The Kucinich Question: Which side are you on? by Sharon Smith

Dandelion Salad

by Sharon Smith
Dissident Voice
October 4th, 2007

It was July 12 in Detroit, and all eight Democratic Party presidential candidates had just finished sparring at a forum sponsored by the NAACP when John Edwards and Hillary Clinton were caught hatching a plot to rid future debates of all but front-runners.

The two were apparently unaware that Fox News’ microphones were still turned on to overhear their mutual exasperation at sharing the stage with those on the losing end of opinion polls.

According to the Associated Press, Edwards whispered, “We should try to have a more serious and a smaller group.” Clinton agreed that the broad format had “trivialized” the debates, adding, “We’ve got to cut the number…They’re not serious.”

Dennis Kucinich, who would certainly be excluded if Edwards and Clinton succeed at this scheme, rapidly issued a press release stating his outrage: “Candidates, no matter how important or influential they perceive themselves to be, do not have and should not have the power to determine who is allowed to speak to the American public and who is not…Imperial candidates are as repugnant to the American people and to our Democracy as an imperial president.”

Indeed, Kucinich stands alone among the current crop of candidates in his consistently principled stand on issues ranging from opposition to the war in Iraq to support for single-payer health care, immigrant rights and the legalization of gay marriage.

During a nationally televised MSNBC debate on September 26, none of the three front-runners–who all claim to be “antiwar”–pledged to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of their first term in office in 2013. Clinton argued, “It is very difficult to know what we’re going to be inheriting.” Barack Obama stated, “I think it would be irresponsible.” Edwards admitted, “I cannot make that commitment.”

Kucinich answered with a refreshingly concrete antiwar resolve: “We can get out of there three months after I take office.” He added, “To me, it is fairly astonishing to have Democrats who took back the power of the House and Senate in 2006 to stand on this stage and tell the American people that the war will continue till 2013 and perhaps past that.”

And while current Democratic Party talking points blame Iraqis for the chaos enveloping Iraq, Kucinich supports reparations for the Iraqi people from the governments who have caused their suffering, arguing, “The U.S. and Great Britain have a high moral obligation to enable a peace process by beginning a program of significant reparations to the people of Iraq for the loss of lives, physical and emotional injuries, and damage to property.”

While Clinton has lurched rightward on support for abortion rights in recent years (stating in 2005 that abortion is “a sad, even tragic choice”), Kucinich is the only candidate who has shifted leftward on the issue of choice. He actively opposed abortion for many years but reversed his stand in 2003, stating, “[I]t finally came to the point where I understood that women will not be truly free unless they have the right to choose.”

Kucinich also stands firmly on the side of immigrants rights, however much his own party has compromised, arguing, “No fines should be paid [by immigrants], no one should be made to go back, and we should stop scapegoating immigrants.” He seeks to abolish NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) because it drives down Mexican wages and opposed the Security Fence Act to further enhance border control.

But Kucinich has no hope of winning the Democratic Party nomination, for his unwillingness to compromise on sound humanitarian principles dooms that outcome. This fact, combined with his steadfast refusal to accept corporate donations, relegates his candidacy in 2008, as it did in 2004, to the margins of the electoral arena, a project willingly enabled by a compliant mainstream media.

The Kucinich campaign complained, for example, that ABC News “deliberately cropped [Kucinich] out of a ‘Politics Page’ photo of the candidates after their August 19 debate” and removed an online “Who won the debate” survey after Kucinich came out the winner.

Nevertheless, like a scorned relative who always shows up to family functions, Kucinich refuses to disengage from the Democratic Party establishment that, as Clinton and Edwards attest, tolerates his presence only with gritted teeth.

But Kucinich’s loyalty to the party that holds him in such contempt will perform a useful service in delivering left-wing support for the party’s chosen, corporate-backed nominee in 2008.

This is a service that Kucinich will undoubtedly perform. Look back no further than 2004 for a preview of what lies ahead. After a principled antiwar campaign, Kucinich promised his supporters he would fight for a plank opposing the Iraq war at the Democratic Party Convention in July 2004. But no antiwar debate materialized, and Kucinich’s stunned supporters were left with no other choice than backing pro-war John Kerry as the anointed candidate.

Kucinich must therefore be faulted for compromising his principles in one crucial respect. He remains beholden to the Democrats–a ruling-class, imperialist party that coexists in a power-sharing arrangement with the Republicans–offering voters no genuine alternative to the status quo.

If Kucinich truly believed his own rhetoric, he would leave, creating the possibility for building a viable third party that could express popular opposition to corporate rule.

Sharon Smith is a columnist for Socialist Worker and author of Women’s Liberation and Socialism (Haymarket Books). This article first appeared on the SW website. Read other articles by Sharon.

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4 thoughts on “The Kucinich Question: Which side are you on? by Sharon Smith

  1. “If Kucinich truly believed his own rhetoric, he would leave, creating the possibility for building a viable third party that could express popular opposition to corporate rule.”

    I had not thought of this before and it does have some merit, at least with me.

    I see two directions Democrats can go. Either purge th party of the DLC, Blue Dog, Yellow Dog, Bush Dog democrats, or start a third party.

    That said, I think it’s too late for Kucinich to break now and start a third party run.

    Maybe he should be influenced, if he believes his rhetoric, to start a third party now in preparation for 2012.

    Maybe Gore could jump in as 3rd party and bring Kucinich in as VP.

    But at this stage the media seems to have given it to Hillary. Unless she messes up severely over the next 13 months I don’t see how she can be beat. She has solid corporate sponsorship and has won over the media (for now).

    I truly think if Kucinich got as much coverage as Hillary, he’d be a contender.

  2. Ms. Smith, stating that Kucinich cannot win an election 14 months in the future because of his high values does not recommend your opinion to me. You write well, but you write beyond your knowledge: Dennis Kucinich has pledged to not run as a 3rd party candidate, as have all the Dem contenders, reportedly in exchange for a place in every caucus and primary. As often as not, the candidates leading 14 months out do not emerge as the party nominees, and Kucinich has been proven to be more in line with American opinion than all the other candidates, so he stands a good chance. Indeed, in a survey with more than 157,000 respondents, Kucinich is the first choice on the issues of more people than all other candidates combined (http://un-scared.org). So the question arises as to who/what the media serves by falsely portraying him as far-left and unelectable, even as they laud the divisive campaigns of Hillary and Obama for focusing recruitment efforts on women and blacks, respectively, a strategy that if successful can only yield a divided nation with a weak President. A third-party anti-war candidate would surely split the left vote with such a weak Dem nominee, and so give us four more years of conservative regime. Consequently, Kucinch’s pro-peace Dem candidacy is the best chance that America and the world has, and, despite the effective media blackout, America is becoming increasingly aware of this truth. I don’t believe that any thoughtful editorialist will have anything but regret if Kucinich fails because of the false picture that is presented by anti-Kucinich propaganda such as you’ve written here – at least none that cares about the additional 1 million or more war dead that will likely follow such a tragic outcome.

  3. Glitzqueen said: “The closest we can get to his positions on everything and have a winner is by backing John Edwards, who has made his career by standing up to the oligarchs.”

    Uh, no. John Edwards is no better on the issues that Barack or Hillary. The end. I won’t compromise or settle when the perfect solution to all our problems is staring us in the face, or rather, the chest, since he’s short.

    As for the article, Dennis would get even less exposure than he currently does if he ran as an Independent or under a third party. When was the last time there was a televised debate featuring non-Dem or Republican candidates? Err…

    Ideally, he would form a new People’s Party, because he stands for what the people believe. Sadly, no one knows that because the media only shows us what they want us to see. This is why I believe that elections should not involve fundraising.

    For example, take a look at the CNN/YouTube debate. Someone online posted some statistics which obviously may not be 100% valid, but I certainly have no reason NOT to believe them. This person (whom I don’t remember) said that the candidates who raised the most money spoke the most (in minutes) during that debate. It was exactly the same position of money raised as it was time talked. If that person ranked #2 in money raised, then he had the second most amount of time to speak. It was line by line matching. While I can’t vouch for the validity of this, I can say that it’s still obvious that money and support for the mass media are influencing our political system 100x more than they should be.

  4. Good gawds, Sharon, get out of the pocket of the mainstream media! They’re trying to destroy John Edwards, precisely because he’s the candidate who could otherwise win and derail their gravy train.

    This ancient news you report of his remarks to Hillary was long ago proved to be utter silliness. He meant not to exclude anyone, but to create formats in which fewer speakers got more time to make their points.

    And this more recent news you cite, claiming that his position on troops in Iraq is the same as Hillary’s and Barak’s, is just as idiotic. He ruled out any combat missions and spoke of leaving troops only to protect the Embassy — as is done for EVERY US Embassy and other important official building in the world! No matter what Kucinich or Richardson says about pulling every soldier out, he can’t do it without also closing the Embassy (or, heaven forbid, hiring Blackwater to guard it).

    Yes, I like Kucinich, too, but he can’t win. The closest we can get to his positions on everything and have a winner is by backing John Edwards, who has made his career by standing up to the oligarchs. Please stop parroting the right wing talking points against him. It’s just stupid.

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