Congressional District Democratic Primary. Your exile from the federal legislature
is indeed most tragic. That bubbling cauldron of vote-hustlers, cheap
salesmen, and career-chasing unoriginals won't be the same without you
or your oddly clean brand of politics.
I've followed your career for many years and have the utmost admiration
for your long track-record of innovative policy proposals and
aggressive style. It takes guts to challenge the entire power
structure of Cleveland as a 31-year-old mayor at the height of a local
mob war. Or to fire a popular, but insubordinate, police chief on live
television. Even after just narrowly surviving the city's first ever
recall election less than a year into your term, and a failed
assassination attempt two months later, you refused to sell out. The
deliberate sabotage of city finances by Cleveland Trust in retaliation
for your refusal to privatize Municipal Light finally cost you your
job, but the humble townsfolk eventually came to their senses and sent
you to Congress in 1996.
Not bad for a guy born into an impoverished family of nine. Most
would've cut a shady deal early on, grinned like a Ken doll, and ridden
a wave of dirty money all the way to higher office. But you actually
stuck to your principles, a dangerous gambit in electoral politics, as
you did when you rallied Congress to impeach Bush and Cheney in the
twilight years of their crumbling administration.
You remind me of another Cleveland populist, former Mayor Tom L.
Johnson, immortalized as "the best Mayor of the best-governed city in
the United States" by legendary muckraker Lincoln Steffens. Like you,
Johnson fought for public utilities and the abolition of corruption and
monopoly privilege. He also shared your strong idealistic sensibility
in the economic sphere--in his case the single-tax philosophy of Henry
George, in yours the huge and difficult issue of authentic monetary
reform. But for all of his accomplishments local elites were
eventually able to destroy Johnson's career, and he died a physical
wreck at the age of 56. You are 65, and as far as I can tell far from
broken--in fact, you seem healthier than most people half your age--but
unfortunately you've been done in by the same nexus of big money and
scheming party operatives that brought down your illustrious mayoral
The stink of the Republican plot to eliminate your home district and
force you into a primary contest with another sitting Democrat is too
close for comfort. A relative of mine, a honcho in the Ohio GOP who
shall go nameless, lamentably helped to bring that about. Yet I can't
seem to blame said person any more than I can blame a baboon for its
foul mannerisms: the actions of the beast are brutish and unbecoming,
but hopelessly innate to its crude, rank nature.
Besides, the Democrats had a hand in this too. Even before the
Republican landslide of 1994, the Democratic Congress passed the NAFTA
deindustrialization act and as of 2007 the United States has since lost
a net 3,654,000 manufacturing jobs, laying waste to organized labor,
particularly in your native Midwest. In Ohio, union representation has
declined by about a third, a fairly grim trend for the traditional
foundation of both your party and the American Dream. Without an
organizational counterweight to balance the power of big business,
money will always dominate the political process at the expense of
people-powered candidates such as yourself.
For these reasons and more I tossed you some coin during the final
stages of your last epic battle. As it turns out this gesture was
insufficient, and the sting of defeat was further compounded by the sad
fact that your Democratic opponent, not you, will get to go on to
trounce and humiliate the Republican in the general election. A
rust-belt cage match between the populist Kucinich and the odious "Joe
the Plumber" (whose name isn't Joe and who isn't a licensed plumber)
would have been a great deal more exciting than one involving the
liberal-ish Marcy Kaptur of Patriot Act notoriety.
Which brings us to the present. Here in Washington state, chatter
persists in suggesting that you still might relocate from Ohio to run
for Congress in one of our districts. As a born-and-raised
Washingtonian, I can tell you that such a move is entirely feasible.
2012 should be a good year for Democrats as the young and
liberal-minded will be out in force to a) re-elect Obama and b)
legalize pot, which will be on the ballot this fall as a statewide
But you better make a move soon. You've already missed last weekend's
"Beer as Art," which would have gone a long way towards establishing
you as a man of the people. If you're worried about being called a
"carpetbagger," keep in mind that a third of Washingtonians weren't born
here either, so they'll probably understand that the best man for the
job has to occasionally be imported.
In any case it's up to you. Just remember that the absolute
prerequisite for winning over the locals is a sense of humor. Jazz
legend Vic Meyers was our Lieutenant Governor for 20 years and would
run for office dressed as Mahatma Gandhi with a rented goat alongside
him. Before that he campaigned for mayor in Prohibition-era Seattle in
a beer wagon while promising to fix the budget by adding cocktail
waitresses to the streetcars.
In the Great Depression Marion Zioncheck represented the 1st District
in Congress and would dance in water fountains like a raving madman, at
one point dumping a truckload of manure on J. Edgar Hoover's front
door for no other reason than the simple fact that he deserved it.
And folksinger Ivar Haglund used to stage wrestling matches in front of
his chowder hall on the Seattle waterfront between a dead octopus and
"Two-Ton Tony" Galento and became so revered that when he ran for Port
Commissioner as a joke, he won by accident.
This is my state, or at least a part of it. You're welcome to take
your esteemed career and move it hereabouts if you wish, but I'm glad
we got to review the human terrain a little before you make a final
decision. Spring is coming and change is in the air, and your surprise
addition to the psychic landscape would be a most fitting affirmation
of the turning of the seasons. Thank you for all you've accomplished
thus far, and best of luck on the days ahead.