If 21st century politics had nothing to do with sex appeal or money, Ohio Democrat and presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich would be a frontrunner. At a local organizing meeting of Kucinich supporters, one recent Thursday night at the Abbey, people start the meeting by talking about the size and potency of Howard Dean’s campaign. But while Dean is positioned as a comfortable Clinton-esque centrist, Kucinich’s platform brims with pro-worker, anti-corporate planks.
Ohio Democrat and presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich. One local supporter says Kucinich’s base is “working-class, pro-choice, fair trade, anti-war people who haven’t yet given up on the Democratic Party.”
That’s a daring stance for any fund-raiser (read: politician) today. Kucinich has a history of daring stances — and nine lives. While mayor of Cleveland, his Web site says, “Dennis bravely said ‘NO’ to an Enron-like takeover of Cleveland’s city-owned power company.” The utility retaliated by driving the city’s economy into default, sidelining Kucinich’s career until he was elected to Congress in 1996, beating a Republican incumbent. The son of a Teamster, Kucinich vows to raise up the rights of working people. From the looks of the folks attending this Meet Up, Kucinich appeals to both the old-time leftists and the 20-something crowd. “Kucinich’s base is working-class, pro-choice, fair trade, anti-war people who haven’t yet given up on the Democratic Party,” says supporter Ric Ritchison. “Dennis is from the Franklin D. Roosevelt arm of the party — populist progressive.” Ritchison hands out a pamphlet outlining Kucinich’s 10-point platform. Universal health care, withdrawal from NAFTA and the WTO, restoration of civil liberties, gay rights, support for labor unions and collective bargaining, investment in education, restoration of the family farm, clean energy research and the formation of a Department of Peace are among his priorities. “I see a Democrat I could actually get behind,” says college student Sarah Babb. One liberal rap on Kucinich is the evolution of his views — or his flip-flop — on abortion. “I agree with his view that we should allow abortion, but try to make it less necessary,” Babb says. Much of the rest of Kucinich’s views carry a strong anti-corporate theme. Ending media and agribusiness monopolies, busting up the health care insurance industry bureaucracy and reigning in the multinationals that are exploiting workers and resources — tall orders all. Crucial to the achievement of these goals is the support of white, middle-aged, blue-collar men, aka “Joe Sixpack,” or “NASCAR Dads,” who stand to benefit from Kucinich’s policies, but are now under the patriotic sway of George W. Cowboy. “The very people that Bush crushes still support him,” Ritchison says. The inevitable question hangs in the air. What are Dennis Kucinich’s chances of being elected? “People who have seen him speak say he gives the best stump speech ever — even Howard Dean,” Dee Lichtenberger says. “But he’ll never get on FOX News,” another supporter admits. “Homeless people will vote for him,” another says. “Willie Nelson has endorsed him.” Lichtenberger makes the best argument for Kucinich’s viability. “Until I heard Dennis speak, I didn’t care about politics,” she says. “He opened my eyes. I compare Dennis to Jimmy Carter, in terms of his name recognition and where he ranks at this point in time. And look, Carter won.” While Ritchison talks about registering college students and senior citizens to vote, Lichtenberger advises everyone to “vote your heart in the primary; vote your conscience in the general election.” It’s clear that most of Kucinich’s supporters would vote for Howard Dean today if it meant a guaranteed Bush defeat. But as one Meet Up attendee said, “A dead rat would be better than Bush.” For more, visit www.kucinich.us or contact local campaign organizer Dee Lichtenberger at 354-1011 and email@example.com.