucinich has any real shot at winning the Democratic nomination, and will serve to run interference against them organizing a true progressive, anti-war opposition to the same old vanilla neoliberal, pro-war, factory model that the Democrats will undoubtedly hand their nomination to.
The end result is that progressives will waste their time, money and enthusiasm on a campaign that will never be on the November ballot, save in one of two instances: (1) The Democratic Leadership Council and the party bosses in the DNC implode -- not likely -- or (2) Kucinich abandons progressivism altogether and reassures the bosses that he’ll play ball and back their agenda.
Waiting until Kucinich’s inevitable loss and then jumping ship to a third party alternative like the Greens leaves less than six months to build an effective campaign to build our party, energize voters and push a progressive agenda, all the while Kucinich will be campaigning for a nominee that stands against everything he ran on during his primary run and encouraging his supporters to do the same.
Looking into my crystal ball, I see him following his 2004 formula:
(1) Stake out principled and progressive positions on healthcare, Iraq, civil rights, workers rights and the environment and telling the unvarnished truth about his Diet Republican opponents.
(2) Turn his underdog status into an endearing trait, jokingly referencing it, while stoking the “it could happen” flame and using his progressive credentials to energize people who’d never bothered voting before and get them involved. During this time, he’ll be totally ignored by the Democratic leadership and the media.
(3) As the primary season evolves, he’ll start downplaying his definition of “success” for the campaign until, eventually, it’s no longer about winning the nomination, but fighting pointless and losing battles over the national party platform, with the stated long term goal of “taking the party back”, but deciding to hold his criticism until after the election.
(4) In the lead up to the convention, he begins toning down his criticism of the presumptive nominee and begins employing “big tent” rhetoric. He tells us that there’s a place for people like us in the Democratic Party (albeit at the kiddie table) and calls upon his supporters to circle the wagons around the nominee and resist the desire to support a progressive third party candidate like a Ralph Nader and tries to convince what few delegates he has not to actually vote for him at the DNC Convention.
(5) He loses the nomination and then campaigns full-time for the corporate nominee, trying to bring what organization and volunteers he has to bear on the task of fighting for the very things he went into the race opposing.
And during this 18 month primary battle, what is the real cost?
Those progressives who supported his bid will have wasted their talents and their hopes on a wild goose chase that demoralizes them, lowers their expectations and will leave them believing more and more the long-taught, but largely unspoken Democratic mantra: What you really believe in can never win, so why even bother?