By John Nichols
November 2007 Issue
If Presidential politics actually worked like it does in the movies—or in the imaginings of patriots—the hot August night would have been one of those epic moments when everything starts to change.
Fifteen thousand trade unionists had packed into Chicago’s Soldier Field to hear contenders for the 2008 Democratic nomination make their cases. While the frontrunners drew their requisite rounds of applause, it was the scrappy working class Congressman from Cleveland who wowed the AFL-CIO activists. Dennis Kucinich delivered applause line after applause line—connecting with the crowd on ideological, political, and emotional levels that the other candidates could not begin to reach.
“I want to see America take a new direction in trade . . . and that means it’s time to get out of NAFTA and the WTO,” shouted the Congressman above the thunderous applause that greeted his promise of “trade that’s based on workers’ rights: the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike.”
So powerful was Kucinich’s presentation that even the moderator, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, shifted his line of questioning from the usual soft media inquiries about “reforming trade policies” toward a blunt demand that the candidates say whether they would “scrap NAFTA or fix it?” After Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and the others struggled to answer the question without offending either the labor crowd or their corporate donors, Kucinich won the moment by declaring, “No one else on this stage could give a direct answer because they don’t intend to scrap NAFTA. We’re going to be stuck with it. And I’m your candidate if you want to get out of NAFTA. Let’s hear it. Do you want out of NAFTA? Do you want out of the WTO?”
The steel, auto, machine, and construction workers were on their feet, cheering wildly. Again and again, on industrial policy, on health care, on each issue that arose, Kucinich owned the argument. And when the Congressman turned to the signature issue of his insurgent Presidential bid, ending the war in Iraq, he distinguished himself from the cautious contenders to his right by speaking the truth that has been on the mind of everyone who has watched the sorry degeneration of this nation’s system of checks and balances. Instead of promising to end the war as President, Kucinich declared, “We shouldn’t have to wait for a Democratic President to do it. The Democratic Congress needs to act now.”
h/t: ¡ Jose !
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