He’s short, right? Kinda weird looking? A close friend of mind described Dennis J. Kucinich with rare jocularity following a recent Democratic presidential debate: “He reminded me of a nebbish, privileged student council member”. I actually had to smile at that one.
As witty as my friend’s remark was (and it did make me smile), my grin was born from two very different places: One, a place of remarkable admiration, the other a place of very deep regret.
My admiration for Dennis Kucinich begins with the authenticity of a man who seems possessed of a deft, preternatural ability to resist coercive political pressure and acquiescence to the special-interest briberies which have co-opted Washington D.C. Even David Brooks, conservative columnist for The New York Times, went so far as to stamp the Ohio Congressman as an “aging prodigy”.
Consider five major points:
1.) Dennis Kucinich was right on Iraq. The Congressman stood up to ideological war hawks, refusing to submit to the constitutional calamity of preemptive invasion. 2.) He was right on the Patriot Act. Kucinich lambasted the serpentine piece of legislation which acts as a gateway to eroding our cherished civil liberties. 3.) The Congressman is right on health care. Unlike slipshod “universal coverage” plans proposed by Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama (all of which attempt to incurably fix a broken, private system by virtually mandating that every American buy into it) Kucinich knows first hand that the only morally and economically satisfying version of health care is the one beginning with the words: not-for-profit. 4.) Strength through Peace: The hallmark of the Congressman’s presidential campaign would end using war as an instrument of policy. Haters call him a peacenik devoid of reality. I submit that the intellectually curious might see a president who would embody unparalleled leadership in nuclear non-proliferation and in tackling global warming (mother nature’s WMD) to bridge frayed international alliances, combat climate change and, in effect, revive the plummeting dollar. 5.) Kucinich is right on impeachment. Dennis, as it currently stands – along with 22 courageous signatories – has been the only Congressman brave enough to officially propose articles of impeachment against the dangerously dark Vice President Richard B. Cheney. And on this, he hits the bull’s eye too.
Born in Cleveland in 1946, Dennis Kucinich is the eldest of seven children and the son of working class parents. As a child Kucinich was charged with the impossible task of scouring the newspaper in order to find his family affordable housing. Before Dennis was 17 the Kucinich’s moved over 20 times; at several points resorting to the only shelter they could find: their car. Kucinich worked his way through college, going on to receive a master’s degree, and at 31 was elected Mayor of his hometown in 1977– the youngest Mayor in America at the time. In 1996 Kucinich was elected to the United States Congress and, eight years later, the boy who lived most of his early life in and out of a tattered sedan would set out on a quest to become president. Today, that quest continues.
As reported in the Boston Globe: “If people want to know what kind of president I’ll be,” said Kucinich, “they only have to know my background to know who I’m in government to represent: those who aspire to decent jobs, a decent wage, health care, a roof over their heads, education for their children… I come to the political system as an advocate for people, not an advocate for any special interest group. That really is what distinguishes me from anyone else in this race.”
Barack Obama talks about what it takes to unite all walks of life. Dennis Kucinich knows first hand. John Edwards wears his “father worked in a mill” story on his arm like a badge of honor. Dennis Kucinich lived 17 years of his life on and off the streets to now be standing here running for president.
Impressed? Had no idea? What a story, right? Yeah, I know. This is where the regret behind my grin comes into play.
My regret is in witnessing a media and voting system both configured with such democratic intolerance that it handcuffs the populist magnitude behind a potential Kucinich presidency. “The media do not necessarily tell you what to think, but they do tell you what to think about and how to think about it,” notes communications expert Robert McChesney in his book The Problem of the Media. You’re not allowed to think about candidates like Dennis. And to be sure you don’t debate moderators like the esteemed Tim Russert will ask the Congressman ludicrous, nonsensical questions having to do with: unidentified flying objects.
The trade off is that you’re given “The Horse Race”… a media-hyped framework with a bunch of Hardball “power-rankings” and superficial hoopla drawing lots of ratings and advertising dollars for major corporations like General Electric (which owns Hardball network home NBC Universal), but lacks any sense of fair play or democratic standards when it comes to substantive coverage of candidates or real political diversity.
And yet, despite it all, Kucinich remains.
Given the uphill battle Kucinich faces in the final stretch of the presidential primary, it may behoove him to consider speaking out in remaining televised debates with blunt force on three critical issues:
1.) Direct Democracy. The greatest challenge to voter participation in this country is the people’s feeling of political marginalization. The cure to this plague begins first and foremost with the dismantling of the Electoral College. As the current system now stands, the people of the United States vote indirectly for president and vice president. Most voters assume that every four years they’re permitted to pull a lever and vote directly for their chosen candidate. This is not so. Voters are actually choosing unknown “electors” from their state to cast official votes for the two aforementioned offices. Electors are not required to cast their electoral votes in accordance with popular sentiment and, in effect, work against the health of a vibrant democracy. Dismantling the Electoral College (at the very least dividing the nation’s electoral votes proportionally as is done in Maine and Nebraska) would magnificently increase voter participation by assuring that every popular vote cast in the presidential race would equally count.
Not to mention the vital necessity for a Gradual Random Presidential Primary.