A Requiem For Kucinich
I’ve obviously taken a great deal of pleasure in watching the Republican primaries; it’s entertaining to watch an election that you don’t have a rooting interest in, besides rooting for general chaos. But while it was a night chock full of laughs for progressives who can hardly contain their glee at the Republican infighting, a sad story got drowned out by the insipid noise from the Republican primary. On this night of inanity, one of the bravest voices in American politics was silenced, perhaps for good. Representative Dennis Kucinich was defeated in a primary. Rep. Kucinich, perhaps best known for his quixotic presidential runs, was the most progressive voice in Congress. In a Democratic party that seemed to be drifting ever rightward, Kucinich was proud of his liberal roots. He voted against the Patriot Act and the Iraq War. He’s been a strong voice on many subjects: against increasing militarism towards Iran, for a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan, against NAFTA and CAFTA, against nuclear weapons, against Israeli aggression towards Palestinians, against intervention in Libya. On the domestic front he was perhaps the strongest Democratic supporter of Single Payer Health Care, he proposed a bill that would establish it and had to be coaxed by Obama to vote for Obamacare without the Single Payer. He railed against bailing out the banks and not the homeowners. In other words: He was on the wrong side of a lot of 425-5 votes, but on the right side of many issues.
Kucinich lost in the Democratic primary not because he was unpopular, but because he was gerrymandered out of office. Perhaps the most significant lasting impact of the Republicans massive electoral gains in the 2010 election was that they controlled Governorships and Legislatures during the redistricting that occurs after the Census. With Ohio losing a representative, the Republicans firmly entrenched in the Ohio State House drew up a map that essentially combined the districts of two Democrats. Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur. The district had about 40% of Kaptur’s old district and 30% of Kucinich’s, so Kucinich faced an uphill battle. Kaptur isn’t a bad congresswoman. She speaks movingly in the Michael Moore doc Capitalism: A Love Story, but she’s no Kucinich.
One of my favorite things to watch on YouTube is Kucinich singing “16 Tons,” which you should check out here. The video of Kucinich singing the old labor standard is classic Kucinich. He comes off as almost humorously earnest as progressives are sometimes wont to do. At the same time, it’s moving. Kucinich has fought for the rights of workers and Americans of all stripes. He is a true believer, a man who dedicated his life to fighting for progressive values. His presence in Democratic Primaries shifted the debate to the left, if even one iota. Kucinich also gave a particularly moving speech at the DNC convention in 2008, which you can check out here. It was titled “Wake Up America,” referring to an American Public that had been systematically anesthetized and robbed blind by the George W. Bush administration. Kucinich was a strong voice against that blight on American history — he woke up America. There is some talk that Kucinich may file to run for a seat in Washington State, though the logistics of establishing a residency there may be difficult in the short time he has. While it seems like a carpetbagger move, this is a carpetbagger America needs. America is a better place with Kucinich’s voice in Congress.
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