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The Week that Is for Dennis Kucinich

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It’s not The Week That Was (the title of an old TV political show). This is the week that is for Dennis Kucinich.

Monday – Texas appeals court, to overturn Texas Democratic Party decision to keep Kucinich off the Texas primary ballot because he refused to sign a never-enforced, in fact unenforceable, open-to-interpretation loyalty oath.

Tuesday – Primary day in Michigan, and contrary to what you may have heard, Hillary Clinton is not the only candidate on the ballot. There are in fact three active candidates– Kucinich, Hillary Clinton, and Mike Gravel. And to all you Michigan Democrats – your vote WILL count. (More below)

Tuesday night – the Las Vegas Democratic Presidential debate, to which Kucinich was invited, and then uninvited less than two days later, by NBC.

Wednesday – the recount Kucinich requested of last Tuesday’s Democratic primary vote in New Hampshire is set to begin.

Let’s take them one at a time.

On Monday (today) his lawyer is in the Texas appeals court, trying once again to get Kucinich on the Texas Democratic primary ballot without Kucinich having to sign a loyalty oath that the Texas Democratic Party admits is open to interpretation by the candidates, has no force in law, and that is in fact unenforceable.

Kucinich is a man who takes oaths very seriously, so he has refused to sign the oath unless it is amended to indicate that he will support the party’s eventual nominee “if that person disavows war as an instrument of foreign policy.” Since none of the other candidates in the race are anywhere near ready to do that, Kucinich knows he cannot conscientiously support any of them. So he has refused to swear that he will support the eventual nominee unless he is allowed to add that caveat. The party rejected his ballot application with the loyalty oath crossed out.

But although there are no repercussions, legal or otherwise, for a candidate to sign the oath and then violate it, the opposite is not true. Kucinich’s refusal to sign an oath to support the eventual Democratic Party presidential nominee without qualifications keeps this otherwise stellar candidate off the Democratic Party primary ballot in Texas. (Kucinich’s lawyer is appealing a Superior Court judge’s refusal last Friday to intervene in the state’s Democratic Party business.)

Tuesday (tomorrow) is primary day in Michigan, and, through a strange string of events, Kucinich, Hillary Clinton, and Mike Gravel are the only active candidates on the ballot. (Chris Dodd’s name is also there, but he’s already withdrawn.) That puts anti-NAFTA, anti-war Kucinich in a head-to-head with war-hawk Clinton, in a state that has been devastated by Bill Clinton’s NAFTA. It could get very interesting.

The Michigan situation is ridiculous on its face. The Democratic National Committee thought slapping the hands of the Michigan (and Florida) Democratic Party officials for jumping the established primary schedule and re-scheduling their votes for January would be enough to send those state groups cowering back to their place in line. The DNC threatened those state party organizations with refusing to seat their delegates to the August National Convention.

Michigan Democratic Party officials said they were going to do what they needed to do, the DNC be damned. So the DNC told all the presidential candidates that they had to remove their names from the Michigan ballot, or they too would be subject to delegate limbo.

Obama, Edwards, Joe Biden and Bill Richardson obediently complied, and filed papers to have the Michigan Secretary of State remove their names from the ballot. The Kucinich campaign tried to do likewise, but one signature was not notarized, and by the time the campaign was notified, it was too late to submit a new document. Clinton, oddly enough, never made an attempt to remove her name. Neither did Mike Gravel or Chris Dodd.

So tomorrow’s Michigan Democratic primary will have the names of three active candidates, plus a line for “uncommitted.” No write-ins will be recognized.

When Michigan refused to comply with its demands, Howard Dean and the DNC were stuck. They couldn't just say "never mind," at least publicly. But they've basically admitted they are in a "never mind" position in actuality.

The problem is that the DNC has no right, and actually no authority, to disenfranchise an entire state. They knew that. And the Michigan Democratic Party officials knew that. Party rules state that the convention delegates, not the DNC, decide which delegations to seat. The “understanding” is that the presumptive nominee at that point (late August) will indicate to the convention whether or not he/she wants the Michigan delegation seated. But it is the already-credentialed delegates who will be the ones making the decision, not any presidential candidate.

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Writer and political activist Jean Hay Bright is now semi-retired, running an organic farm in Dixmont Maine with her husband David Bright. Her two political books are "Proud to be a Card-Carrying, Flag-Waving, Patriotic American Liberal (1996), (more...)

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